They are everywhere in Tokyo: security guards at construction sites. Come rain or shine, they are always there. Their perseverance is as absurd as it is admirable.
The age of teinen, the Japanese word for retirement, is 62. However, retiring in Japan does not mean the same thing as in Europe. Teinen marks the end of ‘lifetime employment’ but not a complete withdrawal from the labour force. This transitional arrangement is designed to free up jobs for younger workers.
What’s more, if you have spent your entire career working six days a week and most of your social life has revolved around work, retirement is akin to social isolation.
Visualising a small, everyday subject that examines a larger phenomenon is an approach that Simone Mudde and Olivier van Breugel have previously applied to projects such as McHotel (2012) and Between Screens (2014). Mono Men (2016) is a series of monumental videos about endlessness and boredom. The dedication with which the guards perform their monotonous work raises questions about the meaning and perception of time.
Mono Men premiered at BredaPhoto, in September of 2016.
In 2017 it showed at Prospects & Concepts, the yearly exhibition at Art Rotterdam organised by the Mondriaan Foundation for all the receivers of their Young Talent Fund.
Right now it's on show at the Benaki Museum in Athens, for the Athens Photo Festival in Greece.
Thanks for your help during the process:
Ran Kokubun, Aya Nakashima, Yumi Goto, Mitsuko Nagone, Alessandro Perini, Martina Cirese, Giovanni Coco-san and everyone at the RPS gallery in Tokyo.
David Stevens, Rob Willemsen, Piet Mudde and Het Raam.
Arthur Herrman, Aline Knip, Simon Burer, Jaap Scheeren, Felix van Breugel, Florian Braakman, Peter de Krom and Marijn Ottenhof.
Bas Vroege, Laura van Rijs, Agnes Wijers and Johan Deumens.
Mono Men is produced by Paradox, a not for profit organisation that develops projects around contemporary issues with documentary authors: photographers, filmmakers, visual artists, writers and researchers.