Yoneda Tomoko's works using photography, a medium that captures and records moments in time, evoke memories of events that occurred in the past and that have become etched in the landscape that stretches out before our eyes.
The undeniable historical fact that something occurred in a place despite there being no indication of it in the now tranquil landscape remains a part of the memory of the land and of the people living there, never to be lost. Inspired by the stories her parents told her of their wartime experiences, Yoneda travels to places afflicted by destruction and loss, enticing us by capturing in the same frame both the past and the present reality from which it has become divided.
The works presented at the exhibition in Hiroshima were all shot in locations that retain memories of war. They include the zone straddling the military boundary between North and South Korea; Hiroshima, which 70 years ago became the first city to suffer an A-bomb attack; and Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to those who died in wars involving Japan. The work featuring a piece of desolate hilly terrain depicts the site in Glossop, England where the fuselage of a B-29 that crashed in 1948 as a result of a sudden accident still lies scattered across the earth. The B-29, a heavy strategic bomber flown primarily by the US Air Force during and after World War II, was used in air raids across Japan and carried out the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It also saw service during the Korean War, which broke out in 1950 against the backdrop of the Cold War. During nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in 1946, a B-29, photographic reconnaissance flew beside to document the event. In an about-face, Yoneda's work shows the wreckage of this bomber, which once flew high in the sky bringing destruction during multiple wars, as the victim of a plane crash. It is one of the contemporary landscapes Yoneda has shot in which the positions of perpetrator and victim easily switch places.
Instead of defining things from fixed positions, Yoneda's work encourages us to look at the past and consider the perceptions of history created from her point of view – a point of view that crosses boundaries and looks at things from both sides – as bold, new perceptions that traverse time and place.
The Parallel Lives of Others –Encounter with Sorge Spy Ring documents various locations in Japan and China, where secret meetings supposedly took place among spies engaged in the international espionage just before the outbreak of WWII. It was led by the undercover German journalist and Soviet spy Richard Sorge and his informants, including the Japanese journalist, Communist and political advisor, Ozaki Hotsumi. In an intimate frame size, the scenes appear in soft focus and monochromatic tone, evoking the obscurity of life as a spy as well as the ambiguity of historical accounts of past events.
Through the camera, Yoneda Tomoko has directed a sincere look at Asia, showing remnants of Japan’s modernization process. In Taiwan, for instance, Japanese style houses in Taipei and the landscapes in Jingliao, Tainan were the subjects of her photographic works. The Japanese House series objectively documents an architecture style during Japanese occupation, it also traces personal memories of the former residents, such as General Wang Shu-Ming, the Chief of Staff under Chiang Kai-Shek, and the daughter of the Japanese Prime Minister, who, signed the Potsdam Declaration, Kantaro Suzuki. The work exposes the multi-faceted dimension of the undisclosed past in the major historical discourse.
Born in Hyogo, Japan in 1965, Yoneda Tomoko currently lives and works in London, UK. Her works use photography, a medium that captures and records moments in time, evokes memories of events that have occurred in the past and become etched in the landscape stretching before our eyes. Her recent works focus on the layered experience of modernization and complicacy of historical narrative in Japan and Asia. Her solo exhibitions include Beyond Memory (Grimaldi Gavin, London, 2015), We Shall Meet in Place Where There Is No Darkness (Tokyo Metropolitan Photography, Himeji City Museum of Art, 2013-2014), Japanese House (ShugoArts, 2011) and An End Is a Beginning (Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008). She has also participated in various international exhibitions and group exhibitions such as Tell Me a Story (Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, 2016), In the Wake (Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Japan Society, New York, 2015-2016), the SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul (2014), Gwangju Biennale (2014), Aichi Triennale (2013), Kiev Biennale (2012), Kuandu Biennale (2010) and Venice Biennale (2007).