I don’t remember how I came accross Kotaro Inoue’s website, but I know that it intrigued me to the point where I wanted to meet the person who was behind that work. The address of his personal website is http://1203.xxxxxxxx.jp/ (for real), and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org, so when I met him for an interview, I still didn’t know his name!
As he was telling me about his productions, things did not become clearer, as he started by telling me: “I brought a lot of things, but I don’t know if they are zines.” And indeed, what he showed me was confusing: pieces of scrap paper printed over and over, wrinkled, cut and sewn, and all were unique works. “I think I am too lazy, that is why I don’t make many copies of my zines” he said. After he unpacked everything he had brought, I felt like in the middle of laboratory. The work of Inoue is a sort of Research and Development lab for zinesters. He has a lot of ideas, very original ones, but once he has materialized them, he instantly becomes disinterested.
Inoue mostly works as a designer, for the Tokyo Art Book Fair among others, it might be why he is not so sure about transforming his experimentations into actual editions. He would like to be also an artist, but in Japan, nothing makes it easy.
There are no grants, no studios, no critics, and if you want to exhibit your work, you will have to rent the gallery (as there are no collectors to buy your work.) In this context, it is much easier to be a designer or an illustrator, which is an actual job, when being an artist is often considered as a hobby.
These kind of remarks may seem gratuitous, but they are true, and they help to understand the work of some Japanese artists who have a lot to say, but don’t have any space to express themselves.
The “Ezine” is a word play: When it is closed, it has the shape of an E, but when open, it has the shape of the chinese ideogram “日”. Kotaro Inoue gave it two titles “E日本” and “良い日本”, which sound the same but can be understand differently. “E日本” refers to the two forms the book can take, it should be read as “E 日 book”, whereas “良い日本” means “good Japan”, but they both sound the same…