Sciencescape - Science expands the new landscape

"Why do we see a landscape there?"
Rei Masuda (Curator of Photography, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)

1. What Is the landscape?

The outside world which is seen ≠ Landscape

Merely seeing is not enough to resist a sight of the outside world as a landscape. For example, a method the "disorientation" of medical terminology is the way to find out the patient is in conscious or not: making questions, name, date or time and location. Even if the patient is conscious, but not able to grasp the name, time and place, this patient is not in the normal state. Because of this fact states that human lives in a world of meaning. The outside world which is seen = Landscape, to establish this scheme, we have to have a certain frame of references: how do we perceive the world or to see the world. And those frames of references may vary in time and culture.

Modern "landscape"

Folklorist Kunio Yanagita stated that view through train windows had played a role in establishing the concept of landscape in Japan. For example, in pre-modern time sights of a village, which contained full of names and meanings; land, weather, and names relating to the history, and so on. The residents could not live without those meanings. On the other hand, fleeting view through train windows simply exists even without any signifier for the passengers. It rather came into existence as nameless landscape. So-called or can be called as modern "landscape".

To establish of modern "landscape", we necessary to do those things; "to have the distance to the object and to disconnect the object from context" and "to make fitting the frame to the view."
And it is a similar act as we photograph the outside world by the camera. Therefore, accumulation of photographic experiences might as well have played an integral role in the establishment of the modern landscape. Yet, simple point-and-shoot isn't enough for landscape photography to be an act of expression or representation intended to show to others. Then, how has landscape photography been realized?

2. Landscapes and photographs

To classify the landscape photographs
Throughout history, the practice of landscape photographers seems to be roughly categorized as follows.

1. Landscape photography whose beauty replaces the beauty of the landscape itself
Example: works of American West by Ansel Adams

Displaying never-seen-before beauty in perfect monochromatic photos that enriches/heightens its beauty.

2. Landscape photo as text that treats the landscape as the subject of analysis and investigation
Example: Works of "New Topographics" by Robert Adams or Lewis Baltz

That emphasizes hints on reading cultural/societal background in familial and not necessarily beautiful images that offer new ideas and point of views.

3. Landscape as the vehicle that conveys the thought and emotions that reside inside the photographers
Example: Equivalent by Alfred Stieglitz

By displaying the movement of the cloud or trees as a metaphor for the photographer's emotions, the view of the outside world and the internal world of the artist interact.

Although most of the fine landscape photography contains all of the above elements in varying degree, a work of landscape photography achieves excellence only by exceeding in one specific element.

Changes in Landscape Photography

A formula "sight/view = landscape" would be realized or accepted when the frame of reference, that is a worldview/image, is shared. Then, the landscape itself, along with landscape photography, would change in accordance with the progression of time and the change in the world view/image. Following example indicates such changes.

Recent works of Andreas Gursky in which the photographer employs digital alteration such as Photoshop. Contemporary architecture and urban space have rather been originated digitally in virtual space with the aids of computers, than being created inside a human brain as analog. If so, the digital information and its manipulation that replaced the images may be more familiar than images created in analog.

The narrowly controlled focus of Naoki Honjo's work. The only small central area is in focus so that the real landscape is made to look as if it were a photograph of a miniature or a diorama. Structure of his works is not unlike the experiences of the internet that take us directly to the point like a straight narrow, while the modern intellectual act is like grasping the perspective, then, look into the detail and parts in relation to each other the whole.

Changes in our familial world results, shift in our worldview/images. Their works can be seen as a sign of those changes.

3. Are Satoru Yoshiokaʼs recent works “Landscape photography?” 

Satoru Yoshioka's recent works consist of two distinct series: one with images of facilities of high energy physics research labs/institutions, and the other with images of phenomena occurring inside the brains from the front line of brain research. The former includes images of equipment and machines in the indoor setting, but loosely considered as landscape photography. How, then, about the latter?

As described previously, suppose that landscape and/or landscape photography would vary in correspondence with the changes in our worldview/images, then, Yoshioka's "Sciencescape" is displaying what the photographer has witnessed about changes in the worldview/images at the cutting edge of new sciences, where new knowledge on the world has been produced. Or displaying what he witnessed at the genesis, where the changes take place. As such, one can see his work as a photography of landscape that is changing just right now (or right in front of his eye), or as the generation of a new type of landscape photography.

Although his work represents it indirectly, I'd like to see "Sciencescape" as the very field itself, where the scientific front line has just opened up a new worldview/images.

From opening lecture
Exhibition title “Sciencescape-Science expands new landscape-” Satoru Yoshioka Exhibition
November 8, 2014 (Sat) 17:00 – 18:10
Venue: Zuiun-an
Grant: Nishieda Foundation