Exhibition – Philip Arneill @ The Green Room

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Visual Arts

Exhibition – Philip Arneill @ The Green Room.


3 August, 2023


Exhibition launch at 6PM



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Philip Arneill is a Belfast-born photographer and AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium Doctoral Researcher at Ulster University. He holds an MA in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography from UAL and having lived for 25 years in Scotland, Egypt and Japan, is currently researching a PhD through Creative Practice. Co-creator of the audio-visual documentary project Tokyo Jazz Joints, his work explores the illusory ideas of home and culture by exploring insider-outsider dynamics, interstices, and autoethnographic issues of place and identity. His work has been exhibited and published worldwide. / IG @philiparneill

口 [ku-chi]

In Japanese the word ‘kuchi’ means ‘mouth’. This work was created in a different decade, in a different country, in a different world. It was made without the knowledge that 15 years in the future, the entire world would be walking around wearing the ‘small, white cotton masks’ I had once associated with my early years in Japan. It has been interesting to revisit this body of work in the context of the global pandemic which began in 2020, and what we have all since experienced. The text below was written for the original exhibition in a gallery in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district in the mid-2000s.

People often say the eyes are the window to the soul. As anyone from the outside coming in knows, first arriving in Tokyo is a sensory overload like few others. The bizarre is a friend and daily companion for the new Tokyoite. Yet one sight that remains as disconcerting as ever is the number of people who walk around daily with two-thirds of their face covered by a small, white cotton mask. I had initially thought it was simply a paranoid overreaction to air pollution, but whatever the real reason – a cold, cough,
fever – I find it no less disarming. However small and seemingly innocuous, the mask renders the wearer void of any facial expression whatsoever, and I find it so completely unnerving that I am still incapable of carrying on a meaningful conversation with anyone wearing one.

No-one could have predicted what would emerge in March 2020. Nevertheless, the inspiration behind this work is still my belief – if anything, heightened rather than diminished by the past three years – that it is not in fact the eyes, but rather the mouth which is the key to unlocking a face, and in turn the personality behind it.

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