Silver gelatin print
16.0 x 22.0 x 2.5 Size (cm)
6.3 x 8.7 x 1.0 Size (in)Jay Chung and Q Takeki Maeda’s presentation at Art Basel consists of a set of photographs taken between 1964 and 1968 by Teruo Nishiyama, a Japanese metallurgist, who regularly attended art exhibition openings in Tokyo in a completely non-professional capacity. He took countless snapshots of the work and the attendees, inadvertently creating important documents of performances, ephemera and the general atmosphere at avant-garde galleries during these years. Nishiyama’s photographs were never motivated by artistic intentions: he never had an exhibition of his own, and he didn’t see the pictures as having any documentary or photographic significance. Since a lot of the work he documented was performance or Fluxus-related, as well as undervalued by a mass audience in Japan at the time, often it has no other existing documentation. Nishiyama saved all of his photographs, so his archives are extremely useful from a documentary perspective for art historians of post-war Japanese art.
Chung and Maeda’s artistic practice often involves outsourcing productive roles to others; they enlist actors and non-art related figures to comment on the history of art and art market, demonstrating exterior positions and perspectives. Of great interest to Chung and Maeda, in this project, is the idea that Nishiyama took all of these photographs without any judgment as to the quality of the work or its future assessment. As a perfectly disinterested onlooker, Nishiyama didn’t photograph the work or people he predicted would be relevant in fifty years’ time. Because of this, many of the photographs in his archives are not useful or interesting; however, the ones that are useful to art historians or artists exist precisely because of this lack of judgment. The photographs were taken for their own sake with no interest in monetary value, social status or artistic genius, in other words, in the complete absence of speculation. For Chung and Maeda, therefore, the work provides a way of thinking about alternatives to an art market preoccupied by the logic of speculation and financial value, even as it complicates this idea by introducing Nishiyama’s work into the marketplace of art.
The artists’ proof of these photographs are on display at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo until July 10 2016. Both individual framed works and a full set of ten photographs are available.