-Blue Period has the feeling of a memory.
Nobuyoshi Araki: We are talking about the ’70s and ’80s here. You say it feels like a memory, but for me it was an attempt to make the past into a progressive form. You know, like when we speak in the past progressive tense. Back then, I had this feeling that we were in the age of photography, and that photography captured the zeitgeist. That’s why I started a magazine called Shashin Jidai in 1981, with Akira Suei as editor-in-chief. But all that feels a little juvenile now, in a way, which is why I decided to call it Blue Period. You know, like the great Picasso! Even though, I believe, Picasso wouldn’t have been as loose with it.
-Now that you mention it, it is in the past progressive tense.
Right. So I wanted to make Last Summer in the future progressive. In the end, though, I don’t think I could quite do away with dubious naturalism. That’s likely the limit of my lm painting; it’s just not up there with Blue Period. The latter has unexpected stains and smudges everywhere. You can’t bring them out by painting [on lm]. Looking at them side by side makes me glad. I remember throwing red paint on Last Summer without thinking, and it ended up forming a rising sun in the shape of an oval. Sometimes even two rising suns. It’s as if the unconscious was ltered through the work.
I have a memory I have carried with me for a long time. I was ve and I was watching my neighborhood burn from the graveyard. There was an air raid and incendiary bombs were falling from the sky. Houses were in ames, but I thought the red sky was so beautiful. That’s why
I published Last Summer on August 15th.
-The two works look very different.
They do! I’d say Last Summer is the future; it has a certain sense of resignation about it.
Blue Period is the past, because it’s about 112 how memory inhabits us. But we don’t yet have a memory of the future. You had better get both of them [laughter]. That’s right! Seriously. They are awesome. They knock me out.
The red you see in Last Summer is red of blood. And the blood must be shed. Blue just won’t cut it. It would just seem off. I’d say [Last Summer] surpasses Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari.
-It reminds me of the faded tones of old movies on VHS.
True. When we watch those movies, we watch them with the already lost tones. The original is forever gone. The same can be said of ancient temples like Horyu-ji. Restoration kind of kills its beauty, as I’m convinced old shrines and temples were designed with the weathering away of colors over time in mind. It makes them more interesting.
Blue Period, too, goes all the way back to the beginning. In a way, my path as a photographer was laid out for me thanks to everything that happened before that. You know, when we look at Atget’s photobooks, what we are looking at are the faded tones of countless reproductions. We can’t see as Atget actually saw back then. But we still look at the pictures seriously and as real things.
These two works are my tour de force, really. They’re great.
Interview was originally conducted at Rouge in Shinjyuku in July 2005.
Araki Nobuyoshi, “Blue Period” (Tokyo: Artone, 2005), pp. 163–165.