||It is rare for artists to surrender
control over the way in which their work is presented, and the traditional art book tends
, as a result, to be respectful, visually subdued affair. With his most recent book, Tokyo
Salamander: American Dream Diary 1989; Shinro Ohtake returns to the American travel
experiences that had given shape to several previous publications. This time, however, he
left the formulation and assembly of the book entirely in the hands of London designer
Vaughan Oliver. In the last decade, Oliver has established an international reputation as
one of the most original designers of music graphics, and he had previously used work by
Ohtake on record covers and calendars for the record label 4AD.
|Ohtake supplied Oliver with the original Japanese text
and translation of his dream diary, assorted ephemera collected in America and elsewhere,
a set of of charcoal drawings, and transparencies of spreads from his sketchbooks,
paintings and watercolours-few of them inspired by America or his dreams. He stipulated
only the page size of the book, that it should be 64 pages long plus cover, and that his
text should be used in its entirely. Strict legibility did not have to be preserved,
because dreams in memory are fragmentary and blurred. Oliver was free to introduce imagery
of his own, to use English words, and to treat Ohtake`s art works as raw material in the
construction of a new object; he could extract details, overlay pictures with other
elements, or change the colours reprographically, as he saw fit. The book as printed-
French folded, in thickly vanished four-colour, plus silver- has a less precious, slightly
more ephemeral fell than many of Ohtake`s other books.
||Their shared aim was to give the book a dreamlike
quality. At the same time, Oliver was wary of treating every spread as a gatefold record
sleeve and decided - as a way of controlling a flow of images that could quickly
degenerate into chaos - to divide the page into four equal-sized units.
|Within this framework associations are loose and
subjective and not every page necessarily relates to a dream. The spread on the right
provides a good example of the book`s inspired fusion of elements and fortuitous
encounters. On the day the Emperor Hirohito died (8 January 1989) Ohtake arrived in New
York. Oliver`s Interpretation is based on a New York Times photograph supplied by Ohtake
of Hirohito and General MacArthur, commander of the occupation forces in Japan. The thumb
pointing downwards, a motif Oliver has used elsewhere, functions, like Ohtake`s drawing of
a top-hatted skull, as a momento mori. In Ohtake`s dream hundreds of snakes crawl through
torn-up bales of straw. As a commentary on Nippon-American relations, it is nothing if not
(Text by Rick Poynor in eye No.10 Vol.3 1993)
64 pages, all color + silver printing with laminated pages.
Collaborative work of Shinro Ohtake and Vaughan Oliver, designer at
4AD record company in London, based on dream diaries from 6 cities of America during 1989.
Price: please inquire