The 24th “1_WALL” Photography Competition Grand Prize Winner
Akane Shirai won the Grand Prize in the 24th “1_WALL” Photography Competition for “Connections,” a double video presentation featuring two families: her own family and the Tako family, the family of her mentor during high school days. “Connections” evolved out of Shirai’s question, dating back to her childhood, of what makes a family. Her films of the Shirai and Tako families ran simultaneously on two monitors placed side by side, with their respective soundtracks playing from speakers set to the left and right. The judges gave high marks to the way Shirai, while focusing on two ordinary families of the kind found anywhere, portrayed the ambivalence between the connections and constraints inherent in every family’s existence.
For her solo exhibition, Shirai filmed the gradual changes that took place in the Shirai and Tako families since she won her Grand Prize. This time her video presentations, reconfigured from her earlier work, will be shown simultaneously on two screens of larger size. Altogether, she filmed over a period of approximately two years, her Shirai family vignettes including eating dinner with her grandmother and tending flowers in the garden; and the Tako family seen leaving home to visit a cemetery, chatting with a visiting friend, lying in bed, and so on. Shirai portrays the dual facets of the family unit: the peace of mind derived from its emotional support, and the compromised freedom stemming from familial ties and obligations.
Visitors are warmly invited to come and see how Akane Shirai has evolved and developed in the year since she won her Grand Prize. A talk event will be held on Friday, November 11 with Shirai welcoming curator Masashi Kohara as her guest.
Message from the Artist
I started filming the Shirai and Tako families in the summer of 2020. The impetus was my desire to know what makes a family, but in the course of filming, I came to see that my question couldn’t be easily answered. On one hand I was surprised by the family members’ fertile way of finding small joys in everyday life. But what I filmed also vividly showed the physical changes that occur day by day and the ways in which family members are tightly bound by their obligations to each other. What I discovered wasn’t the kind and gentle family image I had imagined, and all I could do was to stand in place, camera in hand.
Looking through the material I had filmed over the course of roughly two years, memories came to mind of events that had taken place within my family. Little by little I recalled, almost palpably, how we had hurt each other, been physically close with each other, and been comforted by one another. And from my material I got a vague, hazy sense of what it is that ties members of a family together.
It’s difficult for me, at this point in time, to answer my original question of what makes a family. But what I do know now is that, through my camera, I want to stay in place and keep listening to the stories of these two families.
Message from One of the Judges
Akane Shirai’s film presentation at the “1_WALL” group exhibition made a strong impression that stays with me even now. She showed the ordinary everyday doings of two separate families – her own and that of one of her high school teachers – simultaneously on a diptych of two monitors. At first it struck me as a fairly simple display, but soon I was overcome by a strange sensation, a mixture of déjà vu and jamais vu. Nothing particularly special takes place; I guess I would say I was surprised by the richness of ordinary, everyday life. Life’s finest details have a fluffed-up presence everywhere on the screen, and I felt I could stand there and just keep watching forever.
Shirai depicts hers and another family with a moderate sense of distance blending familiarity and detachment. And, while inseparably connecting those two disparate families, her work appears to create a pathway that connects to other families not depicted. I imagine that, like me, many who see Shirai’s work will have the illusion of seeing in them the various aspects of their own family experienced through the years.