“Living Creatures Sci-Fi” Series
Up to now, I have made many films with living creatures. Among them, there is a large number dealing with crabs. I also filmed hermit crabs, spiders, frogs, pigeons and cows. I shot the footage at various locations, including private homes, hotels and cars. “Guests from the Riverside” is the most recent work of the “Living Creatures Sci-Fi” Series. I now show a single-channel version, but in an exhibition I usually present it as an installation with three monitors. The structure of the series is persistent, all films depict the relation between me as an director, the camera and the animals. When exhibiting the work, “me”, “the camera”, and “the crabs” were presented each on a separate monitor. What I wanted to explore in this series, is the borderline between humans and animals, and furthermore reflect the question of “otherness”.
The relation of mutual love between “crabs” and “the camera”
I believe, this film was not created by myself, but by the camera. It was also not myself, who chose the crabs as a subject, but the camera. Please try to remember the shape of a crab. Do you remember it? The shape of a crab exactly matches the format of 16:9. It perfectly fits with the standard of a high-vision camera.
A crab, seen in its full size, is the living creature that looks most photogenic, it perfectly fits with the camera. I have filmed many other living creatures, and I am quite confident, that the crab is the very best subject for the camera. And besides, I understood, that the camera also has an important meaning for the crabs. When I film crabs, I recognize, that for some reason they gather and pose in front of the camera. It’s strange.This is maybe, because the camera for the crabs has the perfectly right size. It has a shape, which is perfect for the crabs to hide behind it. the camera makes them feel safe or comfortable. You can say, that the crabs and the camera are in love and love each other.
The “crabs” control “myself”
A high-vision camera can represent the crabs in a resolution that is beyond the capacity of the human eye. It is fascinating to slip down the cheek of a crab, or to view the water cycle of their branchial respiration. For a human being like me, small creatures like the crabs are a subject of observation. This is not an equal power balance. But, the overwhelming presence of the crabs, which is triggered by the camera, in me even evokes a feeling of awe towards the crabs. I recognized, that in this moment, I do not watch the crabs, but they watch me. I witnessed, that places for humans such as private houses or hotels, change their meaning, if they become places for the crabs. Like Godzilla destroying the city, the crabs destroyed the meanings created by humans. When I stayed at a hotel for one night in order to shoot the crabs, my thought became completely dominated by the crabs – a condition that continued the following day as well. By this, I gained a feeling of being deeply connected to the crabs. And, by continuously filming crabs, I started to understand the motivations of the crabs and the patterns of their movements. Now, I am basically able to control the movements of the crabs in front of the camera. This is not a lie. It is possible by carefully considering the position of objects in a space, the wind direction and the position of the water sources close by.
But still I cannot say, this led me to an understanding of the crabs as such. The closer I get to them, the more they exceed my understanding. The important point is, I undergo a process of change through observing the crabs with the camera. I wish to reflect on the force, which generates this change. If the presence of “myself” was reclusive, my own cosmos would be unalterable, change would definitely not occur. My ability, to control the crabs, at the first glance does not seem to have any meaning for the human society. But I think, an impulse from “the other” encouraged me to gain this ability.
The relation to the crabs
I am often being asked, what happens to the animals, after my film shooting is over. Basically, I return them to their original place. My basic rule is “catch and release”. I also often hear the opinion, that for the animals it would be better, not to disturb them and to not use them in my films. I do not agree with that. Of course, to harm other living creatures directly, is violence. But, there is another kind of violence, which is much stronger. That is the violence of ignorance.
It often happens, that you harm a lot of things and do not even recognize it. The shore of the Tamagawa River, where the crabs are living, marked high radioactivity after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. And, prior to that, due to industrial pollution of the environment, the situation happened to be even worse. The crabs are survivors of these circumstances.
We should get to know, under which circumstances they live. We should learn, how to treat them in order not to harm them. And we should let other people know, the crabs live in this area. It is necessary, we continually reflect about the relationship between us and the crabs on top of that.
“The Spacecraft Diaries” Series
During the work on my films, I recognized, that screenings at film theatres or exhibitions in galleries formed the premise of my filming. But, I rather felt the wish to put filmmaking a part of my daily life. This series is generally released on YouTube. I document different situations of my daily life with my iPhone and edit one film to a length of about 3 minutes and present them as a series. I started to work on this series in 2013. At the present point in time, it contains 70 films.
