Kohei Yoshiyuki: Liverpool Biennial 2012

15 Sept – 25 Nov 2012

Untitled, 1973 © Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New YorkUntitled, 1972 © Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York (2)Untitled, 1972 © Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New YorkUntitled, 1971 © Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Untitled, 1973 © Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

First exhibited in Tokyo in 1979, Kohei Yoshiyuki’s (Japan, b. 1946) twin projects The Park and Love Hotel ignited furious debate about photography’s relationship with voyeurism and surveillance.

Yoshiyuki was a young commercial photographer in Tokyo in the early 1970s when he and a colleague walked through Chuo Park in Shinjuku one night. They noticed a couple on the ground, then spectators lurking in the bushes. Fascinated by these illicit games of cat and mouse, Yoshiyuki spent the next six months becoming a participant. “To photograph the voyeurs”, he later wrote, “I needed to be considered one of them”. Returning with his camera, loaded with infrared flashbulbs and film, he photographed in three different Tokyo parks over several years. The resulting body of work captures heterosexual and homosexual couples engaged in sexual activity, and the peeping toms who stalked them.

Open Eye’s installation echoes the original exhibition in 1979 at Komai Gallery in Tokyo, where prints were shown inside a darkened space, illuminated by the torches of visitors.

Alongside The Park Open Eye presents a selection of works from Yoshiyuki’s companion series Love Hotel (1978). These photographs are taken from sex tapes made by the clients of an infamous Tokyo book-by-the-hour hotel. “The grainy vagueness of these still images… alternately invites and frustrates, underscoring all the more forcefully that the truth about eros lies not in what you see, but, ultimately, in what you fail to” (Artforum, 2007).

This is the first UK solo exhibition of Kohei Yoshiyuki and forms part of Liverpool Biennial 2012 – The Unexpected Guest.