David Favrod: Gaijin Omoide Poroporo Hikari

__Gaijin is a Japanese word meaning ‘foreigner’.

My name is David Takashi Favrod. I was born on 2 July 1982 in Kobe, to a Japanese mother and a Swiss father.

When I was 6 months old, my parents decided to come and live in Switzerland, more precisely in Vionnaz, a little village in lower Valais. As my father had to travel for his work a lot, I was mainly brought up by my mother, who taught me her principles and her culture.

When I was 18, I asked for dual nationality at the Japanese embassy, but they refused because it is only given to Japanese women who wish to obtain their husband’s nationality.

It is from this feeling of rejection and also from a desire to prove that I am as Japanese as I am Swiss that this work was created. ‘Gaijin’ is a fictional recital, a tool in my quest for identity, where self-portraits imply an intimate and solitary relationship that I have with myself. The mirror image is frozen in a figurative alter ego that serves as an anchor point.

The aim of this work is to create ‘my own Japan’, in Switzerland, from memories of my journeys when I was small, from my mother’s stories, from popular and traditional culture and from my grandparents’ war recitals.

__Omoide Poroporo is a Japanese expression meaning ‘memories like falling rain’.

I usually find it hard to speak talk about myself. I always stumble into the paradoxes of ‘«who am I ?’».

In terms of factual information, I must surely appear to be the most well- informed person about my own self. But as soon as I need to communicate talk about who I am, I tend to do it through filters, selecting what I want to communicate, and how I wish to do it, in accordance with my interests and sensitivity.

So what can be the objective value of the way that I picture my family and my life ? How much does it concretely relates to reality or not ?

__Hikari is a Japanese word meaning ‘the light’.

This work represents my compulsion to build and shape my own memory. To reconstitute some facts I haven’t experienced myself, but which have unconsciously influenced me while growing up.

My grandparents witnessed the war; survivors who finally passed away and whose memories will soon be a part of history.

Only once did we speak about their experiences during the war. They told me how illness can take away your sisters,; the shame,; the relief after the war,; and the watermelons. But after that night, we never talked about it again. As It was as if my grandparents gave me their memories as a whisper through the air before allowing it to disappear from their minds.

I would say that I somehow borrowed their memories. I use their stories as a source of inspiration for my own testimony.

Press release

This publication brings together a tripartite series by Swiss-Japanese artist David Favrod in which he examines and invents his binational identity. The three elements of the series are Gaijin (Japanese for foreigner), Omoide Poroporo (a Japanese expression meaning ‘memories like falling rain’) and Hikari (which means light). As an 18-year-old man Favrod, whose mother is Japanese, requested Japanese dual nationality but did not meet the bureaucratic requirements. Since then, through his photographic practice, he has staged his own Japan in Switzerland in the series Gaijin; considered his own identity, and the challenge of objective self-portrayal, in Omoide Poroporo; and reflected on how other people’s memories, particularly family memories, influenced him in Hikari. The works are a mixture of found images, documentary and staged shots, and digitally reworked and collaged files.

Japanese cultural keystones are known the world over, though when replayed at a distance they can tip into stereotype or cliché. Among the forms and practices that have travelled beyond the islands of Japan are Kabuki theatre, judo, cherry blossom and Godzilla. Meanwhile Switzerland’s Alpine views are sought out by Japanese tourists – while the West sent the atomic bombs to Japan whose catastrophic effects were felt by Favrod’s grandparents. These tropes, and others, appear in the book, an intermingling of all three series in which imitation, humour, melancholy and celebration meet. Favrod employs a variety of visual tools to make images foreign, or familiar, or makes them conform to different aesthetic codes.

Favrod’s works are presented with their titles across the image, akin to film subtitles, another echo of culture in translation. At the back of the book, supplementary information regarding the images is printed in reverse; it can be read through the page, echoing what is called ‘Japanese binding’ where the paper front edges remain closed.


David Favrod

Published by Kodoji Press


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