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Evolving from the Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy in the 1980s when a group of people resisted the opening of a McDonald’s in a small town, the phrase “Slow Life” describes a way of living that advocates local production for local consumption as the ideal. Derived from English words, this term was adopted in Japan.
The word “slow”, in this context, not only represents criticism of what has been brought about by highly developed capitalism, such as a food distribution system with no information of the production process available to consumers, company hours that we are almost forced to keep, along with modern-life hours that are growing even restrictive, but it also declares people’s hope to regain the structures of one’s own life and time.
What the slow culture resists is the fast” culture dominating our highly developed capitalist society, which revolves around mass production and mass consumption. Whether we like it or not, in our modern-day lives, we more or less breathe fast culture.
Painted by Yutaka Inagawa, the bizarre-looking faces seem to assimilate foreign things from the external world into themselves, seemingly succeeding in realising impossible fusions, as if those things had belonged to them in the first place. It can be said that the faces represent Japanese people – how they tried very hard to rapidly assimilate various forms of living from other ethnic groups during Japan’s modernisation, and how we think our culture is viewed by them today as a mixture of cultural elements of almost every kind, being rapidly reformed through constant updates (which is the very essence of so-called cool Japan).
At the same time, those phantom-like faces also seem to ridicule the modern-life hours, which are totally economic. Above all, what is remarkable here is that in order to portray us as fast people, Inagawa – who has had critical ideas about fast culture in general, which has been fuelled, he believes by modern belief in technology – employs a slow way of painting that some may find almost futile.
Inagawa’s painting process begins with photo manipulation – where he digitally manipulates photographs that he takes on a daily basis. This means that the faces are created using a computer, so as not to be affected during this stage by the artist’s more human limitations such as the touch of the hand and physical stamina.
Nevertheless, it is not that Inagawa’s methodology is based on a theological belief in a theory of technology and culture, which claims that technologies make us overcome our human defects leading us to new creativity.
Because in his creative process, what is generated through photo manipulation is just a material to which he refers in order to paint faces on canvas. Through the mediation of his hand and brushwork, the originally flat computer-produced image gains noise through the painting process, which once it has accumulated on the canvas reflects the way we are in reality.
In principle, the way we are composed is highly noisy – generated as a mixture of repeatedly copied and transformed self-images whose originals are not traceable anymore, and is formed in the continuous flow of communication, such as everyday conversations. If paintings must correspond to reality, using your own hand, which you cannot completely control, is a choice, you create something that reflects how we are full of noise. In this sense, in a different way from how photographs directly capture reality, Inagawa’s methodology is a conceptual realism where the noisiness of real life is literally embodied.
Indeed, his more methodical operation may seem futile at first. However, such a methodology of slowly accumulating futile actions, namely photo manipulations and hand-painting based on the manipulated image, where its physicality is illuminated, is a sort of performance as a whole, criticising how fast we are.
If there are as many ways of being us — which consists of a number of “me”s — as there are, it could be argued, (internalised) views toward ourselves, and if such ways are constantly updated, it can be said that those faces raise a question about the self-evidence of what we are, suggesting we”could have been and can still be different from our current state. Just like how keeping a Slow Life is a tremendously demanding, time-consuming task, Inagawa’s act of slowly and continually re-creating and updating us, using his own hand, shows the viewer possibilities of alternating their current reality.
Indeed, Inagawa is a very busy man.
by Jun Abe and Akigo Tsuguchi 
 
English translation by Yuki Okumura
English proofreading by Linda Dennis and Greg Wilcox
Yutaka Inagawa Solo Exhibition/Slow Life: Generation in Exchanges runs until August 26
at the Yachiyono Oka Museum of Art, Hiroshima
From August 27 – October 27 Yutaka Inagawa is participating in Imago Mundi, a Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale
For more details of these shows, please visit Inagagwa’s website

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