Remember the posters you used to hang up on your bedroom wall as a kid? I wonder where they've gone. I even remember there used to be entire poster shops, right? You know, with big plastic covers over the posters and...
So the opening of the Yakuza exhibit in Rome at Officine Fotografiche was fantastic. So heartwarming the welcome when I arrived, so professional the help to get the installation built, so overwhelming the opening night... An incredible experience all around. Thank you Tiziana and Emilio for welcoming me, and for trusting me to deliver... and what a great festival fotoleggendo is.
I like to get my hands dirty. For an exhibit installation, usually they expect the artist to kind of "hang around", giving directions when needed and such. Not me... I am first in, last out, working hands on with everyone all the time. Even if all is planned as much as possible, with layouts and 3D models and exact measurements & positions... at that moment, none of that counts anymore. It's the people and their dedication that really make it happen.
And of course always Diego Orlando is there... as a curator, photographer, close friend and absolute eagle eye, it's him who somehow always makes that extra magic happen. I constantly nag him at every build up, telling him I'm waiting for his "genius moment" to come, and that he'd better hurry.
"NOW Diego, it's time for your genius. NOW."
Of course there is no such thing as planning a genius moment. Yet I feel that moment should always happen. It will happen, as long as the energy in the room is right. It's something unplannable, but to me, it's required to make things one hundred percent perfect. So all I can do is be open for the moment... I can never push it, nor expect it. I can only allow it to happen...
In this case, at the very last minute, we decided to change half a dozen images that were already installed 12 feet high up on the walls (you know how it goes, you change one image and the whole edit falls apart). On top of that, we kind of felt that a double row of rice papers instead of the planned single one would be better....
...and you know that the decision has been a good one when you both look back and think: now, now this is killer.
Up to now I've never been bitten by allowing things to happen.... and I hope I won't ever be... or at least not too often. It's just too much fun.
Here's to Diego, Tiziana, Emilio, Elena and everyone else at Officine: thank you... great times. Hope I can return to Rome soon...
(the exhibit still runs until nov 7, so if you're around, come visit!)
A few days ago the printer delivered the last boxes of YAKUZA books to my door (I was able to make a deal with him to stock my books – great guy, by the way). To my surprise – pleasant surprise – he only handed me 8 boxes. "That's all that's left, son".
As you can see each box holds 13 books. And with 4 upcoming exhibitions, in which I want to make sure that people who come to visit can buy a book, you know what this means. Time to declare:
The second edition of ODO YAKUZA TOKYO is now sold out.
Phew, what a ride for this book... I'll be switching off the online orders in a couple of days, so if you're looking to get a last minute order for this edition, do it NOW. Yes NOW.
Or come visit an exhibit of course :) More details on those soon...
The three days we had available to build the installation and hang the artworks was plenty to build Yakuza. Being the first time, I feared it would be way too short, but we finished in the evening of the second day, after just 27 hours. Some things went exactly as planned, some things even better. And some things seemed to be so hard to solve that I thought we'd never figure it out in time.
My brother Malik had flown over from Tokyo with Yoko, my mum was on standby babysitting a bunch of the kids, and my love was ready too. Two extremely experienced tech guys from the venue were there to help me at all times. Charles from the lab who did the prints, also insisted on personally hanging the artwork to the wall. And a day before the opening, Diego Orlando, dear friend and curator for the Yakuza show, was flying in from Milano.
So we pretty much had it covered. Three stages. Artwork. Rice paper. Goza mats.
The rice paper was the thing that worried us the most. Extremely delicate and without any margin for error (some were printed with images or text), we had to find a suitable way to hang them from the ceiling.
For the artwork I had prepared a detailed layout with exact measurements, and I had faith in Charles, having over 25 years experience doing exactly this kind of thing.
And finally, laying the mats in the right patterns would be pretty straighforward I guessed. Malik took the organization of that one upon him.
Charles was making tremendous progress hanging the actual artworks... and finished after just 7,5 hours. And at that moment, even without the lighting, rice paper or mats, we could see it was going to be good. Everybody was happy... One down, three to go...
In the late afternoon of the first day we encountered or first real challenge, and it was something none of us expected: the goza mats. For some reason we just couldn’t get them to join together in the patterns we needed. We tried everything: sticking, glueing, using a second carpet layer... nothing helped. We tried for hours to figure it out.
Then Yoko found it: goza mats, as is tradition in Japan, should be sewn together to generate the patterns and sizes one needs. Only practical problem: we had to combine one hundred mats into three large shapes & patterns...
