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Practice Theory: Between Love & Death: Diary of Nobuyoshi Araki

Work / Graphic Design

Practice Theory embraces the funereal in its exhibition design telling stories of love and death

For Between Love & Death: Diary of Nobuyoshi Araki, presented as part of the sixth Singapore International Photography Festival, Singapore-based design studio, Practice Theory, designed the exhibition identity, publication and collateral with Araki’s work and philosophy in mind.

The exhibition “traces universal stories of love, death and sentiments told in a confessional diaristic style” the studio tells It’s Nice That. “Coined as shishashin or ‘I-photography’, 118 original photographs delve deep into the heart of Araki’s relationship with his wife, Yoko, beginning from Subway Love (1963), and expanding into Sentimental Journey (1971), and Winter Journey (1990).” Araki and In fact, Yoko’s wedding photo was central to the exhibition identity: “Not different from (or even borrowing from) how one would typically place funeral photos” Practice Theory explains. The photograph of Araki and Yoko was placed between the words “love” and “death” on the central wall at the beginning of the exhibition, “visitors are greeted by the original picture placed on a monolithic black wall alongside the rest of the identity system, with the black wall also serving to divide the gallery and works”, says the studio.

The black wall is the most fundamental intervention in the space, and as well as dividing the gallery, it acts as a central core to the exhibition, giving the viewing experience of the exhibition a sense of ceremony, a tension also employed in the identity design. “The inherent tension between using a wedding photo as a funeral picture refers to a quote by Araki — ‘that death and love are on the other side of life’. It highlights the intimate relationship he had with Yoko, redefining the boundaries between public and private”, Practice Theory tells It’s Nice That.

The studio designed a limited edition zine to accompany the exhibition, which referenced the production values and methodology of Araki’s photo-books, “which were produced rather subversively using the copy machine of Dentsu Japan”. “Visitors become active participants” Practice Theory describes, “they were invited to photocopy a series of portraits from Tokyo Love, before sequencing and binding the zine themselves”.

Printed in black and white on candy-coloured papers, with images occasionally overlaid and cut off or across pages, the zines “give birth to new and unique relationships across the pages, and breathe new life back into the diaristic photographs made by Araki”, the studio explains. “We were inspired by Araki’s understanding of the medium: ‘Photography is copying’.”

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Practice Theory: Between Love & Death: Diary of Nobuyoshi Araki