Hiroyo Kaneko “Appearance”

2018 June 6th – July 6th

The human face is the conduit for the word of God―Emmanuel Levinas

As I ponder on my exhibition, Appearance - a portrait series of people singing – at Kurenboh, I come across a text left by my brother in law, Toshio Ishii, a French Philosophy scholar who passed away prematurely thirteen years ago.
It was the lecture manuscript, entitled “Philosophy for Adults”, which focuses on universally challenging issues: God and Others, dealing with a French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas’s thought. Since the lecture was planned for a small circle of his acquaintances, it doesn’t sound daunting. Rather, it is approachable, and reminds me of his frankness as well as his capacity. The following sentences particularly come into my heart.

“When others appear, and it seems we cannot escape, our hearts and bodies react to each other, then we respond and lock eyes, unable to turn away.”

“Other people, different existences from ourselves, are with no exceptions, overall, like God.”

The first quotation directly matches my feeling when I started this series upon my experience of both alienation and acceptance as a foreigner over and over since I moved to the United States sixteen years ago. The second quotation connects to the surprise and awe I feel towards the subjects when making these photos.
It is both a miracle and inevitable that I share these pictures of “the faces of others,” in a temple, where life, death and god are natural to think about.

March 2018 Hiroyo Kaneko

Form and/or Expression

The expressions and gestures that the human skin expresses naturally are deeply connected to everything around it. Whether or not there is intention or instruction from our consciousness, the result is expressed unexpectedly. It may be that the situation, feelings, reception, and personality, as well as habits and history of that person appear as a phenomenon in that moment. In other words, it can be understood as: “form appearing as karma and fate.”

In Buddhism there is the concept of action, speech and thought. This means that you should refine the work, actions, words, and the workings of your mind to prepare for enlightenment. For example, the nenbutsu prayer (a prayer to bring about stability and purity recited on a daily basis) can be interpreted as purification of life. In any case, we are living beings practicing death by our life, existence and recognition.

In this way photographing the appearance and shape of a person makes it possible to see the nakedness, separate from the ego. To see nakedness as can be seen from the other, although embarrassing, is also to see a figure disengaging from attachment to the ego. Then, because this self is also the true self, you will begin to understand that the self and the other come into existence because of on another.

I look at my face in the mirror and wonder if this is myself, and hear my voice recorded on a recording machine, and ask: is this my voice?
I try recognizing myself again. The world does not come into existence just based on self-recognition. Rather, because I exist, you exist also, and vice versa. You cannot see yourself with your own eyes. On a daily basis however, we tend to rely on “the self” as a kind of armor. Generally speaking, the fact that we exist because of other people doesn’t drift into our minds.

Looking at a photograph of a figure is also a moment of comparison and learning about oneself. However, though the human figure is synthesis of heart and body, we cannot read the heart of someone else. However, that may not be necessary. This is because in front of you, in that figure, is yourself. Perhaps this is connected to the obsession with death that living beings, who have no experience with death, have.

Pictures are fiction, not facts or substances (things in the world). It may be material to reflect on yourself. It is also something that allows an unknown part of you to come forth. Photography is not about an easy and convenient appreciation based on emotions. Rather, perhaps it is something that perceives the true self. Without confirmation, you will go forth along your path, and perhaps one day, sublimely come upon your true self.

Therefore, as I wrote earlier, meditation is about preparing for death through life, existence and recognition. Photographs of the human figure are a particularly good way to have an encounter of this sort. This time, I would like to encourage you to meditate on this while carefully looking at the photographs.