This series of experiments from 2020 is created by Hanako Murakami developing previously unused vintage photographic plates and paper that the artist collects from around the world. Murakami refers to this process as an “inner voyage” that simultaneously merges and reveals traces of time, place, and context. The space in her work is evanescent. She complicates fact and fiction by enmeshing her own contemporary experiences with photographic technologies sourced from different points throughout history.
Her ethereal photographs depict not one precise moment, but an accumulation. Experiencing the works here at an exaggerated scale beyond what is physically possible exposes the surface textures in minute detail, highlighting the materiality of each piece. In reality, the smallest in the series measures 10.4cm x 10.4cm (AGFA Brovira); the largest is 17.9cm x 23.8cm (Fitch Xylonite). Working out of her studio, or “laboratory,” the artist investigates alternative processes in photography to reconsider the potential of the medium.
In this new series titled Palpebra (2020), Hanako Murakami explores the origins of the raw materials she uses to produce her artwork. Latin for “eyelid,” Palpebra is a poetic ode to the photograph’s potential for emotional resonance and its influence on what the eye can see, eschewing the notion that pictures are facts that necessarily overcome fictions. Here, through a literary approach, Murakami’s writing is illustrated with photographs of vintage packaging of the unused films, photographic papers, and glass plates that form the point of departure for her work—quiet visions that explore the influence of photography on the imagination. Through Murakami’s lens, experiences transcend time and location, and are transformed through the manipulation of photographic processes into her own constructions of new realities.
“What we see as images are several different elements. There are traces of time, heat, imperfections from moisture, fungus, and also the exposure of the film itself (since I exposed them to light before developing). If I can pull those film reels to near 24 images per second, theoretically I'd be able to give some illusion of a motion picture. But with these experiments, I have only rudimentary ways to pull them. So, each time is a failure, but it is this failure—or the many ways to fail—that I want to show. Every failure is a good failure.” — Hanako Murakami
Vintage film reels developed by the artist in 2020 (top to bottom):
Pathé-Baby, Pathé, 1923-1930, France
Ciné-Kodak, Kodak, 1944, United States
Special film, Geveart, circa 1940, Belgium
Military film, Kodak, circa 1940, United States
The exploration of different realities is a central theme to the work of Murakami. In Magic Lanterns, a project realized in 2020, the artist created short films that portray sequences fallen out of time. Her videos document scenes staged in the artist’s immediate surroundings—outdoors and domestic—fusing the textures of a wallpaper or tree trunk with glass plates and reflections of the sun. In these pictorial worlds created from diverging temporal planes, the boundaries between reality and fantasy are not always clearly evident. It is though they are places shaped by memories and reveries. Murakami’s composed images are serene and calming in their aesthetics, while at the same time withholding a clear sense of orientation.
Artworks courtesy of the artist © Hanako Murakami