In Focus

Yuki Kimura, post-disembodiment series

Japanese artist Yuki Kimura’s installations, in which photographic images also function as sculptural objects, prompt us to investigate the material world through its artifacts. She frequently combines appropriated photographs and original photography with found objects, ephemera, and even furniture to build new sites for exploration. The interpretation of the complex narrative systems she creates relies on a delicately balanced relationship between the viewer, the picture(s), the object(s), and the overall space of her installations. Kimura’s work thus fragments and disrupts such visual and conceptual frameworks as still-life, portraiture, design, architecture, landscape photography, and sculpture.

The post-disembodiment installations originate from a series of found photographs of castles Kimura stumbled upon while in France. For the work post-disembodiment (origin) (2006) the artist enlarged a found image of a castle wall and purposefully removed the arched doorway from the image creating a wall-mounted photographic relief with a distinct hole. Playing with the photographic logic of positive and negative, the artist then propped the missing doorway beside the original image along with two additional forms of the same tombstone-like shape. These planks—one wood and the other Plexiglas—are designated as the “alter ego” and “shadow” of the original image.

Here, Kimura attempts to bring photography into the sculptural realm, firstly by removing a portion of the photographic image and propping it directly on the gallery floor, and secondly, by giving the photographic image a physical “shadow.” Formally these works echo the planks of minimalist sculptor John McCracken, but conceptually they follow the surrealist logic of the found object. Viewed through a Freudian lens of psychoanalysis the holes in these images elicit a sense of desire—for them to be filled, to become whole or complete—while at the same time doubling as an opening, a door that opens onto another world. Commenting on this body of work, the artist has stated, “I want to invent another, new story by playing with the images collected and at hand. I think of the work as a door to the world.”[1]

Kimura’s title post-disembodiment, also refers to the conceptual process of dismantling photographic meaning. This impulse to parse the photographic image into various levels of meaning has been reiterated by critic Roland Barthes in his exploration of photography’s “third meaning.” According to Barthes, photographic meaning exists on three levels: the informational, the symbolic or “obvious,” and the “obtuse.” The first level is straightforward, operating as the literal communication of information. The second level of meaning operates through symbolism, providing the image’s “signification.” But it is the third level of meaning, that of “signifying,” which is inexplicably located just outside one’s grasp as both excess and accent.[2]

In the post-disembodiment series, Kimura dissects the image layer by layer, first by literally cutting an opening into the image, and then by giving shape to the image’s “alter ego” and “shadow.” As a result, Kimura’s photographs read first as an image (door), then as material (wood), and finally as immaterial (shadow). The artist’s conceptual exploration of image and shadow, presence and absence reveal latent physical and psychological dimensions of photography and question the tenets of the medium in thought-provoking new ways.

[1] Yuki Kimura, “Rulers on color,” artist statement, 2006.

[2] Roland Barthes, “The Third Meaning: Research Notes on Several Eisenstein Stills,” in The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music Art and Representation, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 44.

Adapted from

  • Gabriel Ritter, Yuki Kimura Acquisition Justification, 2012.