We had to find extra hands that knew how to sew. Fast. It was 10pm and we needed them by 9am. We needed them or we'd be in trouble finishing. We started calling around for help.
It was then that I noticed one of the rice paper prints was missing.
Calling Charles he immediately agreed to help me print the missing one at 7am the next morning. I needed to personally be there as we loaded op the paper and printed.
The next morning, at the gallery, a miracle had happened... my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law had both responded to our emergency call for sewing, and took it upon them to bring even more help... Now there was a team of 6 people sewing simultaneously, and things suddenly went really fast... they incredibly managed to finish all the mats just 8 hours later.
Then It was Tuur's turn to save us. At one point - I'm so glad I was still at the printer at that time - someone drilled through a water pipe in the ceiling... and you can imagine what happened next.
Tuur shouted and everybody came running to the room to rescue the artwork... and quickly thereafter the water mains got shut down and repaired. Nothing damaged. Quick thinking from an experienced builder. And by the time I returned from the printer there wasn’t a trace left of all this... phew.
And the rice paper - of which we were all afraid - well, all went flawlessly. The second day, we finished in time, and we all went home completely relaxed. Job done, exhibit ready for final inspection and subsequent opening... fantastic. I slept like a baby.
The next morning, off to the airport to pick up dear friend Diego Orlando (who curates the Yakuza show), and go straight to the venue to check if everything is one hundred percent perfect.
Of course Diego’s eagle eye picked up on something that could be improved story-wise... and we ended up making a genius last minute switch of one image on a different wall and a sequence alteration in another part... in hindsight so simple... so logical... so perfect.
The opening the next day was a big success.... so many people and friends... and such great moments.
Five years ago Malik and I looked each other in the eye in Taka’s bar and said “hey what if we try to photograph the yakuza?”.
Now, half a decade later, after two editions of the book and the first of a series of solo exhibits, we are finally full circle.
I am SO happy.
Mum, Malik, Yoko, Miet, Tuur, Jeroen, Charles, Mich, Jules, Kristien, Danny (and of course young Lukas in a supporting role), I simply cannot thank you guys enough for helping at the setup... and thank you Veerle and Eddie for giving me the opportunity in the first place...
- a perfect image edit ✓
- precise installation layout plan ✓
- fresh orange juice ✓
- clamps ✓
- 100 freshly made goza mats: standard size ✓
- mom on speed dial standby at all times ✓
- opening party ✓
- the images, printed & mounted ✓
- my love ❤ ✓
- bubbly sparkly drinks ✓
- broza ✓
- 200 metres of premium Japanese rice paper ✓
- family, friends & guests ✓
- a bunch of transparent glue sticks ✓
- an ultra cool fold out printed edition catalogue ✓
- a genius curator ✓
- sista ✓
- installation days locked down ✓
- total costs absolutely spiralling out of control ✓
- secret extra stuff for visitors ✓
- chilled belgian beer in a friend’s trunk ✓
- good good vibes all around ✓
Finally they're here... Limited editions of images from the different projects I've been photographing.
A humble beginning with an edition for three of my projects, and quite an investment of time and money, but I think it is going to be worth it. Most recently, I was able to make a limited edition of prints from the Yakuza project (to accompany the upcoming exhibits). Combined with an edition of my work shot in Mexico on "I was a Dog/I see a Ghost", and an upcoming edition (Q4 this year) of new Dislocate images, that makes three.
So I thought it might be good to combine them all online into one place, keeping things simple and up to date.
All the editions are actually very limited (although the print size is quite large sometimes... you gotta love large prints).... but after a lot of talking with, and advice from, friends, experts in the field and gallery owners, and of course a great deal of soul searching, I think this is the way I should go.
I'm not a full blown art photographer, but I think I've kinda got my act together and once in a while I do want to make available high quality limited editions of my work, preferably in small numbers... so I can keep it personal... and I think - I hope - editions like these ones speak this message and complement everything else I do.
To be honest, yet again I have no clue if this is the right way to go... it just feels like another natural step to take. I'll see how it goes and report back here regularly... check it out: antonkusters.com/editions
And if you're reading this and interested in buying an editioned print, send me a message and I'll give you your password to access the details...
Have a great day today,
P.S. yes, "Sugar" is on the list too... stay tuned! :-)
66 images, ranging from 12x18" through 40x60" to one that's a whopping 78x118"
(if I can afford that last one, that is)