Description of the artefact
Double Double is an audiovisual essay which stands in-between document and fiction, produced during a three-month artistic residency held at the Art Center Ongoing, in Tokyo, with the purpose to practice-as-research my PhD focus, and gain deeper insights, regarding its four main topics. Therefore, the film is displayed as the main artefact for the research examination. During the residency, a series of talks have been fostered with mostly independent creative workers, such as artists, musicians, curators, filmmakers... The selection of participants was done almost casually, but taking into consideration their non-institutionalized activities. These scheduled meetings happened every week, during the sunset time, a time frame I imposed, as a transformative context between day and night, as well as the passage period between working activities towards after-work. Questionings raised point towards the most emergent processes of transformation in Japan and how such quests might be activated through non-events, that is, non-official events, artistic, clandestine or out of mainstream, and how it reflects the emergent feelings of change.
My aim was to discusse about such transformative issues in japanese culture, while proposing an event-talk with site-specificities, as a rite of passage.
This artefact uses the mediation of filming techniques to evolve throughout different scenes, departing from sound recordings of the super typhon Hagibis passage in Tokyo, one of the greatest typhons in recorded history. Like all-natural phenomenon, it is impossible to predict how much it will affect the environment and such unplanned experience was nevertheless in close connection to my previous artistic research projects (see Quiet Sun; La Longue Durée), that is, about the expectation for the unknown and the increased potential between effects and affects, science and faith. These sound recordings are displayed in the beginning of each chapter. In the introduction, it is combined with footage portrait of Hikaru Suzuki, a japanese independent filmmaker, who participates in this film as a silent actor, the one who quietly observes and appears punctually, in moments of waiting or resting. His silent participation reenacts my own difficulties in getting a clear understanding of either Japanese language and social codes and norms.
The film develops further into reflections about the actual state-of-the art and how to overcome modernity as one of the orators propose, or, I would say, technopastism, once it represents the westernization initiated, as mentioned by Ujino and Nozomu Ogawa, by the American bombings in WWII.
Despite the absent auto-narration - which is only assumedly present in the brief introductory text, in which I expose my intentions - the material’s edition openly plays as a guiding line, transposing each of the 4 chapters, in a semi-linear sequence, that is, there is a sequential structure, even though one could read it in reverse, or in different order combinations, without losing its content-wise strain. The use of open film editing, like simultaneous and partial visualization, named miegakure technique (which consists on hiding and reveal), fake linearity and the opening of shadows and time perceptions.
This short film is, at once, a documentation and an artefact in the way the use of images and editing provokes decalages (sound and image are not always correspondent, neither is the original and the edited time, being disrupted and fictional). These techniques intend to provide to the film’s spectator a better engagement with the concepts. One is guided throughout digital waterfalls, art spaces, talks and translations, rising sun flags, urban designs, teenagers in underground venues of Tokyo, as well as inebriated salaryman, IKEA stores and finally, invisible waves grabbed and remixed in the air.
The first 3 chapters are specifically related to my PhD research questions, which might be formulated as follows: how to move towards smooth fields? How to overcome from westernized ideals and mystifications? How underground and sub-cultural agents play a role into such transitions? How a stranger or a flâneur may, through its presence and interaction with locals, produce a more efficient, or at least, more open thoughts regarding the site-specific situation? And finally, how deviation behaviours, the search for mirages or miracles, play a crucial role in the formal operative systems, that is, the working and hermetic models?
Ideally, I intend with this research to gain more knowledge regarding such questioning and, using my own experience as a mediation, I propose an artistic outcome about Western and Eastern differentiations of its own perceptions of structures of knowledge and how the employment of such models might become an exercise of resistance against fixed methods - a combined West-East heritage imagery towards the openness of new models of operativity, in pace with the times, towards a transcultural contemporaneity.
Relation to the research topics and questions
All different sequences in the film intertwin with the aesthetical aspects and qualities of the green ray, which are articulated throughout the following sections:
The first research topic – Displacement and Translations: The Flâneur - is articulated within my first departure as a European citizen towards Far-East. I find relevant for the theme of my research and as its mediator, to get an embodied experience, by travelling into place. Therefore, such artistic residency programs suits my research needs. The given conditions allow an apprehension of the local culture within a cultural context that would barely be achieved in other way. By doing so, I can move as a flâneur (taking the connotation by Walter Benjamin), without previous significant understanding of Japan.
