untitled (from the series "the lid on the hole") type C print 84.8 ×105.5cm  40.2 ×50.0cm 2016 ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU

INTERVIEW | Yosuke Bandai

Yosuke Bandai is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice is grounded in photography, yet also runs the gamut from film to sculptural objects. Over the course of a nearly decade long career, he has demonstrated an unwavering interest in themes of decay. Beginning with his futa no ana ("the lid on the hole") series, Bandai's process has been a continual exploration of found waste items which he collects, reassembles, and then photographs. His work exudes an unparalleled atmosphere of humor in tandem with a unique sense of physical form, both of which prompt the questions: What sparked his engagement with discarded items? What ideologies/thought process underlie and inform the creation of his work?
Moreover, Bandai is afflicted by congenital bipolar disorder. Although he states that he has learned to fully manage the condition now, he concedes that there was a five-year period between 2008 and 2012 when the symptoms amplified to an extent that precluded him from leading a fulfilling daily life. The road to recovery has involved attritional pacing in an ongoing quest for both psychological and physical balance. This experience with personal struggle has ostensibly left an indelible impact on Bandai's practice, and provides a further - if not immediately evident - layer from which to approach his creations. In the interest of probing these questions and more, we interviewed Bandai to mark the release of his first print publication, A Certain Collector B. Read the full interview for a deeper look into the mind of Yosuke Bandai, in his own words.
A Certain Collector B includes work of the same title from his solo exhibition "Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" held at the contemporary art venue TARO NASU in Tokyo from September through October 2016. The series consists of images produced on a flatbed scanner that depict items gathered off the streets and reconstituted into new, sculptural amalgamations. The book's concept is that it is a comprehensive personal document culled from the files of a fictive "Collector B," a veritable homemade photo album of this anonymous collector's coterie.

Please tell us a little about your previous work up to now.

Ten years have flown by since my first solo exhibition. Looking back on my earlier work, I can say that I've used both myself and photography as vehicles by which to think about humanity, all the while handling materials that have been deemed "unnecessary" and tossed aside. I think that the work which has resulted from this process of inquiry is, to a certain degree, a poetic expression of the ephemerality of life and civilization.

At the same time, I've always been thoroughly engaged with the question of how to interact with a given subject. One day, I was listening to a CD recording of a lecture by Hideo Kobayashi [1902-1983; prominent literary critic and author], and he brought up Norinaga Motoori [1730-1801; pre-imminent Kokugo scholar in the Edo period], in the context of what Motoori thought about the act of thinking. Evidently, he said that the act of thinking is tantamount to interacting with the subject, to giving yourself over and committing to a subject. I still remember that moment, as it really struck a chord.

What are your thoughts on using photography?

One aspect is that photographs are akin to a mirror. I work with photography in order to grasp an understanding of the world, and also to enable a sort of conversation with myself.

In both the "lid on the hole" series and your new work "Collector B," you've elected to continuously produce objects out of discarded materials, then capture these sculptural objects in photographs. What is it that draws you to decay? What do you feel when handling and finessing these worn-out materials?

The scanner photographs from directly overhead, so there are certain aspects of an object's color and form that are only revealed to me when I see them on the monitor. The feelings are quite diverse, and vary from the time I first spot a piece of debris on the ground to when the image first appears on the screen. The circumstances and situations are in perpetual flux. My feelings when touching and fiddling with the material also falls into a number of different categories. Sometimes when I'm working with a particularly exciting vestigial remain and feeling like a kid in a candy store, I reach a transfixed, trancelike state, where I gradually become one with the subject material. At other times when I feel an even deeper, almost love-like attachment to a subject, there are moments when I reach an impasse, and debating the next move experience a harmonious flash of the full range of emotions. However, I think that being able to imbue a subject with this kind of vibrant childish innocence instills my work with humor that jolts our perception of existence.

Could you describe your process when it comes to assembling the sculptures? Do you decide on the form intuitively, on the spot? Or is it generally premediated?

