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Design Note|Tokyo Rumando 'S'

S is Story She=S S=SexualViolet S is es S is Sandglass Sayonara S

―Tokyo Rumando


Since my collaboration with Tokyo Rumando in 2012 on two series of photos, namely ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’ and ‘Orphée’, ‘S’ was our third time working together. Before I proceed to share the design concept of ‘S’, I would like to briefly introduce previous works of Tokyo Rumando.

Born in Tokyo in 1980, Tokyo Rumando was originally trained in fashion design and management, while being known as a photographer in the art world, she has been working as a nurse and serving at a psychiatric hospital and surgical wards for several years. She started to pick up photography on her own in 2005, adopting self-portrait as her main creative approach. Her major exhibited series of work includes ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’, ‘Orphée’, ‘selfpolaroids’ and ‘S’, which was her latest collection of photos exhibited in Zen Foto Gallery in Tokyo this year. In this series, Rumando kept her characteristic style of using ‘self’ as a medium of performance, exploring the creative space that was generated from merging personal experience with actual reality.

In 2016, Rumando was invited to participate in the Tate Modern ‘Performing for the Camera’ exhibition, in which twenty of her works from the series ‘Orphée’ were displayed. The exhibition explored the relationship between two forms --- ‘how performance artists use photography’ and ‘how photography is in itself a performance’. Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Masahisa Fukase, Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke were some of the artists whose works were introduced in this exhibition. The selection encompassed vintage prints, large scale works, marketing posters and Instagrammed photos. Simon Baker, curator of this exhibition, selected Rumando as one of the five key artists, commending that Rumando, by means of using her own body as a medium, presented to viewers fantasies that were free from clichés of erotic photography.

When one observes Rumando’s current works, it is not difficult to see that she possesses qualities of a performing artist, whose stage has extended from the art of photography, blending in elements of directing, set design, hair and make-up, role play, as well as the careful arrangement of still and moving images.


For the series ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’ published in 2012, Tokyo Rumando took solo adventures in Tokyo, exploring old style love hotels in Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Uguisudani (Yoshiwara) districts. This prompted her to name her series after pricing signboards commonly found in those places which say ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’. These outmoded love hotels often have obscure entrances hidden in the alleyways (Uramichi in Japanese), away from the main boulevards --- a highly unique cityscape in metropolitan Japan. In recent years, however, these structures were gradually replaced by modern and hip hotels. Love hotels belonging to previous generations, known for their distinctive interior décor and amenities, are becoming rare finds. This series of photos comprised of street scenes Rumando captured while making her way to these hotels, snaps she shot in the hotel and selfies she took in the room. Depending on the setting, Rumando put up different disguises, postures and characters, as if she were being watched, or just enjoying the pleasure by herself; views and gazes from various points of departure intertwined in this series of images.

In the series ‘Orphée’ published in 2014, the mirror was defined as a boundary between in and out, past and present, fiction and reality, while Rumando exists as a carrier who shuttles in-between. Rumando explained in one of the interviews, “At first, I named this series “Projection⇔Introduction”. When I was thinking about how I could look back into the past, I was shaping my inner self again, projecting it on a picture and once again reintroducing it to myself. Rather than looking for and finding something, I’d say it was more like receiving and accepting something. In conclusion, I think this is something anyone would do subconsciously and repeatedly, an endless loop, if a person would like to go on living."

In 2017, Tokyo Rumando presented ‘selfpoloaroids’ in the form of a publication (Publisher: Zen Foto Gallery, Designer: Koichi Ino). Designed as a box set, this limited edition contains a vacuum-sealed pack of the artist’s personal belongings, coloured polaroid selfies and one booklet of Rumando’s Peel Apart series. Ever since Rumando started with photography in 2005, she has been using polaroids as a tool to test-shoot herself. The instant development of polaroids stands in stark contrast to the photography style in ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’ and ‘Orphée’. Immediacy, snapshots and the artist’s personal belongings impart a spontaneous and uncomplicated style to the series, which better aligned with Rumando’s creative state of mind during that particular time.

