Takuji Kogo’s “Comics” consists of six animated videos presenting streets scenes from different parts of the world using the language of propaganda, consumerism, advertisements and everyday life. The countries presented in the work are different and the languages present an interesting spectrum of everyday life realities. The artist shows street views which help the spectator to look at a certain landscape from multiple points of views. A limited color palette enables the viewer to see things differently, leaving the audience space to explore without explaining too much.
How do you deal with the issue of languages in your work?
My works are not directly about languages or bilingualism. But they all use a variety of languages. I use text as a visual format and I use different streets views. In one of the most recent works for instance, I produced an animated video about a shopping mall with maid agencies in Singapore. On the video you can see is the sign: “English speaking Indonesian Maids Available.” Another animation shows a street corner in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where the Vietnamese propaganda announces the National day with Ho Chi Minh’s portrait. The portrait is like an old style street sign, it is not made with LED lights or digital screens, but with moving posters. So still image is moving as the propaganda from the Vietnamese government slowly changes into an advertisement for herbal tea and an energy drink. Just underneath those posters you can see the text “TOEC” which is an english sufficiency exam. The sounds and the texts in those videos shows different hints of multilingualism.
Text is a very important part of your work. What is the most important element when you work with text?
Would you call yourself a text based artist?
No, not really.
Have you ever written your own texts, or is it always ”found" material? What is your relation to narratives?
I see streets signs or shops as an installation piece of contemporary art, information as text based conceptual art pieces, or even a nation state as a piece of land art, because of misrepresentation. I find these interesting because the original purpose or function of design or messages often goes wrong and they become something else. I am simply following these examples and apply my working method to present them as art works.
Most of the time I use ”found" material, although I did try to use original narratives a few times. One of the pieces I have made in collaboration with Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries titled KIMI KIM JALAN JALAN in which we created a fictional character called KIMI KIM who is a Korean-Japanese zombie with a split personality issue. "Jalan jalan" means "take a walk” in Singaporean. Kimi is a typical Japanese name which means “you”, KIM is also typical Korean surname. In the video, the monologue of these two split personalities were performed multilingually but by whispering: just like ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).
About your question in relation to narratives, I can say even one presents different fragments it has the potential to turn into a narrative. Then the narrative becomes the subject matter, it makes the artwork thematic or in the worst case it becomes the objective of the work. I generally try to make my works with more complexity, especially the “text” in the work because it literally has its own meaning.
What is the general content you work with? Everyday life, slogans, propaganda ?
I look at different artworks and installations on streets or on certain media platforms. Sometimes they are just examples of consumerism or tourism, sometimes they are nationalistic or they show conflicts. They reflect the economical situation of a place or just some individuals. I use those examples which I find interesting as artworks and then apply my own artistic methods.
Recently I made a series of text based works with fragments of information on U.S bases. It is entitled “Homes for America.” I found the content through their online US base community sites. For our collaborative project with John Miller, “ ROBOT”, we obtained our materials through personal advertisement messages on dating sites. Turning them into original promotional music video clips. More recently, we moved into various other sources such as the piece called “PERFORMER, AUDIENCE, MIRROR: THE MUSICAL" which is based on a transcript of a historical Dan Graham performance from the 1970s, re-enacted as a musical stand-up comedy cartoon.
For Legacy project at Kultivera, we used an excerpt from Gregory Bateson’s essay “WHY DO THINGS HAVE OUTLINES?”
What happens when you transform reality into an animated looping street scene?
My recent animated street views which I’m also showing at Kultivera, are called “Comics”. In those animated street views one can keep showing views from multiple angles and in that way one can focus on each element equally easily. Also it is much more liberating than using only photographic images. Although I sometimes combine such images with flat colors giving different movements to those elements. Such flat / simplified images can show the space between each subject matter and the technique is quite simple. But I think this technique is much more effective than 3D because it leaves space to the audience without explaining too much about what is actually going on. All in all I can say that this technique is quite similar to a mobile sculpture than video.
Your recent animations differ from your previous works like your non-site pieces, they were also endless loops, like digital sculptures. What is it they show the spectator ? It looks as if they are like being trapped in an endless loop/work, and how it relates to the outer world where the texts and signs are taken?
The photograph is usually considered as a technology documenting reality of a particular moment in a specific place although it is limited with the mechanism of the camera. They are built for one focus only and they present always one static point of view.
People often use photography for certain occasions either as individuals or as professional photo journalists and that turns any scene into a documentation of some kind of ritual, any visual into a narrative. A part of someone’s drama.
"Non_sites " were created by sequence shots with digital cameras. In these series, most of the scenes were taken from every day life environments, such as views of fast food restaurants or streets; public spaces and shopping malls. I tried to avoid drama so I tried making fragments of each narrative. I wanted to destruct this typical situation of a camera by mirroring and multiplying the scene and showing it like a kaleidoscope and each reality almost looked like it was staged.
The title of the series were taken from Robert Smithson's works from the late 1960s in which rocks and stones collected from nature were placed in mirror boxes at the gallery space. I thought the method I’m using was similar but instead of using natural materials I used digital images and every day life environments as our nature.
For you project you are planning to make an installation of six strreet views and a screen with a one year interchangeable playlist into the Kultivera premisses , what kind of text based works will we see?
First I am going to show a collaborative work with John Miller titled : “WHY DO THINGS HAVE OUTLINES?” which uses a text from Gregory Bateson’s essay. I will update the online stream on different dates and add Robot works and other music clips such as “Online Ads” which I produced as a series of multi lingual text animations. In the videos, found text material is used as lyrics for original music, sung by synthetic voices.
For example "Wanted. Accountant for our factory in Sao Paolo Brazil" is taken from an online advertisement which recruits Japanese Brazilians in Japan. "Life wouldn't be the same without safe sea" is from a subway poster from the Singapore Navy announcing their new naval missile launch. It is long term project so I will keep updating it from time to time.