My first motivation to start my own project with an iPhone, besides the idea, that I wanted to make film a part of my daily life, was, the iPhone allows me to shoot other persons more closely. When the device becomes smaller, people lose the awareness of the camera. It then becomes possible to shoot their natural expressions. Up to now, 8mm film cameras and small video cameras were available, but the iPhone is more effective, as many more people use it in their daily life. When I continue filming in everyday life, not the image I myself wanted to shoot, but a shape of myself, I have not been knowing so far, becomes visible. When I watch the material, I filmed, afterwards, I am often surprised about the results that can differ much from what I had in mind before I started the shooting. This is a re-discovery of myself. I understood, that “the self” is defined through various relations to other persons and things which are permanently changing.
“Earth Film” Series
This is also made for the release on YouTube. The film presents three elements, “myself”, “the camera” and “the earth”. As I shot it alone, in the most cases I used a tripod or a gorilla pod. “Earth Film”, as the title says, takes the earth as a motif.
When I walked the forest all alone, I sometimes had the feeling of being watched. Maybe most of you have also experienced this kind of feeling.
In these moments, I had a strong sense of consistency, when I put the camera into the direction of the “watcher”. Not I shot the forest, but the forest shot me. That is what I felt. In the middle of the forest, I did not need to be ‘myself’. When I lost my way in the forest, I could determine my route by speaking to the trees, dear, lava, insects and myself of the past and future. All kinds of nameless landmarks would tell me the right way. By continuing the shooting process in that way, it became vague, where exactly I was and in which era. I felt, that my own contours were disappearing.
When I switch on the camera, and walk back and fro in front of the camera, this is not a situation, I show to somebody, who is alive today, but it will gain its significance in a world far in the future. For example, when humans cannot live on the earth any more after a great disaster or environmental destruction, people who have already forgotten about the earth, can get to know by seeing this film, what the earth was.
“Earth Film” takes the earth as its motif. And, it uses a tripod. Through the use of the tripod I create a situation, in which not the human body, but the earth itself holds the camera. The earth watches the world through the camera. The motif of the earth, the use of a tripod and the film shooting. These simple principles define the condition of my “Earth Film”.
The camera and the labyrinth of the forest
There is a term called “meta-fiction”. It stands for a fiction within another fiction, a telescopic structure. The classic example is a film that shows its own film crew and how their actions affect the content of the film. You can also describe it as a fiction, which reflects its own fictional character. In my films, I also sometimes show the camera, which creates the structure of a meta-fiction. This generates, apart from “myself”, who is on the film and “you” (the viewer), the perspective of an overview. I believe, this is the perspective of the camera as such.
This “Earth film” is shot with two cameras. When the camera is shown on the film, another camera actually shot this camera. This loop-structure does neither have an entrance nor an exit. In this film, the perspective eternally wanders the labyrinth of the cameras.
The forest has the same structure. In the same way, it neither has an entrance nor an exit. This is not just a metaphor. Let’s try to watch the forest from a distance and point at it with a finger, identifying it as “the forest”.
But, when you trace the fingertip, you might find yourself pointing at the vein of a tree leaf or a piece of moss sticking to a rock. In the middle of the forest, a similar structure is repeating itself, and you cannot define clearly, what is inside and what is outside. Even if you try to define the forest as a whole, your perspective will eternally float in the forest. When the camera shoots the forest, the camera becomes a part of the forest. However far you go, you will not be able to grasp the whole structure. The forest and the camera are in the same way self-referential and have no inside and no outside.
“Myself” x “the camera” x “X”
You have so far watched three works, “Living Creatures Sci-Fi”, “The Spacecraft Diaries” and “Earth Film”. All three series deal with the the relation between “myself”, “the camera” and “something”. This “something” can be crabs or the forest. Let’s name it “X”. Every time “X” is matched with an additional element, I am guided by this element and undergo a change. If “X” is “the crabs”, I will take the place of a crab, and if “X” is the forest, I will take the place of “the forest”.
When I work on my films, I always imagine myself being filmed. If you take such kind of perspective, you understand, you are a part of a system of relations. In my films, I am moved by the relation of “myself”, “the camera” and “X”.
In my films, there is no need for the presence of “myself”. Important is the network of relations. “My self” is not determined and can be replaced by something else. In this relational axis, I can become a crab or the forest. Or I can become the camera. I am “X”, which reflects another “X”.
What I consider as film, is the relationship between X1, X2, X3…Xn, which are centered on the camera. I would like to call this network “film ecology”. The film ecology is similar to the ecology of the forest. If you do not understand this ecology, you will not understand “the self”. The self is this ecosystem as such.