Discrete, mysterious and somewhat surreal, Shin Noguchi’s (b. 1976) Nonverbal Space is an incredibly thoughtful series rooted in Japanese culture. Detailing moments of complete, crisp serenity in his native Japan, there is an apocalyptic atmosphere about the work due to the complete lack of human presence in the series.
As Noguchi’s biography states, he is “sensitive to the subtleties and complexities of Japanese culture” and does not pose/stage or shoot below/above eye level. He goes on to explain that he sees himself as a very honest photographer and that “street photography always projects the truth” so that is what he shoots. The result of this ideology is a delicate, clean and mysterious project. Entitled Nonverbal Space, the series is about ‘Ma’, the Japanese term for negative space.
As Noguchi explains, the project challenges blank space and is trying to find negative space in man-made things. Nonverbal Space is “unstable, distorted and contradicts what we have created”, he says, going on to state that “the characteristic of Japanese Ma is very beautiful and delicate, and if you are not always aware of the very small amount of undulation of Ma, it loses balance immediately”.
Visualising what an invisible voice existing in ‘nonverbal/unstable spaces of our daily lives’ told him, Noguchi is trying to combine the two invisible elements, Ma and Gou (which is a Japanese term for karma). By not including people in the images, Noguchi makes the negative space the subject of the image, creating awareness of the relationship between individuals, society and the surrounding environment for viewers.
Entwined in Japanese culture, Nonverbal Space is a complex project for those unfamiliar with its context. Regardless, Noguchi touches on some instigative topics, which raises very interesting points about our man-made world, and does so with a sublime, dreamlike aesthetic.