Some thoughts on Mushrooms from the forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Posted in 3.11,text by iseki ken on 2013-03-11

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オンライン・フォトグラフィー・マガジンF-STOP MAGAZINEに掲載されたTristan Hooperによる展覧会レビュー記事を転載させていただきました。


Online photography magazine F-STOP and writer Tristan Hooper kindly let us reprint the exhibition review article.


Some thoughts on Mushrooms from the forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Tristan Hooper

During the autumn of 2011, following the catastrophic events of the Great East Japan Earthquake, photographer Takashi Homma explored the forests of Fukushima prefecture. In the midst of the nuclear crisis Homma selected, picked and photographed various species of mushroom that were found to exhibit high levels of radiation and were as a result classified as unsafe by the government.

An exhibition of the photographs entitled Mushrooms from the forest 2011 was hosted by Blind Gallery between December 17th and February 19th, 2012. A book by the same name, containing further images was produced in conjunction with the exhibit.

The newly opened gallery is located in the Yoyogi district of Tokyo, just a few minutes’ walk from the JR station. The venue itself is the definition of bare bones simplicity. Fashioned from what appears to be a recycled shipping container, the narrow yet surprisingly accommodating space places the focus directly on the work displayed and leaves little room for anything else.

The images are framed simply and displayed without captions. The individual mushroom studies, which account for the majority of the exhibition, are juxtaposed with images of the wild and unpopulated woodland environment from which they originated. The various species of mushroom are photographed against a white background; soil and other debris are clearly visible clinging to roots and stems. The different types of fungi are incredibly distinctive. After viewing one or two they begin to resemble portraits. Each mushroom is personified by its individual shape, size and features. Some species appear in pairs, others in larger groups still. These organic subjects look especially foreign photographed in such a sterile environment leading one to make associations with medical study or post mortem examination.

In modern culture and especially ancient civilisation the image of the mushroom is hugely symbolic for a number of reasons. This varied iconography could instigate a number of different interpretations in terms of understanding Homma’s work. It is interesting to note that fungi have long been recipient to a range of conflicting emotional reactions. On one hand they are the fruits of nature, spawned from the ground and picked by many for food but conversely they are often regarded as a sinister, potentially fatal and toxic species.

To some the phallic shape of the mushroom represents fertility, however when viewing Homma’s photographs perhaps the most obvious association can be drawn from the fact that the typical mushroom shape is ubiquitous with the cloud form produced by an atomic explosion. Referred to simply as a ‘mushroom cloud’, this image has been and continues to be the subject of endless recontextualization and can be seen appropriated within advertising, animation, protest imagery and political propaganda. Indeed, this atomic association is in keeping with the works somewhat nuclear premise. The atomic explosion is the result of man’s destructive application of nuclear power whilst the contamination of Homma’s mushrooms is partly a consequence of man’s utilisation of nuclear power for energy.

Homma picked the mushrooms and photographed them on site within the forest using a portable studio. The strategy of extracting the specimens from their natural habitat and relocating them inside a white, clinical environment seems to reassert and punctuate the concept of man’s potential influence and power over nature.

Mushrooms from the forest is another example of a relatively recent shift in Takashi Homma’s practice. His previous work is notable in its depiction of modern Tokyo suburbia and its young inhabitants. Lately however his focus has been more directed toward nature.

In comparison to the great glut of imagery produced in response to the tragic disaster of 2011 and the subsequent nuclear crisis, Homma’s work is muted and quietly suggestive. When studying the mushroom photographs it is easy to be drawn in by the intricacy and strange beauty of nature’s design but if one considers these images in terms of their contextual significance it becomes more apparent that this is a body of work that is loaded with implication.






展覧会が行われたのは代々木ヴィレッジ内にあるblind gallery。作品を展示する以外に























「mushrooms from the forest」はホンマの昨今の作品の変化を示す一例である。










その森の「大人たち 」/椹木野衣

Posted in news,text by tomo ishiwatari on 2012-05-4

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ホンマタカシ「その森の子供 mushrooms from the forest 2011」展










さわらぎ・のい 美術批評家。

「その森の子供」書評紹介 アサヒカメラ 2012 3月号より

Posted in news,text by tomo ishiwatari on 2012-05-2

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評・福岡伸一 生物学者











次回は美術批評家の椹木野衣さんによる「その森の子供 mushrooms from the forest 2011」展の展評を掲載します。



Takashi Homma: New Documentary Review by Prajna Desai

Posted in text by iseki ken on 2012-01-31

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Prajna Desai, a writer and academic editor based in Tokyo, gave her review for Homma’s traveling exhibition “New Documentray” on the Fall 2011 edition of aperture.

aperture FALL 2011号に掲載された、Prajna Desaiによるニュー・ドキュメンタリー展レビュー記事を転載させていただきました。


Takashi Homma is a top-order Japanese photographer who first came to wider notice with his 1998 project Tokyo Suburbia, featuring suburban developments and impassive young adults. The series was exalted for its reserve toward subject matter, won Japan’s prestigious Kimura Ihei Contemporary Photography Award in 1999, and launched Homma’s international career. Since then, his lens has ranged freely across waves, mountain peaks, Italian women, storefronts, and wildlife corridors in California, recently homing in on the split icon Tokyo/children.

New Documentary, which originated at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and was then presented at the Tokyo Opera City Gallery, is Homma’s first museum solo show. In Tokyo, six rooms displayed representative series, including Widows (2009) and M (2000–2009, 2010–11), as well as the film Short Hope (2011) and Reconstruction (2011), an installation of books containing images of magazine spreads and covers rephotographed by Homma.

Three major works chart Homma’s career from Tokyo Suburbia to the present. The first, Tokyo and My Daughter (1999–2010), which contains architectural exteriors, city shots, and a girl at varying ages, is a paean to vernacular and popular photography. Despite the title, the girl in the images is not Homma’s daughter—a mild fraudulence hinting at Homma’s position on photographic record as a sliding scale of meaning. The series deploys an archival format, interweaving rephotographed images of the girl sourced from her parents with Homma’s own images of the city and some of the girl. One view originally shot on an automatic device shows the same girl at a petting zoo. An overhead portrait of the sleeping child, legs thrown apart, captures the ero-romance of new parenthood. Another image, filled with mouth-watering color, shows her seated at a table, her fingers clasped around an empty glass jar. With very few exceptions, who shot what in this series is largely unclear. Amateur practice and professional facility blur together, though Homma’s trademark attention to creating visually comforting frames seems to prevail, an impression that results partially from the viewer’s inclination to attribute works in a series to one authority. But the converse may also be said: Homma sourced only those photographs consistent with his own formal proclivities— symmetry, centered subjects, and good-looking (but humorless) characters.

Regardless of the method, these pedestrian images of mundane things could be mistaken for parodies of a layperson’s grasp of photography. Even the images of Tokyo city in this series, which are certifiably Homma’s, are no less ordinary. One city view, for instance, shot from a commercial aircraft with the wing visible up top, is classic tourist photography. Another image, of a Tokyo highway, mimics the tendency of front-seat car passengers to shoot through the windshield for the vivid blue hue its filter imparts.

The show’s catalog further implies intent behind the “de-skilling.” The images are meant to look ordinary because Homma has a bone to pick: he wants to demonstrate that photography’s documentary prestige has slid away and now lives within this ambiguous realm of half-genuine document and half-invention. (Still, it seems reasonable to question an idea that, more than twenty-five years since it was first widely argued by critics, is now textbook knowledge.)

The second set of images is Together—Wildlife Corridors in Los Angeles (2006–8), a series with a far simpler message. Fifteen photographs, each paired with detailed text by Los Angeles–based artist Mike Mills, feature tunnels built under desert highways for mountain lions to commute between habitats. The dominant trope here is the trace after the fact. Sites in the photographs were determined by GPS data of mountain lions’ movements in the area.


