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Read the collection of works "Japan Works"

Until October 17thIn storesand now OnlineAglaia Konrad, an Austrian artist living in Belgium An archive exhibition is being held This exhibition is centered around Conrad's representative collection of works, and covers a wide range of catalogs of group exhibitions and solo exhibitions he has participated in, as well as related books and goods.

Conrad has participated in two group exhibitions in Japan so far, but he has yet to hold a solo exhibition. rarely introduced in the context of In fact, I myself didn't know much about the artist except for the collection of works I had already taken at IACK, and from the reactions of the visitors to this exhibition and the Internet, I didn't know the name of this artist in the first place. Most people have never even heard of it

However, there is no point in lamenting such a situation. Fortunately, IACK currently has a substantial collection of Konrad's works, and the new book published by "Roma Publications" in the Netherlands the other day is "Japan Works" . As the title suggests, this work is based on the theme of Japan. For Japanese audiences, it will be a unique opportunity to experience the world of this artist's work.

This time, we focus on the reading comprehension of "Japan Works," and explore the appeal of this writer who has continued to pursue all sorts of unconventional pursuits.

First, let's take a look at the new works produced this time

Conrad will produce a collection of works with "Roma Publications" "Carrara" in 2011 and "Schaubuch: Skulptur (Looking At Sculpture)" in 2017. This is the third time following This book is a large-volume collection of about 500 pages, and contains metabolism architecture [*1] scattered in Tokyo, Itoigawa, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Osaka, photographed by Conrad from September to October 2019. ] and photographs of unnamed buildings that form a unique urban landscape around it.

What characterizes this book above all else is its simple yet bold structure. The book consists of pages of color photographs arranged in a grid pattern, pages of black and white photographs printed on the screen, and pages of text interspersed throughout. According to Roger Willems, founder and designer of Roma Publications, the specifications for the color pages were first seen in chronological order from thousands of photographs sent by Conrad. It seems that I came up with it when I made [*2]These depict the various scenes that the author aimed his lens at in a foreign land for a month for a month. Photos are arranged along a timeline with file numbers so you can follow your steps

One black-and-white page contains powerful black-and-white photographs familiar to readers who have already seen her work, one per page. Originally, this page was supposed to lay out the film photographs that Conrad had taken in parallel with his digital photography. film photographs taken after taking a break Willems was fascinated by the contrast of the flow of time, but as a result of considering the overall volume and balance, he finally decided to compose by interweaving digital photographs in addition to film photographs.

And as a finishing touch, the text pages that are interspersed here and there give the book a light rhythm. This text is not written by the author himself, but is an essay-like text on Metabolist architecture, Japanese culture and landscape written by Australian architect and Japanese scholar Julian Worrall. If thousands of photographs embody Conrad's journey and his labyrinthine vision of the city, this text takes the reader by the hand and acts as a guide to the end of the journey. ing

Spreads from "Japan Works" ©︎IACK, 2021

This book has been published so far Among the collections of works that Conrad has produced, in a sense, this is the work that fully emphasizes the element of architecture. how to read it

The answer is yes and no In the first place, there is no right or wrong answer when reading a collection of works, and it is a clear fact that this book pushes architecture to the fore. However, the more you know about Conrad's practice so far, the more you feel that this alone is only skimming the surface of this work.

Konrad was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1960 Although he did not receive a professional education in art, he became interested in architecture, urban environments, and cinematography, and in his 20s worked as a secretary at an architectural office in Vienna. After purchasing a camera, Conrad began to study photography on his own, and gradually began to take pictures in earnest.

In the early days, I mainly shot in nearby European cities, but from around 1991 to 1992, I began to see the ongoing globalization of the world and parallel progress everywhere. became interested in urban development Conrad then began creating works based on his research, which became the basis for his subsequent production style.

"In order to start filming, I spent two to three months staying in various big cities and doing field research. You can research things that already have information even at home, but you can't discover things that are truly unknown or newly developed unless you see them with your own eyes. As you can see from my work, I wasn't interested in glaring architecture, the latest, or hot topics, and in fact there was very little that interested me. And so I started applying for artist-in-residence, taking my camera and scanning the city and capturing what intrigued me. "[*3]

For Conrad, photography literally scans every element of architecture and cities that he physically and spatially experiences. It was an act of collecting and dropping them into the two-dimensional world of photography. Furthermore, Conrad did not output the photographs taken in such a way according to the conventional method, but searched for a method to return them three-dimensionally and spatially.

The process of making this series of works meant expanding the perception of oneself and space. Conrad, who had a strong interest in architecture and "space", combined images related to architecture with the architecture of the "exhibition hall" space, and made successive attempts to give new experiences to the viewer.

Installation view ©︎Aglaia Konrad, 2021

In this way, Conrad was trying to create an expression that connects the urban space and the exhibition hall. I started to pay attention to the media called

The first glimpse of this was in the 1992 group exhibition "Snapshotpolitics - De camera als instrument van de kunst” This book is a booklet-like catalog of only 22 pages, but the Conrad page has a unique design that expresses layers of glass, photographs, and landscapes by layering tracing paper.

