“Photography is endlessly linked to technology, it’s always moving forward with it. There are lots of ways you can reproduce a photograph, ways that are often forgotten about,” says Anthony Cairns, describing the technology behind his electronic ink images. Since realising he could freeze the display on his kindle book reader by disconnecting its power, Cairns has acquired over 500 second hand e-readers, mostly from eBay. By hacking into the e-readers he’s is able to upload his photographs, suspend them within the screen, and then remove the screen from the device’s casing. “I’m not a computer whizz kid hacker,” he says, “I just watched a lot of YouTube!” 45 of these screens are now on show at Tate Modern in Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art, showing abstract images of global metropolises.
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
BJP’s Breakthrough Sessions are open from 23 June – featuring leading industry speakers such as Vivienne Gamble (director, Seen Fifteen), Hamish Crooks (licensing director, Magnum Photos), Jaki Jo Hannan (senior creative producer, AMV BBDO) and Dominic Bell (Webber Represents) and the BJP Breakthrough Awards exhibition, featuring Ryan James Caruthers, Jocelyn Allen, Todd R Darling and Cathal Abberton
The artist is showing new work at the Roman Road gallery, in an exhibition called TYO2-LDN4, which gathers together images made in the last year in London and Tokyo, always at night. Cairns started the original LDN project in London in 2008, and exhibited the work at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2013; he went on to publish an ebook, LDN EI, which used hacked Kindle e-readers to present deliberately damaged analogue prints in electronic ink. In 2015, Cairns was awarded the prestigious Hariban award, which allowed him to learn about the collotype printing process at the Benrido Collotype Atelier in Kyoto. In this exhibition he’s showing his LDN4 Collotype Glass Plates, plus the same images printed on Japanese Gampi paper. He is also showing photographs from Tokyo petrified on Kindle screens removed from the original reader. The exhibition is open until 22 April 2017; a retrospective of his work in London, Tokyo, Osaka, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which includes a text by Tate Modern’s Simon Baker, will be published this year by Morel Books. www.antony-cairns.co.uk www.romanroad.com
This year’s Daikanyama Photo Fair will include a solo booth by Antony Cairns, hosted by East London photography gallery Roman Road.