“Distorted Japan”: Buddhism And Computer Games Collide In Kenta Cobayashi’s Digitally Manipulated Photography

Buddhism; 90s computer games; Japanese tradition; and photographic theory. These four disparate topics are some of the fundamental concepts that underpin Kenta Cobayashi’s philosophical creative practice. The Tokyo-based artist uses photography and film to examine the meaning of truth – a lofty statement, but one that’s quickly borne out by his thought-provoking creations. However, to fully understand Kenta’s images, you have to first look at the Japanese language and how the artist exploits its nuances and ambiguities to question notions of veracity.

For anyone who, like us, doesn’t speak Japanese as a native language it’s important to first understand that as a phonetic language, English is precise and definitive. We spell with letters, which we recognise as sounds, which, bundled together, we then recognise as words with meanings. The Japanese written language, on the other hand, is formed of layers of characters which suggest subtly different meanings, depending on their combinations. So to understand Kenta’s work, we must also understand that it revolves around the shifting meanings that come with the formation of the Japanese language.

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