Spread from "Snapshotpolitics - De camera als instrument van de kunst" ©︎IACK, 2021

However, this is an accessory to the exhibition produced as a miniature version of the actual installation, and it is difficult to call it a book as a work itself. It was in 1995 that she started working on a series of artist books that made full use of these characteristics.

Among them, "Sao Paulo" , produced in 1998, has a simple binding like the one in the previous catalog, but by using reversed photographs and a unique sequence, This work reverses the one-way flow of time, which is the beginning and end of reading, and makes the reader feel as if they are lost in a city. In her career, it can be said that the full-scale challenge to a work that is strongly conscious of the "space" of books began with this book.

Sequence of pages from "Sao Paulo" ©︎IACK, 2021

Creating works on the theme of a globalizing world[*4], and this series of efforts that are strongly conscious of the space of books, are "Elasticity" in 2002, and "Iconocity" in 2005. peak at

Unlike the self-published series, these two anthologies do not consist of one city, nor do they cover each city in separate chapters. The photos taken with are arranged in a unique layout and sequence that can be called literally chaos. This composition, which is laid out flat across all city boundaries, directly reflects the sense of globalization that accelerated in the 1990s.

Above: spread from "Elasticity", below: spread from "Iconocity" ©︎IACK, 2021

If the two books "Elasticity" and "Iconocity" are representative works of the artist's early career with the theme of globalization, then "Desert Cities" "Carrara" is a work that has progressed further, both in terms of method and content, from that large framework to smaller frameworks of individual cases.

In "Desert Cities," I revisited Egypt, which I visited once in 1992, and expressed the development of the desert there and the state of imported modernist architecture using paper with different textures. In Carrara, a collection of works derived from the series produced as video works, it seems that photographs are superimposed on each other, showing the mountains and stone quarries being cut down in the Carrara region of Italy, which is known for its marble production. expressed in its own layout

Spread from "Carrara" ©︎IACK, 2021

While both capture the attractive forms of architecture and subjects, It takes up concrete examples of conflicts in urban development, and uses methods such as more sophisticated sequences and skillful use of paper than ever before to brilliantly transform the work into book form.

In her remarks below about Desert Cities, she reveals what she sees behind the artistic richness of architecture.

“All my work is about us, how we interact with the environment around us, and ultimately about both humans and the environment. is talking about Even if we are not present in the image, we are the main subject and the presence of the structures I photograph is closely related and derived from our presence. My intention is not to convey moralism, but to observe themes that interest me personally and then open a broader dialogue related to humans, architecture and landscape. I am not an artist/anthropologist, I am not an artist/geographer, I am not an artist/journalist The perspective of the Desert Cities project is largely based on my own artistic beliefs In other words, it is a reflection on architectural and urban phenomena, and a clarification of my views on the composition of society based on my photographic experience. My projects are very different in terms of their purpose, but they are all rooted in the same activity, allowing me to accumulate a wealth of images and many of our efforts to live together in the built environment. forms an archive that may cover "[*5]

In his early works, people were depicted as part of the city, but after "Desert Cities," Conrad has photographed buildings. narrow down the target of This is because buildings that are created as part of human activity naturally reflect ideas, values, and the climate and culture of the land. While exploring the city, Konrad grabs its skin with a camera, and by connecting the fragments with the exhibition space, a new space appears in front of us. For Conrad, this is architecture and the act of photography.

Another important element that characterizes her work is the It is the point that it is "a work open to a wide dialogue", which was also mentioned in his remarks on "Desert Cities". In the works produced after "Desert Cities" and "Carrara", Conrad uses various methods to make an attempt to do so.

The collection of works "Aglaia Konrad: From A to K" was published in conjunction with the solo exhibition held at M Leuven, a museum located in Leuven, Belgium in 2016. Created based on the unique idea of ​​replacing "A to Z" (from anything to anything or the complete collection) with "A to K", the initials of his own name. The words arranged in fragments do not have a clear meaning on their own, but depending on what words the reader picks up while reading, three different images of the work are formed.

Spread from "Aglaia Konrad: From A to K"
 ©︎IACK, 2021

And a collection of works made in 2017, composed of photographs taken at various European museums, like personal notes. "Schaubuch: Sculptur (Looking At Sculpture)" indirectly shows the continuity with the previous works, but by not presenting the details of each sculpture, the reader can read freely. making it possible

Spread from "
Schaubuch: Skulptur (Looking At Sculpture)" ©︎IACK, 2021

What these works have in common is that, contrary to the fixed themes of "Desert Cities" and "Carrara," they do not bind the photographs or subjects to a specific meaning, and are more open to all reading comprehensions. is the point

As long as a work is presented as a work, it must be completed at some point. But at the same time, they don't necessarily have to be permanently fixed in place. Like building blocks, Konrad freely creates new contexts by taking in and out materials from archives. In this way, he liberates the photographs and subjects from fixed meanings and leaves room for interpretation for the viewer, enabling open appreciation from a variety of perspectives.