In her latest series ‘S’, the recurring medium of expression is still ‘self’, but in comparison to the artist’s previous works, the amount of information has increased substantially and appear to be more abstract. It is worth noting that there are more consecutive images presented in this series, which enhanced the flow from one image to the other. Original prints from the artists were printed on coarse Warabanshi paper, which was subsequently applied with wax by the artist herself. The images are thus bestowed with a particular odour and hand-feel; when viewed on a lightbox, the semi-translucent images are in a yellowish hue, obscuring the actual time when they were taken.

Initially when Tokyo Rumando brought us her edited original prints, the sequence of images began with a main entrance leading to the living quarters with someone’s shadow behind it, then it took the viewer into the foyer, and thereafter, a third dimension that is both virtual and real. In this very dimension, actual and real objects constitute the set and environment, yet the happenings hint at some sort of scripted stories, and perhaps a documented reality show.

This feeling immediately brought to my mind a theatrical space: as audience, we sit in darkness, watch as the curtains are raised and different scenes are being performed. The audience, each with a different upbringing and background, are nonetheless watching the same performance in the same place. The same scene conjure up different thoughts in different people, and these people are touched by different scenes. Yet, it does not change the fact that they are watching the same piece of work constructed by a certain director, playwright, performers, stage designer, etc. Perhaps it is adapted from a real story, or it could be purely fictional. Theatre is likened to life, and life to theatre; it is experienced and realized by each viewer in their own way. That was the reason I wanted to use an ‘open’ format for this photo book since the very beginning, incorporating theatrical elements to the its design.

Open Experience in a Theatrical Box

During the process of sequencing and layout, I deliberately selected a couple of images which I called ‘advance’ (this refers to the mechanism of moving a film spool from one frame to the next by rotating the advance lever). They help to bring about a sense of continuity, not only in time, but also in between scenes, so as to echo the sense of movement in this series of images.

To further exemplify the originality of Tokyo Rumando’s work, the size of the book is very similar the actual size of her prints (155 x 230mm), and it was also decided by the entire editing team that b7 baruki(b7 bulky), a paper with considerable weight and hand-feel, would be used for printing. This paper is characterized by an uneven coating on its surface, which gives a slight luster when ink is printed on it. To our surprise, while printing this series, we discovered that the unevenness gave rise to a texture that glows just like waxed paper.

As for the fore edge, we opted to ink them by hand. We are very grateful to Mrs. Shimizu from LIVE ART BOOKS printer for the numerous testing she performed during the prototype production phase. Since b7 baruki paper is highly absorbent, spray-painting or silkscreen is commonly used for fore edge painting, neither of such methods was used for this book. Spray-painting may cause ink to seep into individual pages, and even though silkscreen delivers a much more consistent and fine result, it commands a higher cost and disrupts the visual coherence rendered by other elements.

All images were printed in landscape format, so readers have to flip through the book horizontally, which is not the easiest way to read a book. If you want to look at each image in detail, it will take more effort, turning one page at a time. This idea of flipping pages was inspired by Kamishibai, a form of street theatre in Japan where stories are told by illustration boards. Similar in concept, there is a scene in every page, and the story unfolds image by image. Although this is slightly troublesome, it ensures a sense of time and sequence when an image goes from one to the next. At the same time, this publication is still a binded book one can flip through quickly to see a series of rolling images. This offers the readers two divergent ways to read the same book.

This idea precipitated in another, which was to pack this story in an outer slip case. While we were discussing the design of the book case, Tokyo Rumando showed me a set of photos that was originally photographed in monochrome and later edited with an iridescent ‘Mirror Ball’ effect. As a matter of fact, glossy silver paper was selected for the covers of both ‘Rest 3000~ Stay 5000~’ and ‘Orphée’, and we have once again decided to go with paper in silver tone in order to preserve the same style, but this time we opted for holographic paper that changes to rainbow colours with light. This not only reverts the images to their original coloured version, but also echoes with the artist’s intent. (Below left: image provided by Tokyo Rumando; below right: how the paper changes colour with sunlight)

What really troubled me was the way one enters the theatrical space of ‘S’.

