Artist Book: Kirin Quest

Artist Book based on an expedition around the East China Sea

The Kirin is a mythical creature with hybrid traits. It is a harbinger of peace, happiness and wisdom, protector of justice and described to have a dragon’s head, a dear or cow’s body and feet, enveloped in flames, varying in colour. This gentle being can be found in the stories and lore of many countries in East and Southeast Asia.

Taking Lewis Carroll’s non-sense poem The Hunting of the Snark as her travel guide Yuki Jungesblut set out to search for the Kirin around the East China Sea – from the East Coast of China to Japan, from the former Ryukyu Kingdom to Taiwan and Korea. YJ’s quest follows (in part) the ancient routes of the diplomatic missions between the states and kingdoms that preceded the nations of today acknowledging how trade relations and diplomatic missions brought new ideas, goods and technologies – in other words cultural exchange and growth. She reads and records traces and hints, texts and inscriptions in land- and in cityscapes, wandering between the human, the natural and the supernatural world. Thresholds, boundaries and ambivalences draw her attention and so YJ’s undertaking becomes an exploration of the intangible through the tangible, as well as of that what connects rather than that what divides.

The book Kirin Quest is a rendering of this endeavour and here the Kirin – similarly elusive as the Snark – becomes the Leitmotiv in a musical and thematic sense. Almost casually Kirin Quest deviates the story of the (traditionally) male explorer and conqueror to that of a searcher and reader based on a narration that also develops through the logic of collecting, weaving, annotating and connecting. Kirin Quest invites its readers on their own journey trusting them to bring their own curiosity and imagination.

An array of associations develops between images and texts. Full spread images are combined with smaller images, with found text, annotations and impressions, background information and musings. Like the being that is sought, Kirin Quest is hybrid in nature – part travelogue, part artist’s book, and in its leaning toward the photo roman possibly also regarding the idea of the photo book as in itself an expression of hybridity. And – so, in a way, Kirin Quest manifests a manifold dream, one of exploring and discovering the world without subjugating it, paying homage to a strange poem, the power of story telling, a belief in the potential of cultural exchange, whilst at the same time it is an attempt at sharing and rewriting a temporary utopia.

Part of the multi-level narration are an introduction by Bjørn Vedder and a free text by Horatio Clare. The book was designed by Katja Gretzinger and published by Fotohof edition. The project was supported by a stipend given by the Federal State of Berlin.

Preview of the Book (pages 1-137)

This book’s parent project Of Times and Tides so far consists of:

  • Landscapes and Legends (Installation and Books)

OF TIMES & TIDES celebrates our human quest for knowledge and understanding, as well as our pursuit of happiness. It ponders the interlinking of what we see as nature and culture, as foreign and familiar, our dream of travel, knowledge and adventure, the perception of time, of history and myths and most generally – human desire. Last but not least, it celebrates the feeling of enchanted wonder and the joy of exploration and discovery.


  • Yuki Jungesblut
  • Design: Studio Katja Gretzinger
  • Text: Horatio Clare, Björn Vedder
  • English/German
  • 16,3 x 23 cm, Softcover with poster, open thread binding, 420 pages, 181 images, 9/2021
  • ISBN 978-3-903334-22-9
  • FOTOHOF edition, Bd./ Vol. 322

Project Type

  • Exploratory
  • Photobased
  • Historical
  • Everyday
  • Referential