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The 21st “1_WALL” Photography Competition Grand Prize Winner

Ryu Ika Exhibition: “The Second Seeing”

  • DATES : Tue. August 18 - Sat. September 12, 2020
  • HOURS : 11:00a.m.-7:00p.m.
  • Closed Sundays. Admission free. Reservations required.

Ryu Ika won the Grand Prize in the 21st “1_WALL” Photography Competition with “Big Brother is Watching You,” in which she compares the real world to a stage and sought to close in on the essence of reality’s seeming emptiness. The judges voiced high acclaim for the large scale of the world she depicts and the power imbued in each of her works. Through her photos, Ryu seeks to uncover the workings of our world and the real truth in things.
Ryu’s photos leave a striking impression on the viewer: a hotel with gaudy neon lighting shot in Inner Mongolia, the eyes of a flock of sheep glowing in the dark, a colorful kindergarten, people going busily about their lives. In the gap between Inner Mongolia’s economic development and its traditional lifestyle, and in the invisible disparities existing in Japan’s homogenized society, Ryu senses the theatricality of this world and, with photos, expresses vignettes of reality. Through her photos she seems to pose two questions. “Isn’t there another, separate world existing on the stage where we live out our lives?” “During our lives, aren’t we always watched by someone as we play our roles?”
In her solo exhibition, Ryu Ika will use the gallery’s entire display space like a stage. We eagerly invite visitors to come see the photography of Ryu Ika one year after she won her Grand Prize.















Ryu Ika

Born in Inner Mongolia, China.
2015: Entered Musashino Art University, Department of Imaging Arts and Sciences
2018-2019: Studied at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris
2020: Graduated from Musashino Art University

January 2020: Norio Kobayashi and Christophe Charles Awards at Musashino Art University Graduation Exhibition
October 2019: Best Portfolio Grand Prix at T3 Photo Festival
October 2019: Grand Prize in 21st “1_Wall” Photography Competition
March 2018: Kimi Himeno Prize in 18th “1_Wall” Photography Competition

Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (12 works)

Solo Exhibitions
November 19 – December 7, 2019: “If Life Were Given,” Fugensha (Higashi-ginza, Tokyo)
June 6 – June 17, 2019: “Puzzle Mapping,” AMAC Projects (Paris, France)

Group Exhibitions, etc.
July 7 – July 19, 2020 Culture Centre in flotsam books
July 1 – November 8, 2020 2019 Young Portfolio, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts
July 2020 Published zine “A part of u/me”
June 2020 Published zine “Big brother is watching you”
January 2020 Graduation Exhibition, Musashino Art University
October 2019 21st “1_WALL” Photography Exhibition, Guardian Garden (Tokyo)
April 2019 Published zine “Through”
April 2019 Published zine “Sacrifice”
March 21 – June 16, 2019 2018 Young Portfolio, Kiyosata Museum of Photographic Arts
February 2019 “Mom Land,” École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris
December 2018 École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, Atelier Guillaume, PARIS WEEK
November 2018 École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, BLOW UP
November 7 – November 14, 2018 Photo Saint-Germain au Beaux-Arts de Paris(Paris, France)
June 22 – June 24, 2018 Shanghai Art Book Fair
June 2018 Published zine “Cho”
January 2017 “One Hour East,” China-Japan Friendship Exhibition, Shanghai

Message from the Artist

Why do I wear clothes every day?
Why can’t I do bad things in places that are sacred?
Why am I able to differentiate between myself and others?

Whenever I look at something, that something simultaneously is looking at me, so I can never be free. Perhaps from inside myself I split off a second self (other), enabling me to “reconsider” my own existence.

I’m watching.
I’m being watched.
The one being watched is being watched too.

To constrain one’s complete self, performance is necessary.
That’s how society is formed.

The curtain rose again today.
It’s my turn on stage.

Ryu Ika


Message from One of the Judges

Ryu Ika’s photos are, with the exception of using a flash, relatively free of artificial interventions. But it’s for that reason that her photos have a vivid theatrical aspect and fictitiousness. And this is related to the very ontology of photography, i.e. that photos inherently create a world within a world.
Photography is a mechanism for making vignettes of the world. It is the emergence of another, “other” world within our world. As such, all photographs express a world nested inside another world. Like “The Truman Show,” in which the life of Truman, played by Jim Carrey, is played out as a show on a set for all the world to see, the world-inside-another-world aspect of photography must, inevitably and partly, be fictitious and theatrical. But here we find the duality of truth and falsehood: a “show” about a “true man.” Ryu’s photos, in the same way, provide us a glimpse at fictitious truth.
Ryu won the Grand Prize for “Big Brother is Watching You,” in which she sees herself in the Big Brother featured in George Orwell’s 1984 – which in terms of watching human behavior is similar to “The Truman Show” – watching over citizens’ every move. In these times of the COVID-19 global pandemic, whether or not the Grand Prize winner’s solo exhibition will take place without a hitch is cause for concern. What’s more concerning is that governments around the world are using this pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen their powers of governing and surveillance. “Big Brother” is becoming a reality.
Ryu continues to shoot the world nested inside another world and to have a strong interest in the relationship between seeing and being seen, and perhaps it’s just by accident that her photography became synchronous with the current situation. Her photos, of course, do not directly suggest this. And yet, the timing is not totally unrelated either. Her photos respond to the reality that we are all becoming Truman.

Ryo Sawayama (art critic)

Organizer: Guardian Garden