Interview with Shohei Fujimoto
Interviewed by Filippo Rosati, Umanesimo Artificiale
Light, time, and autonomy are recurring motifs in the research of Japanese multimedia artist Shohei Fujimoto.
Abstract in nature and minimalist in form, his works reveal to the viewer the elaborate and invisible systems that underlie our reality, making visible the powerful forces that shape our every moment. Often, he refers to code and the mathematical operations as the invisible markers that create form. Sculpting imagery not in a particular shape, but sculpting the mathematical operations behind the image to give shape.
Fujimoto’s work has been shown around the world, in galleries in Japan, Switzerland, Iran, Australia and the United States and at festivals including MUTEK.JP, New Media Castle and Berlin Atonal.
FR: Let’s start by talking about what is the underlying philosophy behind your work. SF: From a primitive perspective, I like to explore perceptual experiences of essential nature through attempts to concisely capture the data and facts behind phenomena and shapes, emphasize them, and complicate them. Light, time and autonomy are the motifs of the work. Everything is coded and serves as a component of the exploration process. Often I call code and math operations invisible markers that generate shapes. When these are properly constructed, it becomes a protocol that connects the viewer and the work. Instead of sculpting an image in a specific way, I emphasize the data contained in the mathematical operations behind the image from a more primitive perspective and generate a new image. In other words, it is an attempt to concisely capture the pure data and facts that the base image originally has, complicate them, and find a different perspective. The purpose is to explore the essential space, the visual experience, and the means of creating my art. There is a perceptual experience with new properties, where minimal and organic (wild) properties overlap.
FR: In your work you rely heavily on mathematics. What makes math and science beautiful to you? SF: I’m interested in exploring the data contained in the structure of objects and phenomena (in other words, the essential data). A mathematical approach is important when analysing and reconstructing structures. Even when doing simple calculations, there are countless ways to get to the results. Exploring a combination of these means and combining the properties of each will produce complex results. I think that this process creates an essential depth in space and phenomena.
FR: The output of your research is audiovisual installations and videos. However, you are not a sound artist. How is the process of collaborating with a sound artist? SF: Collaborating with sound artists is a precious time that provides me with contact with them and at the same time makes me aware of the existence of different perspectives. When I make something, after getting my concept understood, I ask them to create an image of the sound while providing the visuals. Sounds vary depending on the amount of water in the skin and body, as well as the state of health. It is an exciting time to share each perspective on the perception that this mutation gives the viewer.
FR: Lasers, flickering visuals, geometric graphics and strong sounds. What are you expecting the audience to feel when they are in front of one of your installations?
SF: I have the image that each artwork has a protocol for dialogue with the audiences and quietly welcomes the audiences. If you can give the wild and life consciousness and behaviour to artwork in front of you, it will be an opportunity to view your own universal sense objectively.
FR: What is your relationship with (new) technologies? Is it the technology that influences Shohei Fujimoto or is it Shohei Fujimoto that leads the technology? SF: I'm influenced by technology. Technology is not a just tool, but an important part of my thought process.
FR: And what tools/software do you mostly use?
SF: I've been using openframeworks for about 10 years. In my case, I didn't scrutinise which programming to use, but I chose openframeworks because the artist I was interested in was using it. In production, I guess it doesn't matter if openframeworks is optimal or not (I believe the software you use will change depending on when you got started and got interested in this form of art); the most important thing is that you accumulate your own expressions and continue in any language.
FR: Can you pick an artwork and describe your workflow?
SF: About the “intangible” series, this is a project to create a physical object/notion in space using a laser optical axis that has no physical properties. When we see a structure, we instantly try to calculate and understand the curves and physical rules of the structure. This is reflexive, in other words a universal, wild sensation. When this sensation works, the behaviour of space and structures influences the criteria for judging whether they are organic/inorganic, the notion such as biological consciousness and soul is generated to the result of judging. I create experiences, spaces, and structures that have both real and intangible qualities, as a means of touching human cognition and imagery, and as an opportunity for viewers to get a bird's eye view of their abilities.
FR: How have you lived through the lockdown? Have you thought about how to adapt your work in a socially distant world? SF: After the lockdown, many museums have reopened according to national restrictions. At the time of the resumption, I think that the installation performed in real space served as an opportunity to realise the value of the physical experience, albeit momentarily. Ironically, I think that limiting the number of viewers as a measure against coronavirus created a situation where people faced the work in a more personal situation, and it became a high-quality time to interact with the work.
At the same time, I realised the difficulty of virtually replacing the perceptual experience obtained from physical space. In this situation, I wanted to be honest with my inquisitive mind, maintain my own passion, and contribute by sharing with others.
For me, it is universal that artwork is a point of contact with society and people. I'm going to continue to think about how that point of contact works in this unique situation.