Love for the Strings: The Art & Performance of Hikari Kesho’s Shibari Photography — a visual essay by Mark McCawley

Love for the Strings:

 

The Art & Performance of Hikari Kesho’s Shibari Photography

 

a visual essay by Mark McCawley

 

Hikari Kesho has always had a passion for the photography of bodies, particularly the female form, exploring what he called “body expression” when at the age of 18 he began his first serious and continuing explorations of photography by enrolling in a major photo club. Often his photographic research led him to interpret the body with the use of chains, ropes, even ivy, anything that could be used to “lock” the position of the subject in a desired position, to transform the subject “more charming, more beautiful graphically, yet certainly also the most erotic” to the eye.

Kesho’s first focused research in this direction dates back to 1992. In ’93 this research gave birth to his photo book, “The Shaman, death and other stories.” The photographs in this book represent several scenes in which warrior women, shaman women, unfortunate heroines, witches, nymphs and sirens interpret fantasy stories. “In fantasy descriptions and illustrations the blue fairies wear the transparent veils of odalisques, witches prefer black leather bikinis, high boots and whips, the heroines often lose their bra and panties only to end tied up in positions and situations that would have earned the approval of the Divine Marquis…”

In the late ’90s, as a result of interactions and requests for exhibitions by and for various local fetish related communities and their related businesses and media, Kesho discovered his increasing desire to represent “bondage” in his work, even at the level of sex.

From then on, Kesho’s photographic research become more conscious, though still sporadic and not fully met by a purely aesthetic point of view. In 2003, speaking about Japanese cinema with his muse of the moment, came the word “Shibari” and in that moment he opened up a new world! He started his own research using sources from all over the world, and sources from Japan in particular.

Untitled, 2003.

Untitled, 2003.

Kesho had already been practicing various martial arts and also approached the Orient from a distinctly spiritual point of view and philosophy of thought. Shibari allowed him to embody everything into his photography up until that point. Balance of shapes, symmetry, lines of force and cleaning of the images (from the positioning of the strings) together with personal discipline, ritual and spirituality typical of martial arts, had been the triggering of Kesho’s love for the “strings”.

Untitled, 2003.

Untitled, 2003.

Shibari, more correctly known as Kinbaku is an ancient Japanese artistic form of rope bondage. Among the many uses of Shibari are dynamic living sculpture, shared meditative practice, deep relaxation for flexibility of mind and body, expression of power exchange, and intimate erotic restraint.

In Shibari (the action of tying someone up) the Nawashi (rope artist) creates almost geometric patterns and shapes that contrast wonderfully with the female body’s natural curves and recesses. Visually, the tight ropes and their texture provide a counterpoint to smooth skin and curves. The hard edges of the rope reinforce the softness of the body’s graceful shape: the model is like a canvas, and the rope is paint and brush. This contrast is even emphasized by the use of Junoesque models, whose generous curves are squeezed by the ropes to create more pronounced shapes and shadows.

The art of Japanese bondage has a long tradition and has been perfected over many centuries. It serves not only as binding but also as body adornment, and the pressure made by cords can employ Shiatsu techniques.

Shibari is built up of many ropes, each one doing its job, each one contributing to the total effect. Every knot has its historic significance and all of them have to do with the roots of Shibari in Hojo-jutsu (the martial art of restraining captives). There is even a form of bondage for noble captives where actual knots were not used at all and the prisoner was on his honor not to escape.

 

There were four rules of Hojo-jutsu:1. Not to allow the prisoner to slip his bonds.
2. Not to cause any physical or mental injury.
3. Not to allow others to see the techniques.
4. To make the result beautiful to look at.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a new form of erotic Hojo-justu evolved. This was called Kinbaku, or Shibari (the art of erotic bondage).

Untitled, 2004.

Untitled, 2004.

For these photographs only two traditional Japanese materials were chosen: hemp rope and bamboo rods.

Finishing raw hemp rope is a process that takes a fair amount of time to do correctly. First, the hemp is boiled and carefully dried, then the stray strands are singed. Finally, mink oil is worked into the fibres. After completing the process you have a piece of rope that feels very similar to a sensual, although scratchy, Shetland wool sweater when it rubs across the skin.

Untitled, 2004.

Untitled, 2004.

Finished hemp rope has the perfect balance of textures, being both rough and soft, with a pleasant, grassy aroma. Hemp rope doesn’t stretch like braided nylon or polypropylene and it holds a knot remarkably well. It also has a lower tendency to produce “rope burn” than synthetic ropes.

Untitled, 2004.

Untitled, 2004.

8mm and 6mm rope is great for general bodywork such as torso harnesses, pelvic harnesses, breast bondage, and ankle or wrist cuffs. Good working standard lengths are the 25 feet for torso/pelvic work and 12.5 ft lengths for wrist or ankle cuffs. Since all the models photographed are rather oversized, the standard lengths had to be modified according to the model.

More recently, Kesho (who is now represented in Italy by the art gallery Vecchiato Arte – and who has exhibited in important art events like “The Art of Contemporary Shibari“, USA, Vught Biennal, The Netherlands and ArtePadova, Italy) has felt the need to give his creatures, the ones he thinks of as his real living sculptures backgrounds and scenery most appropriate to their beauty — which can be a particular architecture or nature itself, and inserting his creations in a transgressive and provocative artistic context to those backdrops. Ultimately, Kesho reaches his creative zenith both as photographer and Shibari Master as divergent elements combine as performance in the public arena leading the viewer deeper into the emotion of the image and the environment that surrounds…UG
During the first premiere event of its kind, a shibari performance in an art gallery, the famous “nawashi” Hikari Kesho staged a live performance in which his model was tied with Japanese ropes, then suspended and made “fly” above a specially invited viewing public of Italian and international art collectors, to a soundtrack of contemporary Japanese music. The event took place at Vecchiato Art galleries in Padua, Italy, on April, 17, 2013:

During a cold midnight in front of the Palace of Reason in Padua, Italy, Hikari Kesho, with friend and talented model Lisa Smith, who came all the way from London for the shoot, and a crew of assistants, achieved this unique artistic public performance of “Shibari” art while passersby and onlookers gaze on in awe and astonishment:

 

HikariKeshoAbout the Artist

Born in Padua in 1958, Hikari Kesho (aka Alberto Lisi) lives and works in Italy.

Since his childhood his main passion has been photography. He was given his first camera at the age of 10 from his grandfather. From this first Volklender bellows camera to today, Hikari Kesho continues to evolve and is mastering the art of digital photography.

Through studies and numerous recognitions in various exhibitions and photographic contests, Hikari Kesho soon became a professional photographer. Specializing in Fashion Photography, he collaborates with some of the most important international designers: Alviero Martini, Romeo Gigli, Gianfranco Ferré, Mariella Burani and Renato Balestra among the others.

Hikari Kesho has developed a unique style for photographing female bodies, making personal researches on the theme of body expression. He uses often black and white with gothic contaminations and connects uniquely to the world of fetish fantasies.

Hikari Kesho artworks have been published in many books and magazines (Goliath books, Playboy, Blue magazine) and in 2012 he was selected (the only Italian photographer) for “The Art of Contemporary Shibari”, a multi-media exhibit including still photography, video, and live performance art by Photographers, Riggers and Models for the Fotofest 2012 Biennial, the first international Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art in the United States. Hikari Kesho’s photo “Observing the Stillness of Brenta River” was chosen to be the official poster of the Biennial.

In 2013 Hikari Kesho signed with Vecchiato Art Galleries for his promotion in the circuit of contemporary art.

In 2013 Hikari Kesho was selected (the only italian artist and in a selection of only five international artists) for Biennale Vught (The Netherlands) and in the same year he exhibited at the international contemporary art fair ArtePadova, Italy.

Internet links:

Official website: http://www.hikarikesho.com

Official Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/user9631608

Gallery website: http://www.vecchiatoarte.com

 

Note: The editor would like to thank both Hikari Kesho and his representives at Vecchiato Art Galleries for their invaluable assistance.

Posted on by urbangraffito Posted in Art, Essay, Performance, Photography, Writing

One Response to Love for the Strings: The Art & Performance of Hikari Kesho’s Shibari Photography — a visual essay by Mark McCawley

  1. Anamaria

    I adore this artist..please send me anything
    everything…photos, videos, new book options xox