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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Kensuke Koike and Activating the Archive

all images by Kensuke Koike except the ones by me. You just try and guess which are which!

Saturday 5th May at the Arnolfini in Bristol is the date for this brilliant symposium on the archive with speakers including Francesca Seravalle, Maja Daniels, Charbel Saad, Thomas Sauvin, Kensuke Koike, and Amak Mahmoodian.

It's a serious bargain at £25 for the day and takes place in the wonderful waterfront location of the Arnolfini, with fantastic food, drink and cake all available within a few minutes walk.

Buy your tickets for ICVL's Activating the Archive here.

Not there in person, but there as a guest artist through videos of his artwork is Kensuke Koike. If you haven't seen Koike's cut-ups (are they collages, or photomontages when it's just the one work snipped and reordered) then do yourself a favour and head over to his website or instagram account now. They are just marvellous.

I can think of nobody who has given me more visual pleasure in the last few months than Koike. The clarity, simplicity and transparency of his work leaves me quivering with delight, eager to make my own versions - which have their own rough hewn charm I feel, and throw up new complexities such as what happens when you put together your collages in the wrong order.

I like to think of my versions as fitting into that childlike space that Picasso sought out so readily. But then I would wouldn't I. I think 'fumbling with a sledgehammer' is a better description, one that fits most collage that you see. Koike operates on an altogether higher plane with examples such as the man with the hairy eye coming out of collaboration with Thomas Sauvin who provided Koike with found images from a Shanghai photographer's album. And these Chinese images are of a very particular kind of image, with a directness and simplicity in their own right that serves Koike's practice so very well.

For some clarity on why his work is so clear and direct (and mine so obviously is not), here is a snippet from Brad Feuerhelm's piece on ASX. The images here are from Koike's collaboration with the equally brilliant and entertaining Thomas Sauvin who will be speaking in Bristol.

Precision cutting is an ability best left to mathematical minds. It requires a steady hand; a steady eye and demeanour unfit for those who believe in serendipity as a way of life. The hands that guide the minute impressions of the blade to paper work their way through the geometry of the printed image, slowly and with great mental architecture and meditation excise pieces of paper like teeth from the gums- ever so careful not to leave root traces on the edge of the paper it removes, nor the paper it leaves behind. What strikes the mind that is unable to fathom the precise cut is that the overall effort is but just one piece of the puzzle to be fabricated. These are cuts that become new weaves of a psychological cartographic delineation-each removal is a piece of territory to overlap with acuity of another terrain.
The gentle hands of Kensuke Koike are ones that I would like to examine. I would like to know if he shakes, if he drinks coffee or imbibes any such stimulant while making these incredible collages. He has one rule for making his work. Nothing can be removed and nothing can be added to the piece he works on. This means that in this optical effrontery it is mathematically observed well in advance of any cuts- as to cut wrong would mean that the next piece will not fit the portion removed and vice versa. This cool and calculating position presents any number of potential problems or errors once the blade begins to etch the surface of an image. So, when you look at these images, you have to understand the basic principal of the work, but also a mythical sacred geometric ability to render the form within an existing image of that which has been removed with an exactitude of skill much above that which most people are able.

The interesting thing is that behind this pleasure there lies a real depth of what makes a picture work, and the ways in which we analyse images. What exactly does happen when we flip a pair of eyes, what is it that renders a face suddenly outlandish, unattractive or downright weird, where does the recognition come from and when does it end.

This piece on Kensuke Koike and his pasta making treatment of the dog is a case in point. One notable thing about it is it's the only time I've ever thought of buying a pasta maker (you need some sponsorship, Kensuke, head to the pasta makers). More notable however are the comments that lead from Koike's quadruple dogs to the algorithms for image compression, and how image loss happens in the digital resizing of images.

These are from the comments on the post - I found this really interesting while being none the wiser by the end of it.

Andrew Liszewski
3/19/18 12:36pm
I’d say it’s a crash course on how image compression works, but close enough. 


3/19/18 1:51pm
But this isn’t really how image compression works. Most image compression is done by binary compression algorithms, which work on any file type, so they don’t deal with pixel manipulation.

Conversely, this is how a “resize” feature of an image manipulator would work. It does a little more, with adjacent sampling and averaging, but the base idea is there.
This shows how resizing an image to have smaller dimensions works, but it doesn’t really show how compressing an image to have a smaller file size works.

To be fair, though, some image-targeted compression can be done this way, so it can be said to be similar to how image compression works, but I wouldn’t call it a “crash course”, given the circumstances.


3/19/18 5:20pm
This is not correct. Most image compression (JPEG, all versions of MPEG) use the DCT to greatly reduce the entropy in an image. This comes at a relatively low loss of quality. (This is the “lossy” step.) Incidentally, this actually makes the image larger.

Then a lossless compression algorithm (e.g. Huffman coding) is used, as you describe, to compress the converted image. Because of the decrease in entropy after DCT, this ends up being much smaller than the result of applying Huffman coding directly to the original image.

What you are saying is arguably more applicable to lossless systems (e.g. PNG which uses DEFLATE), but still ignores several graphics-specific pre-processing steps. PNG specifically uses a “prediction” algorithm to cause the values to cluster around zero, which is similar to what JPEG does, except that you always end up with precisely the same values you started with after decompression.



Well I enjoyed it anyway. It's a crash course in something to do with Photoshop algorithms, but more interestingly it's  an example of how old images and archives (and let's not even get into what an archive is - hopefully somebody will talk about that at the symposium) can be added to, adapted, and transformed by editing, cataloguing, contextualisation, revelation and concealment in multiple ways. And how these recontextualisations create a contemporary discourse from a historic one, and vice versa (and more of that later).

Read more about Kensuke's work at American Suburb X.

Visit his Instagram Account here.

Buy your tickets for ICVL's Activating the Archive here.

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