white heat international art festival
kanagawa kenmin hall gallery, yokohama, japan
following the sarin gas attacks on the tokyo subway system in 1995, wanted posters depicting the suspected perpetrators in a wide variety of costumes and settings sprang up all over japan. many of the posters, mannequins, lanterns, etc., appeared to have been made locally and became more unique and diverse over time as the number of those caught grew, and the manhunt for the remaining three dragged on. kyoto-based john wells asked me if i would take photos of any notable or striking wanted displays as a favor to him in or near tokyo (where i was living). he believed that this was important art, very contemporary, and it would be valuable to document it. he spoke of perhaps publishing a book of the images.
as time passed i found myself developing roll upon roll of film filled with images of wanted posters. i started to collage with these images, to make art with art. i began a large piece, on two sliding doors, which meant that i was now living face-to-paper-face with these fugitives. in a way, i became partially obsessed with the wanted posters and art.
john had also asked another friend to take pictures; mike renouard, too, had found it compelling far beyond his original expectations. between the three of us, we had several hundred images.
over the course of a few phone conversations we acknowledged our shared desire to collaborate, and the wanted artists group was formed.
in kyoto we spent a week working and ended up creating sixteen pieces toghether. the only rule we made was that we must each work on each piece. they are full of strange details, memories of weird experiences. we made paper masks of the fugitive's faces and went to a photo booth where we posed for our own "wanted"-themed picture-stickers - those appear in one of the pieces. qianqian gao joined us and did some painting, particularly evident on "daybreak" (above right). each piece was signed "wanted artists group."
we all have our own thoughts on what we were doing and why we were doing it. john created a website which puts forth some of his logic.
he started this project, so i think it's appropriate that he have the last word.
click here to see the wanted artists group online exhibition.