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Suisou by Noriko Yabu

A Parallel Planets piece by Joy Celine Asto
It is widely said that art is most powerful when it challenges your mind or induces certain emotions. I look at the works of Japanese art and fashion photographer Noriko Yabu for a series called Suisou and I feel a certain sense of fear or panic. I cannot swim to save myself, so seeing someone -- Noriko herself, actually -- submerged in gurgling, restless waters, I get this urge to wade my way out of my own imaginary pool. And take in large gulps of air.


Death and Rebirth in Water

This unsettling photography series has drawn the attention of many art and photography publications and it's easy to see why. One of the impressive photographers we featured for last year's December Daze, Noriko utilizes a unique and rather unexpected approach to self-portraits. While many prefer to maintain as much of their likeness or build different characters around themselves, the Kagawa-born photographer almost totally distorts herself with all the bubbles and ripples of her watery confinement. Even so, Noriko sees this project as a way to see — and show — as many facets of herself.

"We all have different sides; for example, a woman can also be a mother, an artist, or a photographer," she shared in a quick interview with me. "I search for another version of myself all the time through the camera and it's something I am very interested in."

Going deeper into this intriguing approach to self-exploration, Noriko also shared, "I have many little Norikos. They have various ideas and they all have their own way. Noriko Yabu is like a chairman in this meeting and I just gather and choose their ideas."

A closer look at Noriko's work certainly raises more questions than answers. How did the idea came to be? Why water? Why does she obscure or distort herself with it? Some have come close to cracking some parts of the mystery, noticing that the characters for the word suisou can be initially taken to mean "aquarium." However, it's also worth noting that one of the characters is typically used when speaking about funerals and burials. This gives us an intriguing perspective into Suisou as a body of work, which Noriko attempts to expound with simple yet thought-provoking details:

"We die every moment, after which, we are reborn. I want to express both ideas. Suisou, therefore, is a funeral for myself before the rebirth. I chose to work with water because it can be vast like the sea, and something that confines yet nourishes us (i.e. amniotic fluid)."


In the somewhat limited understanding (I blame the language barrier) I obtained from Noriko's brief responses to my questions, I was able to realize how much the self — its existence, form, how we perceive it, and how it can be as fluid as water — remains to be one of the greatest mysteries of what it means to be human. 

Visit Noriko Yabu's website to see the rest of her photos for Suisou and her other works, and also follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep updated with her stuff.

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