Interview with Mika Miyabara & Tatsuo Sugimoto: Bouncing Pixels and Images

by deborah on 02/22/2010

Ooh la la… another interesting interview taken during Device_art 3.009Mika Miyabara and Tatsuo Sugimoto are media artists from Japan who have been working on visual interactive projects since 2001.

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Bounce Street exhibited on Device_art 3.009
photo taken from flickr: Movie Cards Project (c)


They met back in 2001 at IAMAS heaving formerly careers in design and cinematography. Their work could be described as community and communication oriented art. Being interested in interactive installations they decided to challenge another aspect in their work through workshops.

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Mika Miyabara jumping… Tatsuo Sugimoto pointing…

By combining science and art, Mika Miyabara & Tatsuo Sugimoto managed to play seriously with multidisciplinary art that brought together diverse people of all ages within public spaces and interested in broadcasting, engineering and exchanging ideas.

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Bounce Street, photo taken from: Kontejner

Miyabara and Sugimoto have been exhibited their installations internationally in Japan, Austria, Spain, Afghanistan and Croatia (Device_art). At the moment they both work as media art teachers. Mika Miyabara teaches at Waseda University, whilst Tatsuo Sugimoto teaches at Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences.

Their work Bounce Street (2001) was the reason we talked a little bit about it. Bounce Street is about colours appearing on the street in many variations but not having a significant role in our lives. Hence, Mika Miyabara and Tatsuo Sugimoto have created a project that will design an animation generated from street colours in real time processing.

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Bounce Street, photo taken from Kontejner

What is interesting in Bounce Street is the fact that it offers to artists and participants to take images from streets which are later converted via software originally programmed for this project, and projected as animation on the wall or facade of the building.

This projected animation is based on numerous falling down coloured circles. Every single circle or ball assumes different colour based on the street colour and expressed in different tonalities. There is also a sound element connected with their falling, meaning that every time the circle falls down and bounces against the ground it produces an unique sound heard only once with each circle.

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Bounce Street, photo taken from: Kontejner

In an ideal situation the screening would take place via projector on buildings and in public spaces with the process of photo capturing at the same time. In such situation, the viewer and the creator can be the same person or not. Bounce Street is running on software programmed only for this project allowing to creator the possibility to enhance and re-adapt it, according to their needs for each screening.

Let’s start with the Bounce Street project… Mika you’re documentary filmmaker and Tatsuo, you are designer… what was the initial hint for the project? Seems like a heavy community art?

TS: For us it was very challenging because just like you just said, Mika is filmmaker and I am designer, so this communication with the audience is kind of monologue. Mika is responsible for this cinema part and I did design. But what we have realized is that the communication was not very interactive. Then, we decided that we really want this interaction to happen. We wanted a dialogue with the audience. That was the trigger! We really wanted to have interaction.

But you also did some workshops with Movie Cards projects which included kids. I’m referring to the workshop you did in Spain… I saw videos and these tactile moments you managed to get. Hence, there’s also this educational part of the project… beside direct communication with people… what did you experience from children and grown up people?

MM: One of our exciting experiences was when we had a workshop in Osaka (Japan). This area was also kind of local, although Osaka’s region is the second biggest region in Japan. But the area is also consisted of traditional shopping street and people who are living there are mostly local people – Osaka people. At the other hand there are also many tourists coming around.

TS: The purpose of our workshop there was to find a kind of good aspects of this area again. So, we gave to participants an opportunity to take images and video footage of this area during one month. And these images were also combined with the images which were taken by the tourists. Therefore, this combination of work taken from local people and outsiders resulted in the interesting fusion.

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Tatsuo during Movie Cards workshop in Spain
photo taken from flickr: Movie Cards Project (c)

Did you ever experience any cultural misunderstandings on your workshops?

MM: One of the differences, not difficulties, but differences between experiences we had in Spain and Osaka was that Japanese kids tried to get this one barcode reader and literally everyone wanted to use this. But the kids in Spain, they were more into the content of things they were doing. So, this is kind of typical difference between these countries.

Now you have your own organization for your activities…

TS: To be able to realize this video project we needed to have a system for the workshop. In order to develop this system we had to apply for funding from our country. It’s an NGO and it gave us in a practical sense easier way for getting grants to develop the system. Within this organizational structure it’s much better to work because when we do workshops and exhibitions, we can pay for the participation, etc, etc.

Mika, since you’re documentary filmmaker…. Are you planning to do a documentary film on your projects and experiences?

MM: Oh, no! (laughs). Some footage from our projects are already on YouTube… (laughs)

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Mika during Movie Cards workshop in Spain
photo taken from flickr: Movie Cards Project (c)

In what direction are you planning your activities now? Are you going to do some structural changes in the future?

MM: Now, in daily life people are watching for instance YouTube or doing also something else at the same time. The focus or concentration of watching a movie or film, the way of how we look at the film or video isn’t the same anymore like twenty or fifty years ago.

Because people are really watching, they were really concentrated while experiencing the image from the screen, for example. But now we have different quality of watching the video or film. Especially in this technological context, watching films with a very low definition, like YouTube videos in a very small window. So, we are also doing something else the same time.

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Photo taken from: pingmag

This is also a way of watching the film or perceiving the video. It’s a completely new process of watching the film or video. At the moment I’m not quite sure what I can do after having this kind of experiences in film. I’m hopping to find out a kind of new way of creating film for people who already had this experience. I have to admit, that this idea is still very abstract for me, not very concrete. Probably this might be also one reason why I’m not making documentaries anymore or about our projects.

Thank you Mika & Tatsuo!

Related links:
Interview with Mika Fukumori: On Ototenji and IAMAS
Interview with Yosuke Kawamura: Mixing analogue and digital worlds
Interview with So Kanno: Creating sound devices

Interview with Tomoko Ueyama: I want my body to hear more!