My original plan was to use ‘Place of entry’ as the book cover → ‘Entrance of living quarters’ → ‘foyer’ of a living space → ‘dimension’ in between virtuality and reality → ‘Place of entry’ → ‘dimension’ in between virtuality and reality → ending with ‘Performance is live’ and ‘Place of entry’, ‘Entrance of living quarters’ as the back cover.

Since the very beginning, the idea was an ‘open’ invitation to the audience, inviting them into the space to view Rumando’s works as a performance; it was our intention to minimize any direction given by the design of the book. After a lot of consideration, taking into account the original sequencing of the artist herself, I revised the cover, ending and back cover to the following:

‘Place of entry’ as the book cover → ‘Entrance of living quarters’ → ‘foyer’ of a living space → ‘dimension’ in between virtuality and reality → ‘Place of entry’ → ‘dimension’ in between virtuality and reality → ending with ‘Performance is live’ and ‘Entrance of living quarters’, ‘Place of entry’ as the back cover.

This allows readers to start from either end of the book —— it is free and open for admission.



The passing of time is represented by how sand flows from one glass container to another glass container through a narrow passage.


In this performance ‘S’, presented by Tokyo Rumando to her audience, whether it was the definition of her character in story-telling, or the post-production phase of editing and printing, Rumando demonstrated an advanced level of refinement. Compared to her previous works, where images were mostly staged and she adopted a more rigid and direct narrative style, ‘S’ presents a richer and more dynamic narration between images.

Tokyo Rumando used herself to connect actual settings in reality with dimension of her own creation, presenting in the process her artistic abilities to scriptwrite, direct, interpret and perform. The design of this book, curated as a paper publication, intends to echo Rumando’s work and to serve as extended reading to the gallery exhibition. It offers audience an alternative way to enter the theatre of ‘S’, giving them absolute freedom when it comes to viewing and admission.




In 2003, I boarded a Shinkansen from Tokyo for a ride of 3 hours. I arrived at a small theatre in the countryside. A middle-aged man led me hospitably into a tiny backstage. As long as it’s a woman, anyone can, he remarked. I am always alone. Client is also alone. Once the music starts to play, under the beautiful limelight, S only smiles for you.

―Tokyo Rumando


Tokyo Rumando|Tokyo Rumando was born in 1980 in Tokyo. While working as a model for movies and magazines, she began shooting photographs in 2005. Self-taught, she mainly photographs her self-nude portraits and portraits of Rakugo artists. Her series “Orphee” has been presented in a group exhibition “Performing for the Camera” at Tate Modern (London, 2016). Her solo exhibitions include, ”I’m only happy when I’m naked” Ibasho Gallery (Antwerp, 2018); Taka Ishii Gallery Photography Paris (2016), “Orphée” TokyoLightRoom; Place M; Zen Foto Gallery (Tokyo, 2014), “REST 3000~ STAY 5000~,” Zen Foto Gallery (2012), “Hotel Life,” Place M (Tokyo, 2012). Her photobooks include selfpolaroids (Zen Foto Gallery, 2017), Orphée (Zen Foto Gallery, 2014) and REST 3000~ STAY 5000~ (Zen Foto Gallery, 2012). Her works are included in the collection of Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts. (


Tokyo Rumando 'S'



Binding:PUR, Slipcase


Paper:Coated paper b7 bulky, high-bulk. b7 バルキー(菊判Y目62.5kg)|ダブルトーン

Title page:ハーレムブラック(四六判Y目70kg)

Slipcase:五條製紙 SPECIALITIES 20 ホログラムNo.713|壓線、1c+ニス

Other: 書口刷黑





Tokyo Rumando "S"|Time Out Japan

English translated by Louisa Chan

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