1800 Millimètre features Anrakuji’s five color and seventeen gelatin silver prints in her usual intimate scale. The images feature Anrakuji’s bare body in a shadowy room with door, mirror, and a curtained window that imbues the natural setting with the artificiality of a stage set. Boldly distorted angles and grainy details render her identity intentionally elusive. Her odd and awkward gestures with her wild hair flowing over her torso create a weirdly seductive ambiance that exerts an immediate attraction.
On closer observation, however, one sees a compelling psychological backbone in Anrakuji’s work. The title of her new series 1800 Millimètre is an allusion to a well-known poet Shiki Masaoka; whose essays entitled Byosho Rokushaku (Sickbed of 1800mm) was finished just before his premature death. Like Masaoka, the ordeal of the sickbed has impacted Anrankuji’s productivity. In her early 20s, Anrakuji was diagnosed with a brain illness that confined her to a hospital bed on and off for the next decade. Her gradual recovery left her blind in one eye and with severely impaired vision in the other. This condition has made Anrakuji, who cannot see a tip of a pencil, discover that the camera can be her eye.
Through the viewfinder, Anrakuji has been able to envision a mesmerizing universe from her limited physical environment. Her calamitous near-death experience informs anxieties and daydreams evoked in her high-contrast black-and-white work. In her color work, fragmentary body forms – hands, lips, breasts, etc. – and colors mysteriously collide in an emotional labyrinth. In After Araki, a recent issue of FOAM magazine, Russet Lederman writes of Anrakuji’s work, “Similar to Araki, the self, framed by Eros (sex and life) and Thanatos (death), draw on our most intimate fears and desires.”
Emi Anrakuji (b. 1963) lives and works in Tokyo, Japan, where she studied oil painting at Musashino University of Art and Music. During a decade-long hiatus in the late 80s, she taught herself photography. Since 2001, her award-winning work has been exhibited extensively across the United States, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, and France. A Higashikawa New Photography Prize winner in 2006, Anrakuji participated in the Daegu Photo Biennale in South Korea in 2008. Her work has been featured in several notable publications, including FOAM, The New Yorker, IMA, Monthly Photo (Korea), C-International Photo Magazine, and X-funs (Taiwan). Nazraeli Press has published three of her monographs: ANRAKUJI (2006), e-hagaki (2007), and IPY (2008).