Improvisation allows me to fully utilize my instincts, and also imparts an enthusiasm and ardor, as if I were communicating with the universe. When slowly, carefully attaching each piece in the morning with as if a devoted hobbyist assembling his model figurines, there are times when I feel as if I had been transported to another world where time flows differently. The same goes for when I'm working in a dark room and working, conscious of speed. But I also make a point of working even when I'm tired. I do jot down ideas in a notebook, and make sketches, too. It's not necessarily uniform one way or the other. There are some periods when I need to live without giving my brain the leisure to settle on a specific image. Even so, epiphanies are few and far between. It takes the right conditions, and I think that there are many things which are vital to improving the caliber of inborn intuition. Off the top of my head, I would cite some banal examples: jogging, reading, and establishing a healthy routine of hitting the sack early and waking up early.

untitled (from the series "the lid on the hole")  type C print 84.8 ×105.5cm  40.2 ×50.0cm 2016 ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU

"I trust only the rib, after all, you know?" 2014, Installation view at TARO NASU ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

"Passing Man" 2015, Installation view at CAPSULE ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

"Passing Man" 2015, Installation view at CAPSULE ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

murderer 1 "She' s not here...I don' t know" Norman Thorne, male/wood, type C print (laminated & faced mounted on acrylic),  projection/dimensions variable/2015 ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

In last year's solo show "Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" you exhibited not only the "Collector B" prints, but also suspended scrap debris material in tanks of water, and displayed completed sculptures in glass showcases. You also screened a film. How did you come up with the concept for this ambitious exhibition?

I experienced a significant turning point, and my works developed quite rapidly from there. From the very start, I've been interested in items that have been deemed unnecessary and discarded, and have used this items to create my work. Yet starting around 2010, there was a five-year period when I had to set limits when it came to delving too deeply into the work. Over those five years, I learned how to manage my mental health. Feeling that I was ready, I decided to free myself from all the previous limits, and really delve back into the work. This overlaps with the "Passing Man" solo show I did last summer. When preparing the show, I spent most of the time thinking about the dead. While the show was still running, my grandmother passed away, and my younger sister became pregnant. These events awakened something within me. I wanted to allow myself to fully experience and think again. Around the same time that I lifted the former self-imposed limitations, I began scanning the debris that I would collect in my neighborhood. That was a big, pivotal moment for me.

You started to work again without overtaxing yourself physically.

Yes, after getting sick, I had been holding back until I could make a full recovery. Two years ago, after lifting the self-imposed restrictions, I maintained a baseline of scanning about 100 sheets a month. Whenever I had time apart from the scanning, I would tinker with other potential pieces in progress. After sticking to this regimen for a while, other ideas began to gradually take form. So I didn't necessarily begin with a masterplan for the exhibition. Rather, you could say that I saddled a heavy physical and emotional burden, and the exhibition was a product of having pushed myself to this (manageable) extreme. When I decided to push myself, I knew that there would be a high psychological risk. Since I was using my body to once again concentrate intently on work, I needed to offset the load, and that's when I started to run at least 4km every day. Some days, I'll repeat the run as much as three times, so 12km in total. Running is really effective for staying healthy.

In the exhibition, you also showed pieces of debris floating in water tanks that you described as being works currently in progress. This allowed viewers to acutely experience time in the present. The relationship between all the exhibition's many elements - rotting material, photographs that anchor the past, preserved objects - were tied together on an axis of time. Past and present intermixed to provide a new viewing experience.

I ended up throwing out the water tank piece after the exhibition closed, but it will be possible to revive it with the new "Collector B" series. After the installation, only photographs remain, and the water tanks themselves vanish with almost no trace. But I did pluck one sole object from the tanks after the exhibition. I've kept it safe and might use it for my next project.

Titling the exhibition after the date is also indicative of your awareness of time.

Those dates already belong to the past. Time flies.

09.jpg"Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" 2016, Installation view at TARO NASU  ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

"Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" 2016, Installation view at TARO NASU ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

"Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" 2016, Installation view at TARO NASU ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

14.jpg "Communication by 100 pictures 4" video,11min25sec, loop  2016 ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU

"A Miraculous Object"  found materials, found objects  31x 31x126cm  2016  ©Yosuke Bandai  Courtesy of TARO NASU photo by Keizo Kioku

Even though the prints in "Collector B" depict items in various states of decay, they have a light, delicate feel. There's a certain magical appeal in how they look like mysterious objects whose use is anyone's guess. I suspect that the scanner's focal length and head-on lighting have something to do with this aesthetic, but what are your thoughts on the characteristics of cameras versus scanners?

My mindset is that, in the printing stage, individual characteristics of either cameras or printers are merely a difference of detail. They both share all the properties inherent to photographs - the flatness, the fictiveness, the equivalence, etc. The big difference comes when you're shooting, as the camera is positioned close to the human eye. With scanners, the camera is tucked inside the machine, so any movement is limited to within that box. The perspective you get with a scanner is limited. Think of it this way: there's an object resting on a glass panel, and you can only peek up from below. If the object is removed from the glass, you will only see darkness and the panel's grime. Thus, when you use a scanner to photograph an object, put the print into a frame, and hang it on a wall, it means that you've also been able to create the flat afterimage of an event, and right this photographic representation vertically on the wall. All of my work has been about events that occur on this planet, and I've been using a scanner for almost 10 years. I've had so much experience with both scanners and cameras that they now feel like an extension of my own body.

