Vote K-narf for Mayor of Shibuya

I haven’t seen zee French artiste Frank le Petit aka K-narf since my gallery days, so when I caught up with him in Tokyo at his late 60’s style studio in Shibuya, I didn’t know what to expect. He has always been, in my opinion, one of the coolest cats I know. Like Captain Jack Sparrow, he just oozes hip like no other artist I’ve had the pleasure to know.

Last I saw K-narf’s work in 2012 was when he exhibited his néo-vintage “tape-o-graphs” show titled 'The 6M $ Man meets the Virgin Marie' in Singapore. A follower of the Bricolage art movement (a practice based on using simple and available materials to manually create a work of art) which he applies to photography, K-narf ‘s technique, while uncomplicated, takes precision and painstaking accuracy to produce a final result which is truly avant-garde. As the only known artist doing this style of art through photography since his first show in 2001, he only discovered the Bricolage art movement existed years after he became familiar with its inventor, New York artist Tom Sachs.

K-narf’s studio is filled, in a seemingly organised way, with his creations of video camera sculptures he calls "Bricolage photographic contraptions", pieced together machines, and wall–to-wall “tape-o-graphic” works from several different series he has produced over the last few years, including a comical video in which he mimics a politician campaigning to be the Mayor of Shibuya. An artist which is not a photographer, but an artist who “pretends” to be a photographer, he is currently working on a project titled ‘The Hatarakimono Project’ in which he is putting together a collection of portraits of Tokyo workers.

TMA: Tell me more about the current project.

FLP: As you know, I am not a photographer, I am an artist who pretends to be one, it’s slightly different. It’s like a kid who plays at being a policeman or a fireman. I pretend to be a photographer and create a complete imaginary photographic world.

The Hatarakimo Project has been designed within the same spirit: it is a huge photographic game created halfway in between the imaginary and reality.
During a period of one year I am producing “extra-ordinary tape-o-graphic archives” made of 100 portraits of Japanese workers from the streets of Tokyo.

TMA: Who are the subjects?

FLP: “Hatarakimono” means hard-worker in Japanese but in a very positive and respectful way. It is typically Japanese and there is no similar word in English or French.

To take portraits of these workers I go directly to the streets of Tokyo with a portable photo studio: a foldable background, and a small stool. For each portrait, I ask the “Hatarakimono” to stand up on the stool and I take three photos (front and both sides). If you have been to Japan before you may immediately understand the complexity of doing such portraits. I am not talking of taking photos of workers with a zoom camera from a distance; it’s a very long, delicate and interesting process. During a period of one year I will take portraits of a hundred workers.

TMA: When and where is it going on tour?

FLP: This project is to show that photography is an amazing tool with which to play with time. With the support of the Yves Klein Foundation, this entire project will be kept in a French museum for 25 years to be exhibited in 2042. I have already selected six of the most established museums worldwide and sent letters to their Directors to let them know that my project will be exhibited in their museums:

The International Center for Photography in NYC
The British Museum in London
The Musée Guimet in Paris
The Intermediatheque Museum in Tokyo
The Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney
and The “Musée d’art Moderne et Contemporain” in St Etienne France.

When we say our goodbyes, he passes me one of his business cards. It isn’t until I get on the train that I realise what his card says:

To see more videos on Vimeo, please click here.

For more info on K-narf, please click here.