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David Sylvian’s Abandon Hope


I knew – not too well I admit – David Sylvian as a musician and singer, but I didn’t know him as a photographer.

However, last year, during the Setouchi Triennale 2013 in Japan, I discovered some of his works in the abandon hope exhibit that he had in the small port of Uno (Okayama Prefecture).

I really loved the pictures. Nowadays we see pictures, even amazing pictures everywhere and every day on the internet (if you don’t, you should spend more time – and follow the right people and communities – on Google+, just saying…) and I was afraid I got a bit desensitized to photography exhibits. I wasn’t. Seeing great pictures in a large and “physical” format and not on a computer screen still has a potency that is unmatched by the other ways we usually look at pictures.

Of course, it’ll be hard to translate that here, as what I’d show you would be pictures of pictures. This is why I’m showing you how the exhibit looked in the space where it was instead; that is an old building that must have been a store in its heyday (the main goal of the Setouchi Triennale is to revive this part of Japan that is getting abandoned more and more despite being one of the most beautiful).


David Sylvian - Abandon Hope - 1


A few words about the title, “abandon hope.” It may sound a bit depressive, although it instantly made me think of one of Nine Inch Nails’s best music pieces¬†Leaving Hope (not the most cheerful music either, I admit).

However, David Sylvian has a very interesting explanation:

To live without hope is to live in the present. I like the state of hopelessness. Hope really does tend to get in the way. It takes you out of the present towards an ideal. To live without hope but without a loss of love for life… that’s a great starting place it seems to me.


David Sylvian - Abandon Hope - 3


David Sylvian - Abandon Hope - 2
That picture of a dog in the fog has been used for the exhibit’s publicity. It really is an amazing picture.


Another great thing about this exhibit – which was coupled with Nobuyoshi Araki’s “Paradise” exhibit (I’ll talk about it on my Setouchi Explorer blog one of these days) – is that it had a soundtrack. When you entered the building, you could borrow a Playbutton with exclusive music from Taylor Deupree¬†chosen by David Sylvian to accompany the exhibit.

The piece was called “Too Close To Being Far Away From Everything” and was pretty amazing. Taylor Deupree describes it as such:

Too Close To Being Far Away From Everything is music both without time and existing at multiple points in time. It is about ghosts and futures and the quiet overpowering of nature over man.

The great news is that you could buy the track at the Setouchi Triennale’s shop – which I did – the sad news is that the track is “stuck” in the playbutton and can’t be extracted as a music file (I guess it’s written in the ROM of the device). So, sure, you end up with a nice “musical object” that becomes some sort of small portable artwork, but honestly it’s not the most convenient way to listen to it, and because of that I don’t listen to it as often as I’d like.


Taylor Deupree - Too Close To Being Far Away From Everything - for the exhibits abandon hope and Paradise during the Setouchi Triennale 2013


I don’t know if David Sylvian‘s abandon hope will be displayed anywhere else, but if by any chance it is and you’re nearby, do not miss it.

Also David Sylvian is quite present on the web, you can check him out there:


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