YÔKAÏNOSHIMA by Charles Fréger

Exhibition Period: 19th February (Friday), – 15th May (Sunday), 2016
            Mon-Sat 11:00-20:00 (Last entry 19:30),
            Sun 11:00-19:00 (Last entry 18:30)
            Open daily (Except for store closing day)
            Free admission
Venue:         Ginza Maison Hermès Le Forum
            (8F, 5-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 
            TEL: 03-3569-3300)
Organized by:     Fondation d’entreprise Hermès
Supported by:     MEM
Under the auspices of: Embassy of France/Institut français du Japon

Charles Fréger is a French photographer known for series of photographs of costumes taken in various locations around the world––ethnic and traditional costumes and outfits worn for local practices, rituals, festivals and other special occasions. He travels to each country in person and captures portraits of the astoundingly wide range of human beings and their activities, which are fascinating from an anthropological and ethnological as well as an artistic standpoint.

For the EMPIRE series shot in 2004-2007, he took photographs of hussars (ceremonial cavalrymen) who appear in ritualistic roles in 16 different countries, including some kingdoms and republics, primarily in Europe. Their extraordinarily ornate and solemn yet highly idiosyncratic uniforms speak to us about the national and collective rules, roles, and even politics and power structures of their communities.

In his recent, celebrated WILDER MANN series (2010-2011), Fréger portrayed the figures of beastly “wild men” who appear in traditional festivals and rituals in various parts of Europe. The bizarre, frightening and yet humorous wild men, dressed as bears, goats, devils, or anthropomorphic characters, resurrect primitive narratives that evolved out of exchanges and a symbiosis between humankind and the forces of nature. It was because of the intriguing commonalities between these ancient winter festivals, which survive in every corner of Europe, and the Japanese culture of toshigami (New Year’s deities), that Fréger visited Japan to further develop the series.

Traveling from north to south, Fréger shot photos in 58 locations throughout the Japanese islands, and titled the series YÔKAÏNOSHIMA. The photos feature the unique masked deities and demons of Japan emerging from the nation’s fields, mountains, forests, and seacoasts. While yokai are Japanese folkloric figures that embody fear and awe, they allow us to rediscover a familiar presence lurking beneath the surface of everyday life since time out of mind, and can be also seen in relation to the animated and branded characters so ubiquitous in pop culture today.

The scenography for this exhibition is created by the young up-and-coming architect Jumpei Matsushima. The structure, inspired by the distinctive island landscape of Japan, encompasses approximately 100 works by Charles Fréger, with the new YÔKAÏNOSHIMA as a centerpiece and also including the WILDER MANN photos.

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