Art

‘Ryoko Suzuki: “I am …”‘

by Emily Wakeling

Special To The Japan Times

Zeit Foto Salone
Closes Dec. 17

Ryoko Suzuki is one of the few Japanese artists now making visually bold gender critiques. In 2007, her work was recognized through its inclusion in a major international survey, “Global Feminisms” at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. Since then, Suzuki has focused her artistic interests on gender and photography, with one interesting photo-series after the other.

Overall, Suzuki is an artist concerned with the homogenized standards of beauty on display in mainstream visual culture. Her best-known works, the “Anikora” series, are a set of photographs that awkwardly combine the artist’s face with the CG bodies of anime-style super-girls. The self-portraits approach the issue of how women and girls are represented in society and the media in a very personal way: She quite literally compares her real self to cartoon sex objects of contemporary popular culture — and in doing so reveals the comical differences between them.

Her latest series, titled “I am …,” continues with the Photoshop techniques. In an even more awkward pairing, the artist’s head is placed on the body of a 15-year-old boy model. His young, lanky but clearly masculine physique sets an odd tone when teamed with Suzuki’s face and hair. Beginning at the eyes and the lips, the viewer’s expectations are thoroughly challenged as the gaze travels further down the image to her flat chest, semi-muscular arms and hairy legs.

Suzuki’s manipulation of photographic representations is surely a comment on the ubiquitous use of Photoshop in mainstream media. Through the wonders of computers, already-glamorous women are being unnecessarily made flawless and idealized. This might sound cynical, but Suzuki’s distinct sense of humor when it comes to self-image makes her criticisms funny. Instead of using Photoshop techniques to touch up models and celebrities to “perfection,” Suzuki chooses to create unexpected and visually intriguing depictions of the human form.

Zeit-Foto Salone is in the Matsumoto Bldg. 4F, 1-10-5 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; open 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (Sat. till 5:30 p.m.), closed Sun. and Mon.); admission free. For more information, visit www.zeit-foto.com.