The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
The world of Takayuki Fujimoto, a lighting artist at the forefront in Japan’s multimedia performance scene
The world of Takayuki Fujimoto, a lighting artist at the forefront in Japan’s multimedia performance scene
true (Sep. 1 at Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM] Studio B)
Direction/Lighting Design: Takayuki Fujimoto (Dumb Type)
Choreography/Dance: Tsuyoshi Shirai (AbsT/baneto)
Choreography/Text/Dance: Takao Kawaguchi (Dumb Type)
Photo by Ryuichi Maruo
Presented by Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]
K: The first work that you did the lighting plan for, OR was also the first Dumb Type work that I participated in as a performer. The symbolic use of pure white strobe light against a pure white wall was so blinding that I experienced complete “white-out.” I was supposed to run at full speed across the stage when the light was white and the instant I stopped there was complete blackout. And when the strobe started I was supposed to run again. The effect of that lighting caused me to completely lose my sense of direction and distance, and I ended up bumping into the walls again and again. It was really a frightening experience.

F: When I was working on S/N I found a strobe that operated with DMX 512 (a protocol for stage lighting fixture control) controller called Dataflash, which enabled you to control both the brightness and speed. It looked interesting and I got the idea that I’d like to try working with it. In OR I used that strobe, HMI and HID lamps and did the work with the whiteout phenomenon (the phenomenon in which the entire field of vision becomes white, thus causing the loss of any sense of direction) as a theme.
 Furuhashi had died and we in Dumb Type were trying to deal with that reality, so it was a time when I was thinking a lot about the border between life and death and this work came out of discussions we were having within the group about this subject. As we were working on this piece we were talking about things like the point at which everything becomes white and you can’t see anything, or the border of existence where you don’t know whether you are alive or dead.
 After working on OR in a process that was mainly trial and error, I found motivation to work seriously in lighting. The stage lighting scene in Japan was, in a way, behind the times back then. Because the theaters were fully equipped for lighting, that seemed to have the reverse effect of keeping new things from coming in. In visuals and video the technology was rapidly progressing and at the time we were doing OR it was already commonplace to be using SMPTE to synchronize visuals and music with simultaneous signals. But for a long time that wasn’t happening in lighting, so everything had to be operated and adjusted by hand.
 With OR, however, Ryoji Ikeda joined as a musician and I was able to insert “doom” sounds in the soundtrack as trigger sounds and use a device to have the lighting operated from those triggers and integrate it with sound and Dataflash. The number of patterns were limited, and the lights other than the strobes had to be operated manually, but I was finally able to get the lighting to operate automatically in synch with the sound in that way, which was rewarding for me.

K: In OR there are many scenes where the lights are flashing on and off so fast that it is at the boundary of what the eye can detect. I felt that I was seeing that limit of the eye to discern flashes.

F: In fact a florescent light flashes but it is just too fast for the human eye to detect. ON and OFF—every moment things are beginning and ending, things are born and end—despite this constant repetition, in our minds we perceive it as a continuous flow of time. Something like the ON/OFF of lighting can connect to themes like the gray zone between life and death or to what degree the things that you think are you are really you.
 So, whether light is flashing rapidly or whether it crosses the boundary of perceptibility and becomes pure white, and in Ikeda’s case it can be a case of looking for the boundary between sound that is heard with the ears and sound that is felt with the body. The search for such boundaries became a sub-theme running through OR.

Tsuboike: What kinds of collaborative work went on in OR? When Furuhashi-san was alive he did the overall directing, so it must difficult after he died.

F: Takatani assumed a central role, and since there was already sort of a heritage in terms of how works were created, everyone would gather in the office as we had always done and talked things out freely. In that way we got a shared sense of the thematic substance and then moved forward with an attitude of bring every idea that came out of the discussions to the stage. The result of that process was about a two-hour work, which was too long. So, we talked again that night and by the next day we had it down to about 40 minutes (laughs). If you think about it that way, it probably sounds like a pretty unstable creative process.

K: And the ideas and images for the work came not only from the technical team but also in good numbers from the performers as well. That was something I experienced for the first time with OR; that feeling was that nothing ever got decided, but that was also a very interesting process.

F: When I first began working on the lighting for OR computers were becoming more user-friendly and we had access to world-class DMX consoles as control standard. And in that sense it was a great time to start out in the profession. Until then the patching method and controller format and standard differed by maker, which meant that everything had to be dealt with different controllers each time. But with the new systems, as long as you had a DMX console anything could be controlled, no matter what dimmer you connected it to.
 Prior to that, it was a matter of how much you knew about the programming methods for the different types of consoles or how skilled you were at raising a fader, but with the new digitalized technology the level of a technician’s experience mattered little and the playing field was suddenly leveled for everyone. In that sense I considered myself to be luck entering the profession at the time I did.
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