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As I Was Searching (For Another): Reviewed by Brian Arnold

Book Review As I Was Searching (For Another) By Selina Kudo Reviewed by Brian Arnold "I want to start by saying that I’ve been unable to learn much about artist Selina Kudo, short of an installation she composed for the Tanks Art Centre in Australia in 2022 (a conceptual piece about backyard trampolines)..."
As I Was Searching (For Another)
By Selina Kudo
Bad News Books, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, NZ, 2023. English, 60 pp., 7x9½".

I want to start by saying that I’ve been unable to learn much about artist Selina Kudo, short of an installation she composed for the Tanks Art Centre in Australia in 2022 (a conceptual piece about backyard trampolines). When I googled As I Was Searching (For Another), the artist’s 2023 work with New Zealand based publisher Bad News Books, I didn’t find too much more information, but there is a brief quote from the artist about the book on the publisher’s website:

“Through each frame, I embarked on a journey to find something elusive, the nature of which I could not articulate at the time. This book encapsulates moments of subtle introspection and fleeting connections that were made while living in Japan. The images echo a quest for both self-discovery and a sense of belonging within the intricate tapestry of Japan’s everyday life.”

There is no text in the book to explain the pictures except that they were made between 1991-2000, so this quote is all I really have to work with.

I’ll be honest and say that I find the artist’s statement on the Bad News Books site to be a bit bland, kind of I like saying I photograph the everyday things most people don’t see, or I photograph human impact on nature. That said, however, I find As I Was Searching (For Another) to be a delightful little book. It’s only 60 pages, made with risograph prints, and in edition of 99 copies. The pictures present a clear, concise, and simple narrative. The book begins with a photograph made through an airplane window showing two flight attendants and ends with a picture of two stacked suitcases (a lovely framing to the story); in between, we see conventional pictures of Japan (some in unconventional ways) – Mount Fuji, carp swimming in a pond, kimonos, rice paper dressing screens, and iconic city streets are all depicted here. The charm of the book comes from a feeling I can only call naivety, a sort of innocence abroad story, fully articulated by the clear but crude risographs used to illustrate her story (again confirming my conviction that how pictures are made is essential for understanding them).

Through the course of the book, we do learn a little bit about the maker. Kudo’s pictures do embody a feeling of self-discovery, as articulated in the statement marketing the book, but this appears as a process tempered by equal parts alienation and warm acceptance. Kudo seems to be fully enthralled in a phenomenon that I like to call the glamour of strangeness, that intoxicating thrill of discovery found while traveling the world. We also learn some more intimate and personal things about the artist, specifically an early stage of pregnancy (the ultrasound is reproduced in the book) from which I can only deduce two things (I recognize that I might be totally wrong). First, the artist learned about her pregnancy in Japan. But I also like to think of this picture functioning metaphorically, suggesting the seeds planted by a seemingly banal experience in Japan run much deeper than the deceptively simple pictures suggest, rooted deep inside her and reshaping her sense of self.

I don’t want to say too much more about As I Was Searching (For Another) but will encourage you to try and get a copy if you can. Despite such minimal production, the book is a lovely object. The paper cover and taped binding might seem crude, almost like a notebook, but lend the book an intimacy that seem essential for understanding Kudo’s intentions. The embossed gold foil lettering gives it a little bling, and the small edition a temptation for a rare look into a private world of an Australian experiencing Japan.

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Brian Arnold
is a photographer, writer, and translator based in Ithaca, NY. He has taught and exhibited his work around the world and published books, including A History of Photography in Indonesia, with Oxford University Press, Cornell University, Amsterdam University, and Afterhours Books. Brian is a two-time MacDowell Fellow and in 2014 received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation/American Institute for Indonesian Studies.