Boundary and Rescue and...—Mio Kisaca’s Recent Works



Toru Matsumoto, Director, Nagano Prefectural Art Museum


 (Translated by Taeko Nanpei)  


Every one of Mio Kisaca’s photos shows the state in which completely unrelated objects, such as a wall, a tree and furniture, exist there in that space. Such an image framed within a specifically sized area is printed without being trimmed or processed. In other words, the light information captured by the image sensor of a camera is transferred just as it is on to a 2D surface with ink. A similar light-receiving mechanism is in fact our own visual system that allows us to see. Thus, this might be the reason why we tend to believe that our eyes see the world in a similar way as the one taken in a photo. But of course, this is a misconception.

For instance, it is quite interesting to compare Kisaca’s photo that shows two glasses on a table with two actual glasses that are placed in a similar setting. This allows us to clearly understand how different the light information condensed on a 2D surface is from the way the actual objects and space appear within our field of vision. In a photo, various objects end up being replaced by a single, seamless, 2D surface of colors. However, for us humans who have to lead a life via threading our way through objects, the spaces that exist “in between” objects are as important as the objects themselves. If an image taken with a camera held horizontally were to be considered a stereoscopic view of the external world, then we would understand that we live in between objects via envisaging the ground plans around us based on such stereoscopic visual information. Other crucial information we turn our attention to constitute the differences in the materials of objects, such as how we discern whether an object will be damaged if we bump into it or if it will hurt us instead. In addition, the framing of our field of vision is an extremely important factor, not only in photography, but also in the function of our vision and consciousness. But of course, the differences between the lens of a machine and a person’s eye are great. In real life, it would be too dangerous for us to even walk on the street if we did not take in a panoramic view around us, through gathering countless frames of both narrow and wide fields of vision. In other words, the visual image that is cut out in a photo and the image of the world that our five senses capture (via taking in every possible visual image) are essentially different. Within the difference between that visual image and that image of the world lies a marginal space in which we live, and this marginal space is likely where a photographer is allowed to be creative.

Everyone likely has the experience of seeing a breathtakingly beautiful ridgeline and impulsively releasing the shutter of a camera, only to be later disappointed to see a photo that only shows the silhouette of a dull, modest mountain. For example, in order to depict the realness of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire in a painting, it is necessary to portray tree branches that stretch horizontally at the very forefront of the frame. And in order to get the shape of Mount Fuji that soars in the distance to stand out, a great wave has to be depicted in front of the mountain.

Mio Kisaca’s work Himalayan Cedar, which exquisitely adopted the above-mentioned visual mechanism, can be referred to as something like a stage setting, devoid of a main character. The scene in this photo shows some corner outside of an old apartment complex (which has since been torn down) in Chofu, Tokyo. On the far-right side of the photo is the deep-black bark of a Himalayan cedar that runs vertically. It can be surmised that this tree freely stretches its branches (outside the frame) toward the sky, for eyelash-like leaves on the branch tips reappear (inside the frame) from the upper edge. The whitish scene found beyond the leaves in the photo seems to consist of several different levels that go inward toward the depth of the image. Specifically, in the lowest part at the forefront is a boundary-like zone in white, stretching horizontally. Beyond that boundary are concrete structures that resemble a terraced field, or could it be a single vertical wall with horizontal stripes?

Himalayan Cedar can be described as the magic of framing. Through the use of framing, the trunk of the tree, the tips of its branches, and the wall in the backdrop are all severed from their connections with the space; however, an incredible reunion is fulfilled—which can be interpreted as a “rebirth”—within the rectangular viewfinder. This work can be seen as a form of “Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella” (Comte de Lautréamont). However, it does not involve any unusual aim or staging. Without any particular meaning or relationships, the objects, which appear to have been abandoned in an odd corner of the world, just happen to be there within the mellow ambience of her work—nay, they are merely basking in the great blessing of being present in that site by chance.     

In her work Sandbox, the images of handrails with their paint peeled off, concrete steps, and the slope of a slide all join together as they rise toward the upper-left corner, similar to a musical phrase. Kisaca found this sight at a park, crowded with families enjoying a holiday. But of course, the merry voices of children running around cannot be captured in a photo.

Many of Kisaca’s recent works can be referred to as monodramas that derived from her lending an ear to the murmurs she heard from some surface (such as a wall). For example, Underpass shows the wall of an underpass she happened to see in Hinode-cho, Yokohama. On the right side of the image is a rust-stained, concrete wall that stands erect. And in the central area, an incomprehensible, white, rectangular form appears before then fading out toward the darkness on the left. This photo, which is filled with surprising shift in scenery, is materialized solely through details in the interactions between the object and light that are taking place on the surface of the wall.


Her work The Hole in the Roof captures a corner in an abandoned house, a scene that caught her eye while she was traveling on Sado Island in Niigata. On the clay wall and the straw mat, which was randomly dumped against the wall, a streak of light falls vertically, as if white paint was applied in one stroke. If the white-paper sliding door seen on the far right was not included in the photo, the vulnerable-looking streak of light would have likely taken on the leading role. But this photo, as is the case in her other photos, does not adopt such an artistic course. That is to say, from the outset of her career, Mio Kisaca’s photos have consistently taken a course unrelated to such artistic ideas as the presence of a main character (monumentality), pre-established harmony as a whole (composition), or a plot (the existence of a climax). This image that was materialized solely from “noises” (marginalized outsiders) can be interpreted as the rescuing of objects (without the appearance of a rescuer) through photography.