PHOTOGRAPHY / Street wise: Edinburgh's 'Liquid Crystal Futures' explores the spiritual side of life in modern Japan. Jane Richards reports

In 1985 Takashi Takagi, a Japanese art director, commissioned Manabu Yamanaka to photograph the street people of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka who seemed to him to fit the guise of Buddhist arhats (traditional spiritual beings who have attained enlightenment and are detached from all earthly desires, transcending even life and death).

Takashi Takagi had long been interested in Buddhist art and was particularly inspired by the Tang dynasty artist Guanxiu's arhat style. Historically there were 16 high- level disciples of the Buddha who vowed to defend the faith of Buddhism in ancient India. These disciples are worshipped as the 16 arhats, traditionally depicted in paintings as wizened figures in rough clothing, living deep in the mountains. But Takagi recognised them in the street people of Tokyo. Manabu Yamanaka's resulting series is one of the highlights of 'Liquid Crystal Futures', currently on show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

The exhibition of 140 works by 11 photographers is intended as a report on contemporary Japanese society. Elsewhere there are Toshio Shibata's exquisite studies of man's intervention on the landscape, Ryuji Miyamoto's architectural studies of urban decay and buildings in the process of being demolished, and Tomohiko Yoshida's gawdy colour landscape and cityscape abstracts.

And then there is Akira Gomi's extraordinary 'Yellows', a series that draws on the applications of photography in anthropology and criminal records - four images each, two nude, of 10 women - in an attempt to determine the essential characteristics of post-war Japanese woman. The idea of standing naked in front of a camera has inevitable pornographic connotations, yet the pictures prove anything but.

As a record of human bodies, all hint of sexuality has been eliminated. The women appear to be actively participating in a clinical experiment - as opposed to submissively posing naked for a voyeur. Shown, here, on CD-Rom (originally to get around the Japanese censorship laws of exhibiting images with pubic hair), the viewer can select the women's blood-types, hair colour, age, height and weight.

Meanwhile Manabu Yamanaka's arhats are people who really have fallen into poverty to the extent of consciously severing their connections with the rest of the world. Yamanaka worked hard at winning their confidence and co-operation. His greatest success has been persuading them to stand in front of buildings which provide pale backgrounds - embuing these proud figures with the spiritual luminosity that befits their arhat state.

(Photographs omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits