new zealand electronic poetry centre

Reiko Kunimatsu

 Capital of the minimal  


Potential is a terrible burden, especially for the dead. Shortly after graduating as a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Otago Polytechnic Reiko Kunimatsu (24) died in North Otago when her sedan was struck by a train. If we overlook the original conceit then these lines from Iain Lonieís Unattended Crossing Ahead appear prescient:

Oh no, we say, we simply canít!
seeing it all so clearly:
and yet weíre left breathless
standing here at the clumsy crossing

while the red light bobs away
and the bellís clang chokes in a country silence
thinking, I might have been on that train
thinking, it could have killed me.

Kunimatsu was preparing photographs to accompany work by other contributors to Capital of the Minimal. Rather than concentrate on this lost opportunity, and on the loss that extends beyond any opportunity, it is better to reflect on her achievement. No one has photographed Otago with such an ontological lens; her geographic self-portraits seem a critique of Andre Bazinís The Ontology of the Photographic Image:

Only the impassive lens, stripping its object of all those ways of seeing it, those piled-up pre-conceptions, that spiritual dust and grime with which my eyes have covered it, is able to present it in all its virginal purity to my attention and consequently to my love. By the power of photography, the natural image of a world that we neither know nor can see, nature at last does more than imitate art: she imitates the artist.                                                                                                



What is identityÖ?

We often talk about people as if they have particular attributes as 'things' inside themselves - they have an identity, for example, and we believe that at the heart of a person there is a fixed and true identity or character. The concept of identity that I am focusing on through my images is referenced in Buddhist teaching: That if we look at the universe, we find that everything in it exists only in relationship to something else.

Foucault says, "people do not have a 'real' identity within themselves; that's just a way of talking about the self - a discourse. An 'identity' is communicated to others in your interaction with them, but this is not a fixed thing within a person." It is a shifting, temporary construction. Foucault's philosophy can be viewed in that of Taisen Deshimaru, a Japanese monk who brought Zen to Europe, "everything exists by virtue of interdependence and has no permanence, no lasting substance".

From a personal perspective, growing up in Japan, having to come to New Zealand a few years ago and live in a totally different environment with different cultures and a different language has meant I had to face the interdependence and the temporality of my identity. Questions of identity have arisen. Through studying my surroundings that construct my identity, my objective is to think about what I am.

[Reiko Kunimatsu, 2003]

Slideshow of photographs

The editor gratefully acknowledges the Estate of Reiko Kunimatsu, the Kunimatsu family, and Jared Rumball for making this work available to Capital of the Minimal. The five colour photographs and the text 'What is identity...?'  are copyright and may not be used without permission from the trustees of the Estate.


© The Estate of Reiko Kunimatsu 2004

Last updated 13 August, 2004