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 (Dec. 14 – 16, 2007 at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse No.1)
Direction/Lighting Design: Takayuki Fujimoto
Choreography/Dance: Tsuyoshi Shirai
Choreography/Text/Dance: Takao Kawaguchi
Photo by Yohta Kataoka
Presented by Dumb Type office, Hi Wood
NTT Inter Communication Center: A culture facility run by NTT Eastern Japan that was launched as a commemorative venture celebrating the 100th anniversary of Japan’s telephone industry (1990) and opened in the Opera City Tower building in Nish-Shinjuku, Tokyo, in April 1997. Its programs include themed exhibitions of media art works using the latest digital technology such as virtual reality and interactive technology, workshops and the like.
T: The work true was created during a roughly one-month residence at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM). A facility like YCAM where artists can work on multimedia works in and artist in residence type of environment or educational facilities like the Gifu Prefectural Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences and International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS) were unimaginable at the time Dumb Type was starting out.

F: YCAM is a facility the Dumb Type and the Tokyo multimedia art base Canon Art Lab (now defunct) were involved in from the planning stage. Until then, Dumb Type had primarily done its creative work overseas and I had long wondered why there wasn’t a place in Japan where multimedia works could be created. So, I proposed to them that they make this a facility equipped for multimedia creation. There were already a number of highly skilled technical people there and part of the reason I chose to create Refined Colors, path and true there at YCAM was to work with them in the actual process of creating works using technology.

T: Are there any other facilities besides YCAM where multimedia artists can work in an artist-in-residence type situation.

F: I don’t think there are any places besides YCAM in Japan, but then again there aren’t many such places any where in the world. In Germany there is ZKM: Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and in Rotterdam there is V2. In the case of V2 the orientation is toward installation type works rather than performance, however. So, in this sense, YCAM is a unique and important facility from a global perspective. By the way, a well-known festival that also functions in this way is the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz.

T: In terms of nurturing media arts personnel, IAMAS has become an essential organization. Most of the creators like Manabe-san who collaborated in the creation of true were educated at IAMAS, weren’t they.

F: I personally have not been especially conscious of IAMAS, but the fact that it is the only institution of its type means that of necessity most of the people in the field have been educated there at some point. When you look at the profiles of the Japanese artists who have won awards at the Arts Electronica Festival, you find that most of them are from IAMAS. However, these creators usually become active in the commercial field I believe.

T: It has been 13 years since IAMAS was launched, but is seems unfortunate to me that the uniquely skilled people coming out of its program are not helping to bring new forms of expression to the performing arts in most cases.

F: Yes. And the reason that not enough use being made of their skills is actually a problem originating with the people in the performing arts, I believe. I would like to see the people in the performing arts become more open to media art. It puzzles me why most people in the performing arts take an attitude that media art doesn’t involve them.
  I don’t mean to be critical, but I see few lighting artists, for example, who are trying new things technically, and many are reluctant to try the new technical equipment that comes out. There seem to be few people who feel that the latest advances and technological breakthroughs will change the creative process and the works created. Also, in Japan it seems to me that there is division back stage that keeps the lighting artist only a lighting artists and the set designer only a set designer. The directing type work is done only be the dancers and performers and directors. But, I believe that the path should be open for people working backstage like the lighting and set people to start their own companies, create works and become artists in their own right.
 Since we don’t have that, the only way new forms of expression based on new technologies usually come into use is when a performer of director happens to see it used in someone else’s work and decides it would be interesting to try. And then it becomes no more than a simple process on the level of a dancer hearing the music of Ryoji Ikeda, deciding they’d like to dance to it and then going out and buying one of his CDs. Of course, I think that an approach like Dumb Type’s is a rare exception to the rule.
 Since there are a good number of people who have been trained in the latest technologies, I think it would be good if places like YCAM or ICC (*) would take the initiative sometimes to hook up technical people who are doing interesting work and performers and have them create collaborative works. I believe that would lead to some interesting results.

T: Finally I would like to ask you what you see in the future for theater lighting. LED lighting has a lot of excellent qualities including the fact that you can change colors easily, the lights have a long life span and they use less electricity. Do you think more and more theaters will go to LED lighting?

F: At first I had the vague idea that it would be good if theaters went to LED lighting, but since Japan’s theaters already have full lighting systems, I have come to realize that it would be difficult to change those systems entirely to LED. If LED lighting is introduced, I think it will be in a limited way, such only for replacing the horizon lights.
 Rather than seeing LED replace the existing theater lighting, I think it would be more interesting to see people using, say, some 10 LED lamps and a computer along with your basic sound environment to create works for different kinds of spaces of viable sizes. There are many things that LED lighting can’t do, but in the realm of expanding the possibilities for use of spaces that don’t have the stage infrastructure, I believe that using LED can be very effective. And personally, I feel that rather than viewing LED as an innovation in lighting equipment, I am more interested in working on exploring the possibilities of LED as a tool of expression in various types of projects.

T: Do you have any new projects in the making?

F: Although there are no specific plans yet, I want to do a project with the Lebanese artist Rabih Mroue. It’s quite a simple idea, but I have done projects with dance and with concerts, so next I would like to do something in theater, with Rabih (laughs).
 I have been touring overseas for years now and that experience has made me strongly aware of the language barrier that you encounter in theater. That has made me wish that I could help create theater works, if only on a small scale, where you would not feel the absolute barrier of language. But I still have no idea how to go about doing that.
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