These flaneuries are displayed along the entire film, with more emphasis in Chapter I “Smooth Intro” and Chapter II “The state-of-the-art: the Oracle’s view”, as my first exploratory questionings, expressed through the collecting of sounds and images.
This research project began by wandering, observing trivial situations and attempting to recognize social behaviors, which were drastically different than the ones I was familiar with. Namely, the apparent order of an over-populated city, that by following certain rules, i.e. forbidden phone calls, eating, dancing or smoking in public places, leads to an apparent collective quietude. Nevertheless, this sense of serenity is drastically disrupted by uninterrupted sounds coming out from loud speakers, disposed in most of public and semi-public spaces, such as stores, departments and stations. Such sounds are played in short loops, emitting information and jingle music commercials. Such devices add a paradox between natural and artificial atmosphere that, if moving through the city, one can’t avoid to experience.
Similar reflections were emphasized by the hit of the super-typhoon Hagibis just few days after my arrival, as mentioned above. It forced the population to prepare and wait for the effects of such natural phenomena. Without any specific method, unless the covering of sharp surfaces with smooth clothing, the contradictory feeling between the violent phenomena, in comparison to the waiting and low-active attitude of people, while waiting for its passage, drove me into a new experience, from which I got to know how such frequent phenomena might influence the local cosmologic culture, their faith for invisible ghosts and spirits, as well as their philosophical strain focusing concepts such as the absolute and nothingness.
Such remarks are pertinent for the purpose of their intelligibility. To be placed within an intelligible or unknown context is how I find, in relation to the green ray, that new in-between knowledge is triggered. From the lack of references, one will use cross-specific knowledge, combining scientific with speculative discourses to apprehend a non-understandable situation. The oracles, the metaphysics and cosmologies (animistic rituals, more than religion-based acts) are, by consequence, included in the culture.
If we trace this logic of placing, or displacing, we will get to the question that there is something which is lost on the way, that is, the unprecedent knowledge – the not-knowing. This not-knowing is as much interesting for my research as the processes of achieving new knowledge.
The passage from not-knowing to the stage in which one who achieves understanding is usually done, in such contexts, by processes of translation. In this case, the english-speaking japanese inhabitants are few, resulting in a mostly empathetic communication and a kind of divinatory operation dealing with the received information.Nevertheless, it is in such lack of efficient translations, in its lapses and gaps, that I am able to produce an imagery narrative, a fictionized understanding of what I am attempting to perceive. More than a failing approach, I find in these cases, the potential of a creative outcome.
It is important to point out, that my research focuses not only about a common learning process, which can be found almost in every situation, I am specifically interested in the strangeness or flânerie processes of knowing, once it gathers very specific qualities: the fact that there is an awareness of not knowing from both the stranger and the inhabitant, meaning it is not an operation stricted in a self-learning task, but it is a mutual transmission between the outsider and the visited forms or inhabitants. Both elements activate these forces of empowerment. Actually, the stranger would have, at first analysis, a weaker advantage, driven from his ignorance regarding a new positioning. I find particularly interesting that these roles might be reversed, throughout the creation of new narratives generated by translations and the inevitable abstractization of cultural codifications.
This habit or the rehearsal of abstraction is one of the requiries of the green ray, which I evoked by accepting the non-understanding of either language or gestures. The outcome from such experience drove me to work more on the basis of sound, talks and translations, than in previous works I’ve done until then and along my PhD research.
That is, to move towards unprecedent territory, recognizing sound and languages as an abstract mass is one of the commitments that I pursue, the same way it is required for the green ray observations. I engage with abstraction, the unexpected and the ambivalent perception of either real and illusionary factors. Such combined situations are sought for the production of each of the selected artefacts.
The second topic – Negative dip, distortion and the obsoletism of the real – points towards the aesthetics generated by the green ray optical and formal qualities.
The negative dip is the scientific name given to a mirage effect caused by the curvature of the Earth, which enables a sunset observer to visualize the sun’s last portion, even though it is already out of sight. The visible is actually, like every mirage, an illusion. Therefore, the scientific methodologies must be always aware of such illusionary effects, which can easily disturb mathematical or physical data.
The negative dip implies that the “real form” is hidden in a negative space, that is, the non-perceivable space, in relation to a fixed view of the horizon (which stands by opposition in the “positive space”). Such distortions of perception play a crucial role in the conceptualization of what is real and fictional.
