Rumi Ando, Tokyo Laid Bare

Where have the indicators of modern, vibrant urban life gone? In ‘Tokyo Nude’, the photographer reveals a dystopian universe.


WordsHenri Robert

© Rumi Ando

It’s a dense urban environment, a stack of cubes, boxes. Is it real, artificial? The scale is difficult to determine. It’s a modern, smooth metropolis, in pastel tones and with a blue sky. But something is missing. The photographs presented by Rumi Ando in the series Tokyo Nude are devoid of any trace of human life, but also of indications to suggest any kind of presence. These images of Tokyo contain no windows, adverts or aerials.

Created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic —which gave rise to images of empty, disturbing cities echoing those taken by the artist—, this series is composed of retouched, methodically ‘cleaned’ photographs; they offer a dystopian vision of urban life and its future.


The internet is the future of humanity

Born in 1985, Rumi Ando left the rural environment of Okayama prefecture behind for a life in Tokyo synonymous with density and liveliness. Her training as a painter influenced this work, as her compositions adopt certain conventions of Yamato-e, Japanese painting.

Over time, Tokyo has successfully adapted to social and societal evolutions, and the city has mutated constantly to meet its residents’ mobility, connection and consumption requirements. But is the future of the urban world destined for a form of sedentary existence inside apartments that nobody ever needs to leave any more? ‘The sense of community between people seems to be shifting to the Internet. A distant virtual connection may be much more important than a relationship with a neighbour [on the other side of] the wall. [The] virtual [has become] real, and [the] real is becoming virtual’, the artist reflects.

Through these photographs, these confrontations with the city, Rumi Ando questions the viewer. Should we be concerned about an urban future that could lead to self-imposed social distance, or rather only see the serene, peaceful dimension that emanates from these photographs?


Tokyo Nude (2020), a series of photographs by Rumi Ando published by Toka Publishing House.

© Rumi Ando

© Rumi Ando

© Rumi Ando