Davis & Davis "Dream Big" at L2Kontemporary- Whitehot Magazine (February 2011)
The female subjects of Dream Big, Davis & Davis’ ironically titled solo exhibition at L2Kontemporary are caught within frames of reverie. While the candid photographs taken on the streets of Atmani, Hakone, and Kyoto document women at their blue-collar jobs, mainly in the food service industry, they also reveal a moment where their emotive, gestural, and psychological processes are suspended. It’s as if the camera catches them at the very moment they might struggle to conceal during their workday, as they close their eyes and dream of an alternate reality which their life could never afford them. The keystone photograph of the exhibition not only inspired show’s title, but also served as a point of cultural investigation for Davis & Davis. Produce Vendor, Tokyo shows a young Japanese woman leaning behind cartons of fresh food, each with signs bearing large, red reduced price tags meant to entice passers by. Her t-shirt bears the words “dream big” and the phrase nearly swallows her petite frame. While her face seems to confront the camera’s gaze her eyes are half closed as her mind wanders. As the first photograph in the series it inspired Davis & Davis to perform a Google search on the phrase “dream big” which lead them to discover a statement from former Miss Universe Japan, Kurara Chibana, “Dream big, build self-confidence, although in Japan, that can sometimes work against you. Then, because you fear rejection, you hide your passion and eventually, it becomes difficult to hold onto your beliefs and dreams. Establish yourself around people you can trust, like friends and family, until you become self-assured.” This lead them to explore a great tug of war that exists between what some woman in Japan want and what it is possible for them to attain.
Dream Big is driven by a desire to document a crushing social predicament, but the overwhelming subtext of the exhibition is voyeuristic, characterized by the candid archival digital prints that bear compositions of women working behind counters in restaurants and gift shops, grooming dogs, and even dressed in geisha garb. The subjects are not only trapped within the confines of social margins but in the unflinching eye of Davis & Davis. The woman becomes an object of desire as noted in Film Actress, Hakone, a photograph inherently about looking, it captures the reflection of Scott Davis (one half of the duo Davis & Davis) as he watches a television actress. Her face consumes the entire screen and her wide, sunken eyes convey a sense of uncertainty. Another instance of framing subjects within a frame, as it were, appears in Bus Driver, Kyoto. The face of the female bus driver is seen in the square rear view mirror, attempting to merge with traffic.
Perhaps the most unique component of Dream Big is the blog compendium created by Davis & Davis, which appears as a link on L2Kontemporary’s website. Beginning on the opening day of the exhibition, the photographers posted pictures from the show and answered questions posed by viewers. The interaction between artist and audience rarely operates in a public forum, but in the case of Dream Big which focuses on the everyday working class, it seems an appropriate gesture. Many people wanted to know why there were so many photographs of women in the food service industries and why certain women like Restaurant Worker, Nara seemed so unhappy. Infusing their personal experiences and insights in each response, Davis & Davis honestly discuss their views of the social condition facing women in Japan, through a media platform which reflects our own culture’s desire to obtain informatation.