There are long shots and semi-close-ups of the tunnels, views shot through them, and images of animal footprints in surrounding areas. While this is ostensibly a collaboration, Homma showing and Mills telling, the text does most of the work, while Homma’s images are weighted down by specific, repeating locations where mountain lions have crossed. Consequently, the images lack variety; one or two views would have sufficed where there are fifteen.

The imbalance between text and image is worth belaboring, not because art photography should be self-explanatory, but because Homma is wearing a cap that does not fit. Other work based on an archival format—such as Tokyo and My Daughter and Widows (both in this show), and Hyper Ballad: Icelandic Suburban Landscapes (1998; not in the show)—suggests Homma is not a natural raconteur, that he borrows good stories. It also shows how much the overall non-threatening quality of his work depends implicitly on the in-built elements of scene—chubby girl, pretty room, and interesting architectural shapes. In contrast, the Southern Californian desert in the mid-afternoon sun lacks comparable scene-setters. Here, the light bounces off the asphalt, and shadows, especially in the semi-close-ups, lend the desert brush the appearance of unsightly blobs. Poignant issue notwithstanding, this series is about as gripping as land-survey photographs.

Fortunately, Homma’s talent for creating a pretty picture out of a few strategic details resurfaces in the final room of this exhibition. Trails (2009–11) records Homma’s experience of accompanying a deer hunter on a spree. Dark, leafless bramble, bloody-looking streaks, and brilliant snow recur in every image. Ten large color prints, twenty more color prints divided across a diptych, and a set of small, acrylic drawings create variations on the themes: more or less bramble, fresher or more congealed blood, and smoother or rougher snow across which something (presumably the deer’s carcass) was dragged. The work in this series might not be exceptional, but it is not without some pleasure. Moreover, the textures, patterns, and tones stand on their own without a verifiable backstory, which seems absent by design. With the hypothetical dead deer nowhere to be seen, the visual puzzle—Is that really blood, or am I being had?—returns us to the issue of record and authenticity intimated in Tokyo and My Daughter.

A meta-reading of this issue and of the show’s title appears in the introductory catalog essay by Noi Sawaragi. Apparently, Homma’s work is trying to render photography’s mortality, or increasing superfluity. He is documenting its contemporary predicament, and in so doing creating a “new documentary.” Although the proposition of Homma as photographer-philosopher is persuasive as an idea, it materializes only in very few works, such as the early Tokyo Suburbia, an exception to the rule of thumb dictating the more typical Homma in New Documentary. The works here make up with familiarity, visual pleasure, or textual information what they lack in ideas, and are best appreciated by first reconciling to what they are––ordinary images made by an award-winning expert.

Takashi Homma: New Documentary originated at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. The show was presented at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, April 9–June 26, 2011, and continues its tour at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art.
Prajna Desai is a writer and academic editor based in Tokyo. She is currently working on a novel.

「ホンマタカシ ニュー・ドキュメンタリー」展 倉石信乃

Posted in text by tomo ishiwatari on 2011-05-25

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ホンマの展覧会への批評を紹介するコーナーです。第一弾は、『アサヒカメラ』 2011年4月号の展評’11のコーナーに掲載された、倉石信乃さんの批評です。


展覧会はいつも自作の編集の手強い機会だが、写真家は賭けに出た。オーソドックスな回顧展を忌避して、退路が断たれたのである。アパーチャー版の写真集『Tokyo』(2008年)のように、アンソロジーとして作品を提示する可能性があらかじめ排除されたということだ。ハワイのノースショア、その海波を即物的にとらえた連作「NEW WAVES」(07年)が選ばれていないことも、展覧会の性格を規定した。本展では、写真作品に対する感性的な投射と受け取られるような直接的な痕跡はいったん遠ざけられており、ある迂回を経ることなしには、ホンマタカシの作者性は顕在化しない、そうした原則に貫かれている。


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Posted in text by manami takahashi on 2011-02-28

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落ちない流れ星・夏の思い出・朝青龍   ホンマタカシ





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