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Thursday, March 6, 2008

ART BRIEF

"Syoin Kajii: Marginal Villages"


Foil Gallery in Tokyo's Higashi-Kanda

Closes March 17

When he's working the room at an opening, there's little to identify 31-year-old photographer Syoin Kajii as a Buddhist monk, except maybe his short-cropped hair and reserved demeanor. Yet when viewing his latest works, on display at Foil Gallery in Tokyo's Higashi-Kanda till March 16, that knowledge is helpful.

The photographs were taken throughout Japan at genkai shuraku— "marginal villages" in rural communities where more than half of the population is over 65 years of age. Without a social activist's sense of tear-jerking spectacle, or a historian's commitment to factual documentary, Kajii instead seeks to "make people think about what is happening in rural areas."

His large landscapes first grab your attention. In one, snow splattered houses on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture huddle like ducks by a dark and stormy sea. In another, streaks of rain are caught falling like millions of tiny white meteorites on a house in Iizumicho, Kyoto. Marginal? Surely "abandoned to nature" would be a more accurate description. But people are still here: Clusters of smaller photos pinned between the landscapes reveal elderly residents coaxed into the light, sitting by windows or on the porches in their farmhouses.

Perhaps the rain shot — nature caught artfully in motion — is most reminiscent of Kajii's high-speed photographs of waves on Sado Island, for which he first gained some fame in 2004. But here it is an altogether different pace of change he presents, and one that has far weightier consequences.



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