provoke!, an exhibition which was recently inaugurated in viennese albertina, is one of the most powerful exhibitions i’ve visited since i moved to vienna. for some reason, it is still in my head.
provoke was an experimental small press Japanese photography magazine founded by photographers yutaka takanashi and takuma nakhira, critic koji taki and writer takahiko okada in 1968. it was viewed as “a platform for a new photographic expression”. provoke magazine was born around the idea that even though images cannot completely represent an idea as words can, photographs can provoke language and idea. hence provoke’s subtitle “provocative materials for thought”
only three issues of provoke magazine were published on 1 november 1968, and 10 march and 10 august 1969, each in an edition of 1,000 copies. however, it had a profound effect on photography in japan.
the photographers of provoke magazine captured what cannot be expressed in words, such as massive protest movements active in japan between sixties and seventies, as well as the search for a new japanese identity.
the magazine wanted to be a provocation to japanese society and its photographic culture, european-style photojournalism and straightforward commercial photography. they also sought to awaken and refresh the aesthetics of existing photography and question the increasingly commercial visual language of japanese society.
exhibition shows around 200 photographs. these images represent both an expression of this political transformation and the renewal of aesthetic norms.
i guess that the powerful thing which kept me thinking about this exhibition for some time is how little i know about that era in japan. sixties were quite turbulent period on a global level (civil rights, feminism, space race, and so on). ever since i saw these photographs i keep wondering how it was to live there in that turbulent period.
for all of you living in vienna (or if you’re planning to visit in the next months), do not miss this exhibition. it will truly give you an insight in that particular period of japanese (and global) history. the exhibition is open until 8.5.2016.