Exhibition "THE FAB MIND: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World" is covered by Italian website "domus" and Japanese website "JDN."
In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.
Clothing, photos, and letters: Thoughts on the moving body
──What was your impression after seeing this exhibition?
Yasuo Kobayashi (from hereon Kobayashi):
I once heard from Issey-san that his greatest influences were Isamu Noguchi and Irving Penn. At the time, I could relate well to how Isamu Noguchi was the roots of his formative design but I was puzzled when it came to Irving Penn. During this conversation, Issey-san spoke of the importance of showing his works to Penn, and that through Penn's perspective he was able to discover a new other self. By looking at his own work through the eyes of Penn's camera, he was able to meet a part of himself that he'd never seen before. I felt this as dialectic, that this involved the workings of the self-other. It made me want to dig deeper from the aspect of culture and representation.
Put differently, when looking at the collaboration between Penn and Issey-san in this exhibition, I had a flash of inspiration that Penn's world associates with letters, or should I say the world of calligraphy. In China, there is a saying that "calligraphy defines the person", and the "person" can also refer to the physical body. Clothing is a form but it is a form as in "body" form, an issue of the human body. Issey-san's designs constantly challenge new materials, but his roots are in the moving body. He neither hides the body nor decorates it. His concept is that the body is movement. I feel that his origins are in form as the "moving body." And, this seemed to connect with the ancient concept of letters. In this exhibition, I felt as if letters rising to their feet from the earth were trying to take flight.
──Please tell us about your talk event held on February 18?
Kobayashi: At the event, I was welcoming Takahiro Nakajima and Masaaki Tsuchiya, professors of Chinese philosophy to discuss Irving Penn's photos and Issey-san's clothing through "letters" and "calligraphy." We introduced several works of calligraphy to interpret Issey-san's clothes and Penn's photos through "letters" and "calligraphy" to see where this would take us. I suspect it allowed us to see the meeting of these two men, Issey-san and Penn on an anthropological scale.
(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)
Professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Kobayashi Yasuo (born 1950 in Tokyo) is Professor of Culture and Representation in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, Komaba, and Director of the University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy (UTCP). He graduated from the Department of French Studies at the University of Tokyo in 1974, and completed his doctorate in Semiotics under the direction of Claude Abastado at the University of Paris X Nanterre in 1981. He taught at the University of Electro-Communications in Chofu from 1982, and joined the faculty of the University of Tokyo, Komaba in 1986. From 2001 to 2002, Professor Kobayashi served as a Councilor at the University of Tokyo, and in 2002 he received the Ordre de Palme Academique Chevalier, from the Republic of France. From 2002 to the present, he has been Director of UTCP, both under the 21st-Century and Global COE Programs of the Ministry of Education (Monkasho).
Professor Kobayashi has published on a wide range of subjects. His publications include: Hyoushou no Kougaku [The Optics of Representation] (2003), Chi no Odysseia [The Odyssey of Savoir] (2009), and Rekishi no Deconstruction [The Deconstruction of History] (2010). He has also translated a number of French authors, including Derrida, Levinas, and Duras.