In a search for similar boundaries and through the scope of contemporary art, I initiated several journeys exploring clandestine clubs in Tokyo and meeting with prominent underground noise musicians like Ito Atsuhiro, as well as theater companies, namely the Black Opera. I was interested in understanding how such productions are maintained, as independent and clandestine; which kind of public it attracts and why such tendencies are so extremely particular in Japan.
These situations are included in chapter III of the film-artefact “Overcoming modernity or the affections of distortion”. The chapter begins with scenes recorded during an underground live performance by Ito Atsuhiro, one of the artists who is interviewed. However, instead of displaying images of his performance, I was more interested in observing the audience. I wanted to grab such instants throughout the vision of its consumers. I can describe them as mostly young man, who seek for extremely noisy and high-beat sounds and visual stimulation, to reach a kind of trance experience.
Similar stimulations are noticeable, as mentioned above, during the sunset time, when all workers, mostly salaryman, the normative representative figure of Japan – recognizable by wearing suit and suitcase – go through a short but intensive period of alcoholism and inebriation, that results in trembling gestures. As soon as the work-time is over, in-between day and night, it is a known habit, that most of these workers will drink large amounts of alcohol, to enter in a transformative stage between efficient productivity towards an ungovernable, perhaps, envisioning spirit.
Through a negative dip - throughout incursions into obscure Tokyo venues (i.e. clandestine clubs) - and distortion - by observing moments of collective inebriation I recognize the most interesting disruptive situations, from which I can achieve insights about the quest to overcome modernity and its capitalistic notion of the real.
Also, I got to know that japanese enterprises are specially known for presenting their honor principles of life and work, often enunciated by number and topic. This is applied in their terminologies, as the "honne" and "tatemae" - intertwined social play that integrate the apparent and the manifest, which results in such polarities of either straight and dismantled situations. It is a cyclic duality (different than ambiguity), which affects knowledge, power and operational structures.
Likewise, attempts to describe japanese foreign policy included terms such as “semi-sovereign”, “reluctant” realism, “mercantile” realism, and “anti-militarism.” The difficulty to categorize Japanese foreign policy reflects the underlying uncertainty—in East Asia and within Japan itself—about how Japan sees itself, its neighbors, and its role in the World History. For this reason, it is difficult to define their methods of resistance. As LaFleur explains, "the languages of China and Japan have a greater facility for expressing the mutuality and balance between what is and what is not: they are not as intrinsically tilted toward defining being as real and nonbeing as a privation. As languages, they do not give the benefit to the being side of thing" (1983, p.103).
This broad search of the doubled methods in the west as in the east, reveals that the emphasis on the notions of normative work presents an opportunity to contemplate opposite behaviours considered ludic and non-productive for a quest of change, of overcoming technicity. Such provoked distortions and loss of control, operates in the negative sphere, non-formal and without any method, where chance might play a role again. In fact, one can say such rites, happen to move against the method.
In every studied cases, that is, either the young man who search for extreme sounds in clandestine venues, as well as the after-work alcoholism by salaryman (one could easily find other rites, but for the reasons of the limited amount of time of my residency, I selected these) seek for extreme stimulation and ungovernable control, that is, an attempt to distort reality, and undergo through doubled images, even if just for short instances. Actually, it is of my opinion that such stimulation would be lost if these events would become continuous, once it seems more revolutionary to disrupt norms, through incisive moments, in-between the gaps of working times.
Such scenes are represented in the film-artefact, playing in contrast with the traditional discipline found, i.e. in martial arts and urbanized environments (images of a woman practicing Jo, as well as clean, urban designs, remembering the aesthetics of actual contemporary art).
The third topic – The Green Ray beyond the Western Scope – focuses on the questioning about how to produce transformative sets, in pace with the times and taking into consideration the gained knowledge, beyond of a westernized-based model.
As reflected in the first topic, to displace oneself towards abstraction, the unknown and the strange stimulates envisions and implicates a change, but how can we reactivate such operations in order to use it as a strategical tool? I would like to engage with such site-specific knowledges, out of national boundaries, to provide a transcultural set, through the means of art.
For doing so, it is crucial to get a deeper recognition of which boundaries surround us. This means one has to be aware of either geographical placements, as well as evidences of local strains of philosophy, and how it diverges from place to place. Specially for self-perceptions of concepts such as center, border and nothingness.
In Japan, the main philosophical studies were brought up by The Kyoto School, referred as the unique institution that provided relevant philosophical insights, in all modern Asia.
Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime and Tosaka Jun were the most prominent figures of this philosophical school, best known for its influence in a post-World War II Japanese feeling of ultranationalism and cosmopolitanism, but also regarding the concept of nothingness as an ideal of eastern cultures.
