Simon Yotsuya's work inspired a new wave of avant-garde Japanese doll-making, headed by artists such as Ryo Yoshida and Katan Amano, which has continued to flourish to the present day. SECRET DOLL UNDERGROUND, presented by Yuichi Konno, features dolls by fifteen artists, from Simon Yotsuya onwards, with over 80 full-sized colour photographs never before published outside Japan. It also includes Konno's introductory history of the underground doll in Japan.
Yuichi Konno is the editor of Yaso, an independent arts and culture publication founded in 1979.
Japanese Art Perspectives is a new illustrated book series on Japanese art and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The photos in this book were first run in various issues of the magazine called Yaso. Yaso is an independent publication which mainly focuses on art and culture, with a one-theme-for-one-issue policy. It was started in 1979, once closed in 1998, and restarted in 2003. The biggest reason we restarted is that we had explored issues such as dolls, dance, literature, art and general culture and criticized them, but then realized that these issues themselves have mutated.
In terms of dolls, in comparison with the situation when we first made a feature of Hans Bellmer in 1980, people tend to think a great deal about symbology, rather than doll art (the translation of doll is ningyo in Japanese, but these days the English word "doll” is often used). There's a big difference between the modern doll and traditional ningyo, which used to be called hitogata ("human figure”). But they don't look that different. Observing subtle differences in how they look and big differences in their essential aspect has become the new motivation for Yaso.
Aestheticism means shonen-ai (love between boys) these days in Japan. The concept of "fetish” sometimes involves "cutting, damaging or injuring your body”. Lolita fashion is very popular but this symptom is not very much related to Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. How men with "Lolicon” (Lolita complex) would feel when they look at the girls wearing Lolita fashion and how those girls would feel when they dress in Lolita fashion have no connection at all. Mindful of historical matters, Yaso is going to feature conventional values which are based on philosophical and aesthetic elements, and current phenomena with enigmatic distortion, in parallel. We don't view the current situation negatively. We can foresee that new creativity is starting to arise from this situation.
2. RISE OF NORI DOI AND SIMON YOTSUYA
Currently, most of dolls in Japan are ball-jointed, even those manufactured dolls which are called "fashion dolls”. There seems to be no country in the world and period in the history in which you can see so many ball-jointed dolls. The spread of the ball-jointed style was caused by attention on Hans Bellmer's ball-jointed dolls, in the 1960's. It is Simon Yotsuya who was influenced by Bellmer, regarding him as a pioneer. He was very much moved by a single picture of Bellmer's doll, and began to change his style of creating dolls. That caused a revolutionary change in the world of creating dolls in Japan ....