Each year Unseen selects a new artist to create a body of work for the official campaign of Unseen Amsterdam. In 2018, Japanese digital artist Kenta Cobayashi (1992, Kanagawa) will be the face of the seventh edition of Unseen’s leading event, taking place from the 21st to the 23rd September at Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek. Inspired by the energy of Tokyo, Cobayashi creates visually overwhelming, vibrant works. His campaign series N-TOKYO illustrates Tokyo as a futuristic city in flux and refers to the imaginary visions about the city that circulate in our perception.
For Cobayashi, Tokyo is characterised by a peculiar mix of fiction and reality. Growing up in this city, he daily encountered sci-fi references through comic books, anime and games. He says: “Tokyo is often used as the emblematic backdrop for futuristic stories. Through Japanese sci-fi classics, I grew up watching a variety of portrayals of the city in its imagined future forms. New technology and culture are key elements in consolidating a new shape of the city, but it also seems to me that it is undergoing a process of recreating a vision of the future, that has already been achieved in fiction. As if it’s chasing after the ideas that are depicted in the fantastical stories we, as citizens of Tokyo, were raised with.”
Upon hearing the word ‘Unseen’, Cobayashi immediately thought of Mamoru Oshii's classic 1995 sci-fi film Ghost in the Shell, which deals with notions of identity and selfhood in a technologically advanced world. While living together with fellow artists and peers in various share houses, Cobayashi started publishing images of his surrounding community on his blog. As a starting point for the N-TOKYO series, Cobayashi revisited this image archive, the majority of which depicting scenes with his friends. Fascinated by the notion of truth in photography, Cobayashi distorts his original images through multiple digital interventions, sometimes warping them to a barely decipherable degree. With this approach, he exposes the authentic nature of the image as pixelated data, thus sculpting a new reality. Almost like a painter, he creates an imitation of Tokyo, editing a symbolic narrative and transforming an existing vision of the future to unfold an unseen world.
Image: N-TOKYO 1 from the series N-TOKYO, 2018 © Kenta Cobayashi / G/P gallery / Selection made by Unseen