UPDATE (February 26, 2014)
During the creation of this art (1998~1999), Aum members Makoto Hirata, Naoko Kikuchi, and Katsuya Takahashi were still in hiding. Hirata turned himself in on December 31, 2011. Kikuchi was captured June 3, 2012, and Takahashi was captured June 15, 2012. Below is the content of the Wanted Artist Group page, as written by John Wells in 2000.
Artists Group was established in 1998 to create collaborative works of art that were conceived as a response to the bizarre signs and posters created by the Japanese police in an effort to capture members of the new religion Aum Shinrikyo. Three members of this group are still wanted in Japan to stand trial for their suspected connection with poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in March of 1995.
The work began as a photography project that was dedicated to documenting this police art across the entire country. Some of these works include life sized photographic reproductions attached to cardboard and dressed in real clothing. Other streets or subway stations display larger than life posters of the suspects' faces, or even flags or paper lanterns printed with the same images. In recent years it has been difficult to go to almost any public place in Japan without seeing this kind of display featuring the faces of some of Japan's most wanted.
The request to notify
the authorities immediately if one catches a glimpse of one
of these suspects is often displayed side by side with pleas to be
suspicious of your neighbors. That strange guy who
lives in your apartment who always keeps his curtains closed
is probably a terrorist making bombs. As we walk down
the street with our children, there could be an underground
hideout full of bomb building terrorists directly below our
Work together and be suspicious of those who aren't quite right. Help the police weed out the enemies of our country. This is the message contained in the cartoons of the illustrated police posters that we also photographed as part of this project. In these cartoons, a terrorist is represented as wearing a white helmet, sunglasses, and a white handkerchief over his mouth and nose, and referred to as "this type of person".
In Japan you have only to walk the streets of any city to be inundated with images that express this message, a message that is carried on the momentum of a mission to capture wanted members of Aum Shinrikyo. In the process of creating an enemy of the Japanese people with Aum, the police have literally created the enemy--created them with pieces of wood and cardboard.
This is the point where the inspiration for the works of photography and art by the Wanted Artist Group originates. We begin with the recognition that these signs, many of them handmade, are works of art. Our intention was to photograph these signs all across Japan as a team of 3 photographers. The next phase of the project involved remixing and recontextualizing the photographic images into new works of art that are inspired by the original police art. Our works represent a point of departure from the original message and the original context of the police art. Rather than being passive consumers of a message that is innundated into every public space, as artists we seek to create a surreal reflection of message itself.
There are 16 works
in this collection. The Wanted Artist Group is a group
of three artists and two guest artists. The work
involved a system of rules in which each artist was
allowed to contribute freely to each work, building the
images as they pleased. When the work was passed to a
second or third artist, the next artist would freely modify the work. Each work would continue to
change and evolve before a consensus would be
reached that the work was "finished." It was
impossible for any one artist to predict what any given work
would finally look like. The process was entirely
collaborative and improvisational. Materials included scrap pieces of wood, oil paints, photographic prints of police posters and wanted poster art, and various mixed-media collage.
Wanted Artists Group is John Wells, Erik Sanner, Michael Renouard, with guest artists Qian Qian Gao and Megumi Ueda.
E-mail the Wanted Artists Group
Wanted Posters and Signs
Site created March
Last Updated February