03 March 2009

Film of the Sea (海の映画, 2007)

Takashi Ishida (石田尚志, b.1972) is an abstract animation and installation artist in the vein of Norman McLaren, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, and Mary Ellen Bute. Not only is Ishida on the cutting edge of the contemporary Japanese art film and installation scene, but he has also made waves internationally with his work. He has most recently been spending a lot of time in Canada where he has done screenings of his works in Toronto at Trinity Square Video and Cinématheque Ontario. His work is currently included in a Projection Series at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal which runs until March 29th.

Aurora included Ishida’s 2007 Umi no Eiga (海の映画/Film of the Sea, mini-DV, 12 min.) in its recent DVD collection of the best works from their 2008 festival. Other artists featured on the DVD include Sophie Michael (UK), Vanessa O’Neill (USA), Chris Kennedy (USA/Canada), Samantha Rebello (UK), Lin de Mol (Netherlands), Charlotte Pryce (USA), Sara MacLean (Canada), Yeon Jeong Kim (South Korea), Philippe Gerlach (Austria), and Stefan Kushima (Austria).

Umi no Eiga was created over a period of four months at the Yokohama Museum of Art. The initially plain white room of the art gallery plays a significant role in the making of meaning in the film. A lone film projector has been placed in the room and it projects a seascape image centrally on the wall in the same position at which a painting would be hung. Then, however, Ishida blurs the boundaries between projected film and traditional art gallery space by using stop motion to create the effect of blue paint flowing out of the projected image of the sea, continuing down the wall and flooding out onto the floor of the gallery.

The film then follows a pattern of creating and erasing oppositions: negative versus positive space, inside versus outside, light versus dark, blue (or black) versus white, movement versus stasis, sound versus silence, consonance versus dissonance, and so on. The animation of the room full of swirling waves of paint, and then its erasure again mimics the perpetual flowing of the tide in and out on the beach. The result is truly mesmerizing.

The metaphor of the sea is complex in the multitude of ways in which it can be interpreted. The sea is a symbol of constancy, with the waves rolling in and back out again, and yet the sea is also ever-changing as the waves never form themselves in the same pattern twice. Ishida’s sea can be seen as a metaphor for Ishida’s stop motion art itself which can never be reproduced in exactly the same fashion. The process of making the film also resulted in multiple ways of ‘seeing’ or experiencing the art process, including an installation version called Wall of the Sea (海の壁 -生成する庭) with three synchronized screens. On his website, Ishida describes the installation as follows:

In this installation, three different images which were shot in the same room are projected by three projectors. The one image is various retakes of the images of the sea which projected by a film projector put in a room, and another two images are the images of the drawing animations expanded to the room. Originally, the image which was made by projecting from the projector in the rectangle is "the right Film", but, in this work, images spread from the rectangle to the whole of the room by a large quantity of paint. Occasionally the screen fell down and was flooded and sank in a room. This work is an experiment to expand the image from the structure of the film. Then through those variations of many results, this work will try to let audiences regard "what is the image".

Ishida seems particularly concerned with the fluidity shape, surfaces, frames, and boundaries in his oeuvre. Shapes and surfaces are there to be manipulated, while frames and boundaries are meant to be crossed. In particular, Ishida blurs the boundaries between genres with his work using elements from film, painting, performance, and sculpture. Keep an eye on Ishida's news updates here to see if his work might soon be featuring at a gallery, cinématheque, or festival near you.

Thinking and Drawing / Animation

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009