Artist Keisuke Otobe on Using a Photocopier as a Camera

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Keisuke Otobe on creating images like a DJ: “Instead of scratching music, I scratch pictures”

In this month’s “Through the Lens” profile, Keisuke Otobe discusses the democratization of photography, using a photocopier as a camera, and shooting surreal furniture for Wallpaper* Design Awards 2022

For artist Keisuke Otobe, the photographs are just a starting point for his clever digitization processes. Having a flexible methodology allows Otobe to say, “Beijing is where I do my research and where I get information; London is my biggest challenge; Tokyo is where my future lies.

This borderless perspective came to life for our February 2022 issue of the Design Awards, in which Otobe animated five surreal pieces of furniture. Here he talks about past and future inspirations.

Wallpaper*: Describe your style and process

Keisuke Otobe: My style is to make images using a photocopier, rather than a camera. I found different ways to do it but the most particular way is to be a DJ; instead of scratching the music, I scratch the photo. So having the physical object doesn’t matter. I just need pictures.

W*: Tell us about how you brought your way of working to our story about surreal furniture

KO: Cutouts of the parts were shared with me, which I printed in color on normal paper. Then I worked on the copier. At first I was printing on good professional photo paper, but then I stopped because in the end I found the quality to be better with normal paper. This way I don’t have to pay postage and customs due to Brexit, so it suits my job much better.

W*: What is the most interesting thing happening in photography right now?

KO: I’m interested in how the generation of Wolfgang Tillmans and subsequent generations will use photography. Because I think Tillmans combines all the techniques and methods of photography and continues to record them, changing their composition, editing and size as the Earth changes every day.

I am interested in the possibilities of democratized photography, just as painting developed with the advent of photography. Will a photograph remain just a photograph? Will there remain a recording and memory tool? The room i am a sculpturewhich I have been working on since my visit to Beijing in 2018, is a proposal:

I AM A SCULPTURE
MY MATERIALS ARE IMAGES
BECAUSE IMAGES ARE OUR FUTURE
BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO LIVE IN A NEW DIGITAL ERA

W*: What’s on your radar?

KO: Whether I know him well or not, I’m mostly interested in art in a general sense, Eastern culture and thought, marketing and strategy, and the future. I am influenced by Yuval Noah Harari’s books and lectures, as well as AI technology and biotechnology. I am interested in the future of humanity and how we are changing.

I’m also interested in the use of language, so I always mumble to myself.

As a photographer, another artist who has influenced me is Man Ray. I like his experimental art, which is not limited to photography. I also like Hiroshi Sugimoto’s transformation from photographer to contemporary artist. I also like the phenomenological and poetic space of Anish Kapoor, the reds of Rothko and, more recently, the paintings of Monet when he had the cataract and the apples of Cézanne; this ability to reverse a consequent weakness.

I’m not interested in what the artists did, but how and why they did it. I believe that if science is a way of knowing the world, then art is also a way of knowing the world. I believe in the power of art. For example, Kurashiki in Japan was saved from American bombing during World War II because a young local businessman bought a lot of Western art, including works by Monet, Matisse, Picasso and El Greco. [housed in the Ohara Museum of Art].

W*: What’s next for you this year?

KO: It would be great to be able to move around more freely, to learn more and more about Japanese culture and sensibility. And keep doing more and more works.

If one day I can exhibit them in a beautiful space, I will be happy. Until then, I will keep my roots deep.

As for my personal life, I actually got my driver’s license before Covid. So after the pandemic, I would like to drive around Europe with my mother, who studied Western art. §

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