The Conquest of Imperfection is the first major UK exhibition of Japanese media artist Masaki Fujihata’s acclaimed interactive work, featuring eight installations created by the artist between 1996 – 2008 and a new work specially created for the Manchester exhibition.
Fujihata uses interactive art, virtual reality and networking to probe the fundamental questions of human perception and awareness. He uses new technologies as parodies of how we learn to use language for understanding things, media and our environment. His installations pose questions such as why humans communicate, and what happens through the user’s touch in interactive media work. The title of this exhibition arises from the artist’s conception that reality is probably more imperfect than the virtual realm. Ultimately, Masaki Fujihata questions what reality is, how it is realised and how we should approach the new world that will be enabled by the media of the future.
While his work exhibits an intrinsically Japanese aesthetic, Fujihata also addresses the core issues occupying media artists across the world. He has created pioneering work in all fields of digital media, including computer graphics, interactivity, the Internet, location based and distributed computing, nano technology, data mining, inhabited information spaces, and GPS.
Masaki Fujihata participated in Web3D Art, and the exhibition symposium for Lab3D atCornerhouse in 2003. A successful Field Works project Mersea Circles was realized for Firstsite, Colchester, Essex, in 2003.
Dave Griffiths’ Ozymandias
Click here to watch Ozymandias
Return of the Reel: Notes on Dave Griffiths’ Ozymandias
In the upper right-hand corner of the frame, a searing neon-green halo burns through both celluloid and image. This alien object, however, serves only the most prosaic, deadpan function: it is a cue-dot, an indicator of when the projectionist needs to change reels. There is a collision of the illusory and the practical here, of the cinematic and the actual. The cue-dot is essential for the maintenance of continuity and, therefore, for the spectator’s passive absorption in the narrative. And yet, this abstracted imprint simultaneously breaks the spell of reception, disrupting filmic flow with a reminder of the mechanical processes at work. As such, it must be suppressed by the viewer, consciously ignored or even imagined as a hallucination, a perceptual tic or anomaly. To acknowledge its presence (on-screen) is to lose faith in the illusion.
In the upper right-hand corner of the screen appears a sudden disruption. In Dave Griffiths’ Ozymandias, a series of appropriated film stills, each stamped or marked in the same place, are collaged into a flickering, strobe-like sequence of static images. The isolated and instantaneous frames are linked not by narrative progression but by a formal equivalence, the recurrence of the cue-dot. One could suggest that Griffiths presents a concentration of cinematic history here, through these signifiers which are at once functional and near-obsolete. These days, there is a small industry at work digitally erasing these smudges, going back over vintage film footage and layering in the details from the preceding frame. In the ongoing pursuit and accumulation of these frames, Griffiths preserves the archaic against the irreversible eradication of manual and mechanical traces. The perfecting of cinematic sheen is always accompanied by a loss of tangibility, of the spectator’s vague awareness and wonderment at how a particular effect was achieved. As in the gradual displacement of production (stagecraft, acting, cinematography) by post-production (the blue-screen backdrop), a screen has been drawn between process and perception. The heightened artificiality of digital effects, while entirely in accord with the logic of cinema, cuts off any lingering engagement of the viewer with the (created) artwork; it is given over to an inexplicably seamless spectacle.
In the upper right-hand corner of the work, one sees an irregularity in the hermetic space of the narrative, illusory film, as well as an acknowledgment of an entirely different set of tropes and traditions. In the staccato flashes of arbitrary frames, shifts of colour and quality (which are themselves reminiscent of specific periods and genres) and the compact duration of the piece, Ozymandias resembles structuralist filmmaking (Sharits, Conrad), Lettrism (Isou, Debord), even the encroachment of experimental formalism into arthouse cinema (think of the pulses and flickers at the end / beginning of Noe’s Irreversible). This is the ‘other’ to Hollywood, an ‘other’ that is comparable to the cue-dot’s persistent, nagging insistence on the materiality of the medium. Where, then, does this work fit in? Is it a synthesis of the orthodox and the dissonant, in which the basic components of cinematic history are re-directed to contrary, contradictory ends, or an admission of defeat for the avant-garde, as in Guy Debord’s statement, voiced-over the intermittent shifts of black to white screens in Howls for Sade:
“Voice 1: What a springtime! Crib sheet for the history of film: 1902: A Trip to the Moon. 1920: The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. 1924: Entr’acte. 1926: Potemkin. 1928: An Andalusian Dog. 1931: City Lights. Birth of Guy-Ernest Debord. 1951: Treatise on Slime and Eternity. 1952: The Anticoncept. Howls for Sade.
Voice 5: Just as the projection was about to begin, Guy-Ernest Debord was supposed to step onto the stage and make a few introductory remarks. Had he done so, he would simply have said: ‘There is no film. Cinema is dead. No more films are possible. If you wish, we can move on to a discussion.’ ”
In the upper right-hand corner of the film, in the variety of different cue-dots, Griffiths compiles a catalogue of cinematic history. This archive of frames is an essential base for his practice, which conflates content with presentation through the use of outdated technologies and media: microfiche, old-fashioned toy guns that project images, etc. The tactile engagement of the viewer with these works is mirrored in Ozymandias’ sheer excessiveness of imagery and the physical, even overwhelming response effected in the spectator. In this sense, Griffiths’ practice invites interactivity and engagement. It encourages reflection as an active participant, a viewer who manually operates the projecting device or who attempts to ‘figure out’ where that brief flicker of an image came from.
In the upper right-hand corner of this essay, the title Ozymandias points the reader towards another medium and another history. “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley is a dense and lyrical sonnet, drawn from the inscribed quotation “My name is Ozymandias – King of Kings” as noted by Diodorus Siculus of Ramses II. There is a lineage already in place, of English Romantic poet, Ancient Greek historian and Egyptian Pharoah, of thousands of years distilled into a handful of lines, a single stanza. The poem itself acknowledges time, its relentlessness and indifference towards mankind, in its evocation of a ruined monument “half sunk (…) shattered (…) Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, / The lone and level sands stretch far away.” The film Ozymandias explores a similar conception of the past in its collation of the outmoded and obsolete, where the frame of the cue-dot has been cut off from functional relevance and from the film reel itself. It is history (cinematic and technological) reduced to a series of stills.
Dave Griffiths is an artist based in Manchester. He is represented by Bureau Gallery, Salford
Chris Clarke is a writer and artist based in Cork, Ireland