Based on the many attempts she has made in the medium of her work collection, Let's read "Japan Works" once

Conrad had already visited Japan briefly in 1990 and 2000, and this time he came to Japan after conducting in-depth research in order to conduct further research. In terms of revisiting the land visited in the 90's, this book can be positioned as one of the variations of "Desert Cities". However, while "Desert Cities" clearly contrasted nature with urban development/globalism, there is no such contrast in this work.

Although the color photographs arranged on a grid that characterize this book certainly serve the function of tracing Conrad's journey in chronological order, in light of the flow of events up until now, it is rather the artist's work. It is also possible to perceive it as a group of photographs that are non-fixed and open to interpretation, reflecting the subject of interest as it is.

By placing it in chronological order, the reader is exposed to the pure transition of Conrad's gaze. These photographs may or may not be exhibited or developed as works in the future. Here, the infinite possibilities of development of bare photographs, which have not gone through the essential production process of selection, coexist with the acceptability of all kinds of interpretation due to their non-deterministic nature.

This feature also appears on the black-and-white photo page. These photos are "finished" compared to the photos on the color page, but if you consciously look at them, you will find that photos intentionally taken at the same place from different angles and similar cuts are continuously inserted. it is understood that Continuing from "Sao Paulo," this is an experiment in sequence that takes advantage of the characteristics of the medium of the book, and at the same time, it gives a non-fixed impression to the buildings that are projected.

In other words, this book is a compilation of the artist's month-long photographic journey with the theme of Japanese cities and Metabolism. It is a collection of works that can be called a culmination, skillfully reflecting the production process.

Spread from "Japan Works" ©︎IACK, 2021

Why was Conrad interested in Metabolism in the first place? Many of the concrete buildings she has photographed so far give a rather artificial and inorganic impression. However, as he states that the existence of buildings is closely related to and derived from human existence, Conrad has continued to pursue themes such as architecture and urban development as part of human activity. rice field

Such images of architecture and cities are most evident in the aerial photographs that I have been working on continuously since the beginning of my career. Originally, aerial photography was taken for the purpose of surveying and mapping, but many of Conrad's aerial photographs were taken on 35mm film, so the images are blurry and do not show detailed terrain. Through this abstraction, roads, which are the cornerstone of infrastructure, are drawn like blood vessels crawling through the earth, and the reality of the city emerges like a gigantic organism.

Conrad, who has seen cities from this perspective, became interested in this architectural movement, which aims to “organically” change architecture in response to changes in society. , isn't it very natural

Spread from "Iconocity" ©︎IACK, 2021

Aglaia Conrad as physical experience/research and the process of spatial expression based on those archives, with a surprisingly smooth connection. And the greatest feature and charm is that it develops one after another without restricting the meaning of the object or work that the lens is aimed at, so it is possible to read from all viewpoints. The wealth of genres in the group exhibitions and related books collected this time proves this. [*6]

When I was flipping through the pages of "Japan Works," a question akin to "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" popped into my head. Do these buildings form cities, or do cities and land shape architecture? Conrad's work transcends the framework of human beings, architecture, cities, and society, and makes us strongly aware that everything exists on an extension line. They are intricately intertwined and form the everyday scenery that surrounds us. What is recorded in this book is a familiar landscape for Japanese people. However, when we look at the familiar scenery through her filter, we unexpectedly catch a glimpse of ourselves.


[*1] Metabolism architecture is an advocacy developed in the 1960s by young architects such as Kisho Kurokawa, Kiyonori Kikutake, and Fumihiko Maki. architectural movement Various experimental works were created based on the idea that architecture and cities should organically change in accordance with the changes in society and population, just as the body adapts to the surrounding environment and changes. The Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed by Kurokawa in 1972, is known as his representative work.
[*2]Roger Willems, Camera Austria international 2021, 155, talking book: Erik van der Weijde in Conversation with... Roger Willems, 2021, pp.84-85
[*3]Niccolò Fano, " calamita aglaia konrad and sand interview by Niccolò Fano, https://calamitaproject.com/aglaia-konrad/ (accessed on 30 October 2021)
[*4]Existence of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War (1961-1989 year) or
Inauguration of the EU (1993)The concept of "borders" must have been a very familiar topic for Conrad, who was born in Austria in 1960. Globalism It is against this background that the strong interest in
[*5]Niccolò Fano, " calamita aglaia konrad and sand interview by Niccolò Fano, https://calamitaproject.com/aglaia-konrad/ (accessed on 30 October 2021)
[*6] Conrad's work is discussed on a wide variety of themes, including cities and architecture, contemporary photography, contemporary art, cartography, history, and ecology. What makes such narrative possible is precisely the structure of her work that opens up to dialogue.

Title: Japan Works
Artist: Aglaia Konrad
Roma Publications, 2021
Softcover with flaps, Otabind
260 x 202 x 30 mm
496 pages
Text in English
First edition
¥6,500 + tax
Click here for the product page

[Aglaia Konrad Archives Online]
Date: October 17th (Sun)-October 31st (Sun) November 3rd (Wed)
*extended to coincide with the publication of the article