A lot of different steps were involved in creating pieces for the "Collector B" series. You walk around in search of garbage, reassemble this refuse, scan the completed sculpture, and exhibit the final product (whether a print or the sculpture itself). I thought it was interesting that you don't consider any individual action to be more central than the others, but rather seem to value all of these motions equally.

In the heat of the moment, all these activities are profoundly stimulating and amplify my mental oscillations. Working is a question of how to harness this stimulation, especially at times when the oscillations verge on the uncontrollable. The resulting work is a stationary document that evinces action, and reveals those original sensations along with the sluggish passage of time. We're alive now but will ultimately die someday; it's remarkable that we have this opportunity to think, with every atom of our sentient bodies.

It goes without saying that a work of art is intrinsically imbued with the ideological and emotional mark of its creator. At times, I can detect quite a vivid narrative of your own struggles and physical experience that seem to be present in some of your pieces. What does the creative process, the act of producing work, mean to you nowadays?

The works alone are conducive to layer after layer of struggle, experience, etc. As such, I don't see any significant difference in whether I work or not; the act of trying to live in the wider world is itself an act of creation and tantamount to producing work. It's everything, every aspect of daily life. I'm always working on a lot of pieces simultaneously - maybe they'll end up being 15 or so completed works - but the number is arbitrary. I just take small steps each day and work on new pieces little by little. 

untitled ( from the series "A Certain Collector B") type C print 16.6 ×22.1cm 2016 ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU

untitled ( from the series "A Certain Collector B") type C print 16.6 ×22.1cm 2016 ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU

untitled ( from the series "A Certain Collector B") type C print 16.6 ×22.1cm 2016 ©Yosuke Bandai Courtesy of TARO NASU

Your new photobook, "A Certain Collector B," is stylized to be a scrapbook of sorts, an album of images fastidiously assembled by the fictive collector known only as "Collector B." If we were to situate this book in the context of your exhibitions, I think it would correlate with some of your previous work. What are your own views on this photobook, and how does it fit into your larger oeuvre?

The photobook's premise is that a character identified as "B" collected these images of trash, and then someone else stepped in to subsequently reproduce the album as a consumable commercial product. In a sense, I wanted to try and bring this scenario to fruition, motivated by a sense of playfulness and also a dose of cynicism. As such, the book itself is a matter of process. The project largely reflects my own interest in the unknown variables and future transformations that would actually await such a book in the hands of real world consumers.

With a first publication under your belt, do you have any closing thoughts on book making?

This was my first opportunity to work with publishing professionals, and opened my eyes to how interesting the book-making process can be. For example, the idea to present the book in album-format itself arose from our discussions; the collaboration process proved to be fertile ground for new inspiration. Until now, the notion of creating a book had been outside my range of interests. That said, I'm already thinking about the next publication.

February, 2017
Text and interview by Kohei Oyama

Yosuke Bandai

1980 Born in Tokyo Lives and works in Tokyo

Major Solo Exhibitions

2016 "Friday, September 9 - Friday, October 7, 2016" TARO NASU
2015 "Passing Man" CAPSULE
2014 "I trust only the rib, after all, you know?" TARO NASU
2012 "Disordered Bandai; His Unequalled Passion" AI KOAWADA GALLERY

Major Group Exhibitions

2017 "Sylvanian Families Biennale 2017" XYZ collective
2016 "Imprisoned, Jailbreak, Imprisoned, Jailbreak" statements
2015 "Continuous Temporality Vol. 2 - Mortal" gallery COEXIST-TOKYO

In addition, he is a participating member of the "Super Open Studio NETWORK" and "Ongoing Collective."
In February 2017, Newfave will publish his first book: A Certain Collector B. A launch exhibition is to be held at POST. 
A solo exhibition is scheduled for October 2017 at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, under the auspices of the APMoA Project, ARCH.

BOOK 'A Certain Collector B' 

190mm x 180mm
Offset Print
62 pages

Launch Exhibition

Venue: POST (http://post-books.info)
2-10-3, Ebisu-minami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0022
When: Feb. 17th (Fri.) - March 5th (Sun.) 2017 12:00-20:00
Opening Reception: Feb. 17th 18:00-20:00