Yuka Fujii: Like Planets Exhibition

Posted by in Culture, Publishing, Travel

Entering planetary orbit

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How bizarre the nomadic road that guides has lead me back to Britannia at a most tumultuous time in its history yet it’s in the quieter hinterland of North London I find myself pondering the second JAPAN related exhibition in as many months.

Just as my residence in Lewisham afforded me the chance to see Steve Jansen’s show in Greenwich so a shift in the weather grants me the opportunity to see Yuka Fujii’s work in Newington Green.

This time the elder of the brothers Batt (David Sylvian) is the subject rather than the artiste, though as you may imagine his stamp is more than evident and most likely has his full blessings. Everything is soothing as one would expect save the gallery’s creaking floorboards. What is it with galleries and creaky floorboards?

‘The Width of a Room that can hold so much pleasure inside.’

Fujii’s role in Japan (the band) and beyond is almost as stormy as Brexit. She’s kind of seen as a Yoko Ono type figure; a band breaker yet without her we would not have had Tin Drum and probably no Beehive either. So it’s all very much Yin and Yang.

The venue is the tiny Pocko (which means smaller in Italian where Sylvian has always remained artistically relevant) whose artistic director is a friend of Fujii’s. Suddenly the pieces of the jigsaw begin to fit. 

Sylvian’s signature…


In attendance are a selection of signed Sylvian collectibles from his Samadhi Sound label to tour books and the vast volume Hypergraphia (itself influential to my own Dating the Page project). 

The show is as intended an ‘intimate’ experience on blemish free white walls and the aforementioned creaky floor. I’m engaged longer than imagined due to the carefully manicured artefacts including Fujii’s own book which shares the same name as the exhibition.

Pictures of the pained

The images are mostly a familiar set, known to most ‘fans’ or ardent admirers. Here’s the shot from Secrets of the Beehive, here’s the shot from Brilliant Trees and then there’s those mountain vistas with a pained facial expression possibly from the cold.

One of which ended up on the Victim of Stars compilation a few years back and is also the cover of Fujii’s book which itself offers the most intimate glances of the private world of ‘the sylv.’ In bed no less. It’s surprising then that some of these did not make the gallery walls, perhaps it was too much information for the man in question.

walking toward the within


Fujii says that at times her candid shooting irritated him yet some of these images do have the look of being staged so was Sylvian, then her boyfriend and still a very close confident, a willing model or muse? A conundrum in that he wants to be both visible and invisible, seen and unseen.

To some he’s a tortured and modest genius just trying to ‘be’ on the peripheries of modern life. Yet, to an extent, he’s a hipster who went chasing Apple Mac and Napa wines. To others he’s a reckless dictator intent on his own will and to some observers a despicable narcissist.

We all are to some extent in creative land and no amount of soul searching and the divine can eradicate what we are born with, what is our very nature. In other words, we are what we are and he is as complex as the rest of us.

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Ironically one could also call him a good son, himself (as well noted) replacing band mate Mick Karn for Fujii’s affections in the same way many years later he would fall foul when wife Ingrid Chavez decamped for another suitor. A true and real victim of stars (or karma?) The Holy is one of the chapters in Fujii’s collection.

Fujii also gives mention to the fact that the break between Tin Drum and Brilliant Trees were the first he had been afforded in adult life and that’s certainly true. Sylvian’s career took off (at least in Japan – the country) pretty much from the get go. An 18 year old is not fully matured and will have no inkling of how fortunate they are to be seeing the world as a functioning working adult or a youthful world citizen.

lyrics from the Hypergraphia book


I’ve been saying it for years but my belief is we don’t really become adults til much later than the text book of life tells us. A recent BBC article from leading scientists confirmed my thoughts. No wonder then that he needed to find some sense of being, via travel, poetry and the company of Fujii.

But as I said no amount of seeking an ‘interior light’ will shake off what is in the genes. He did however manage to find the standpoint from which to compose better lyrics and to that end he is supremely talented both in verse and song.

The books themselves are intriguing as they are interesting. In their choice of credits for example, there’s no mention of Jansen from Fujii yet Sylvian’s parents and daughters both get a nod of gratitude.

In Hypergraphia Jansen and wife Gobi do get a name call along with the usual cast of allies that have aided his professional life over the years including Fujii and on that note let’s get back to the content of her book. Like Planets is not too surprisingly brim full of knowing glances and glowing references to her former partner, for example it’s dedicated to the ‘Beekeepers apprentice.’

The Holy from Fujii’s book and far right my own shot of the Chapel Cocteau


The famous shot from the Keio Plaza Hotel that graced the cover of the Life in Tokyo single is also present as is another curiosity featuring the Cocteau chapel in the south of France (where I visited during the nomad years, after Italy in 2000).

Note I didn’t go there because he had and had no knowledge of that until later down the proverbial track, I was merely following my own path, geographically more so than spiritually and in my own meanderings find things. Villefranche-sur-Mer (the location of the chapel) was one of those happy occurrences.

From left: The boy with no gun; Bearded, Brutalised; and finally, what Radiohead?

Fujii’s book traces the boy Sylvian (a polished twenty something finding his spiritual feet) to the more troubling bearded man of the late eighties and early nineties, outweighed by stars and Firepower. Enigma and ambiguity are almost a part of the process here; no titles, no years, only some locations are hinted at such as a darkened room in Istanbul.

There is even one shot from Hypergraphia where he looks not unlike Thom Yorke! A very real case of when he returns we won’t recognise him. Thus it could be questioned: is it his unique features and mysterious nature along with his famous croon, that keeps admirers tuned in to whatever comes next? If anything. Perhaps it is left to photographer Fujii to carry the flame in future instalments with volumes two and three, another beginning in the offing.

Pocko Gallery (a gallery that sometimes isn’t a gallery at all) is located at 51A King Henry’s Walk.
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Thanks for reading here, should you be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA page, and/or the UNIVERSITY page for my teaching ethos. 

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Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world.

Nightporter (from Gentlemen Take Polaroids) – Japan
Ghosts (from Tin Drum) – Japan
Beautiful Country (unreleased commercially) – David Sylvian
The Good Son (from Blemish) – David Sylvian
Victim of Stars (from Sahara Blue first edition) – Hector Zazou/David Sylvian
World Citizen (I Won’t Be Disappointed)(from World Citizen) – David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto
September (from Secrets of the Beehive) – David Sylvian
Maria (from Secrets of the Beehive) – David Sylvian
Cries and Whispers (from Rain Tree Crow) – Rain Tree Crow
Taking the Veil (Extended Version)(Single) – David Sylvian
Firepower (from The First Day) – David Sylvian & Robert Fripp
Anything by Radiohead/Thom Yorke (optional)
Mutability (A New Beginning is in the Offing)(from Flux and Mutability) – David Sylvian and Holger Czukay
*Brilliant Trees features on other blogs hence my not listing it here.