Liverpool Biennial 2012//Love Hotel & The Park by Kohei Yoshiyuki

Ever since the camera came into existence it has been a tool for capturing life in all it's highs and lows, extremes and banalities and moments of reflection and privacy. This show from Kohei Yoshiyuki (A pseudonym - the artists real name is unknown) is one that seems on the surface an extreme one but at it's core there is a human curiosity and important questions about the boundaries of the camera are raised as well. Seba Rashii Culture went to the Open Eye Gallery to view this fascinating show, part of Liverpool's 2012 Biennial. 

Sex in the park is an act common in photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki's native Japan although it is perhaps understandably little discussed. Pretty much any where you'd care to mention, there's a reward of a night in the cells for being caught in the act and that what made this show such a controversial one when it was first shown in Japan in the 1970's.

Playing with the themes of voyeurism and sexuality the images in the show capture the outside sexual acts of couples of all persuasions and the men who gather to watch them in the parks of Tokyo in the dark of the night. In a country where living arrangements often allow for little in the form of actual privacy the prevalence of Love Hotels is to be expected. 

Booked by the hour (Usually at a small fee for two or three hours) these places can be seen as a social phenomenon and it's not unknown, despite the serious punishments for doing so, for cameras to be placed in the rooms. The grainy images on display as you enter the gallery on a set of television screens depict stills from the controversial collection and as a piece of art they portray a faceless act of love seen through the lens of an intrusive camera. If the images weren't grainy they would feel wrong to even look at but the valid question of moral and social implications is implicit as well. 

In these days of reality television bringing sex to the screens of millions of viewers these images are not so shocking but the execution of the show is what truly impresses. The second gallery houses a collection of pieces from The Park and the images are surprisingly asexual. There are shots of the many voyeurs peering through, climbing into and hanging around the bushes and in the context of the exhibition it's easy to guess what is going on. The odd shot shows a couple having sex, but it's always from an angle that avoids the face and this makes them somehow even more suggestive. 

But the main highlight is having the gallery in darkness. This adds a personal view to the show and as I explored the gallery with my torch I felt almost as if I were the artist, right there in the park seeking out the voyeurs and couples. The impressive thing about Kohei Yoshiyuki's work is that it transcends the traditionally shied away from concepts of perversion and morality and becomes something much more than the sum of it's parts. Other's in the gallery were commenting on the strangeness of the idea and, to quote one visitor, 'sheer perverseness' of the idea and surely that is what the artist wanted to evoke in visitors?  

Words by Sebastian Gahan. 

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