One of the reasons that seems to have influenced a negative memory of Kyoto School’s philosophical work came out not precisely from their theoretical insights, which are mainly related to metaphysics - structured as the logic of Basho and the notion of absolute nothingness (with a strong cultural emphasis in Asian religions or philosophies, conjuring the sublime image of nature present in both nihilism by Chinese Confucianism, in the North and in the Hinduism in India towards Buddhism in southern Asia) – but how these insights were removed from context and placed into the act of elimination, as an achievement of absolute nothingness. Tanabe Hajime did a major impertinent step, by giving a public lecture, in which he promotes the need for students to offer their services in the World War II, as Kamikaze pilots (more than 1000 of the 3000 kamikaze pilots were university students of Philosophy or Art).
Taking the Kyoto’s school case, an irrefutable factor is that Hajime, known for his ultranationalism in behalf of Japan and its spirit of the wealth, was probably influenced by his studies in the West, specifically, in the University of Berlin and the University of Freiburg, from 1922 to 1924 (I allow myself a personal comment at this point, regarding the fact that most of Japanese people I met in Tokyo, have done previous university studies in Germany – namely Hikaru Suzuki, who participates in the film - leading me to superficially ponder if these fundamental academic exchanges between these two nations, might still be a common practice nowadays, even though I didn’t go deeper into the analysis of such data, assuming this may fall into a speculative remark).
Nevertheless, it was a turning point for my own perception of Far-East and West cultural relations in pace with the times and consequently, towards my own research topics, to realize how these two poles are actually so much influenced by each other, having their periodic blossoms of reciprocity, i.e. during the late XIX century, known for the vogue in the west for an appreciation of Asian art and culture and how the World War II, after the Pearl Harbor attack, led into an Americanization of Japan, with more durable effects than the Hiroshima Bomb, that is, in the notion of modernization, through the point of view of many Japanese, as the major heritage of the Americans bombing attack. Yuk Hui, Chinese philosopher, has mentioned in his book “The Question Concerning Technology in China. An Essay in Cosmotechnics” that non-modern elements, such as primitive nature and Asian spiritual tradition were instrumentalized for the pan-Asian ambitions.
It also seems that from both West and East, there is a struggle in the way Eastern historicism is undermined by the standard World History, dominated by Europeans. That might be one of the reasons, why the green ray was “first” discovered, or at least, officially reported by Europeans. A fact that I got a better apprehension during this residency period, is that Japanese historicism lacks of published documentation and dissemination. The Kyoto’s school named such condition as the reason for a higher patriotism, which faded into militarism and ultimately the fall of the empire. This rather void in historicism, shows how cosmologies that suddenly happened in Europe regarding the green ray, happens in the East, but changing its form of ritualization. Instead of an individual outcome of transitory conditions or events, it leads Asians to collapse their desires towards a rather collective experience, which might be turn as much empowering as weakening forces.
These historical considerations are important for my research, in which I trace new questions around differences between practice-based approaches in relation to its ideals from West to East.
Some of the forthcoming ideals are explicit in the artefact, specially throughout the audio comments in which desires to overcome modernization and westernization come abroad. It is also implied in the quest for oracle, opportunity and chance as a play towards a new outcome.
The gained knowledge achieved during the process of the residency and shared throughout this artefact crosses aesthetical and philosophical concerns regarding the western exaltation in Japan and the emergent need testified from alternative communities for a change, that would somehow from one side liberate East from West, from the other side rebuild its own identity in relation to a new World History, that should contemplate transcultural perspectives.
The fourth and last chapter of this film-artefact operates as an artistic need to not only rise questions but to also contribute with an open form of displaying invisible information. It is therefore more related to cognitions gained by this artefact than the research questions.
It consists in raw recording material of a live set that occurred at the rooftop of the Art Center Ongoing, during a sunset, in November 2019 (without any cut or post-production).
For this production, I organized this event, as mentioned in the description, inviting Aida Mizuki to collaborate in the creation of a live sound piece, using radio emitters and receptors as medium devices. This piece was recorded and one of its excerpts is displayed in the last chapter of the film-artefact.
The aim was to deal through the means of art with the layering of non-visible information and to play with chance and non-controllable radio waves as the source of our manipulation.
The installation consisted in 3 low-frequencies radio receptors and 1 radio emitter, which was in turn, emitting the master of the 3 different received radio frequencies. I decided to use the Art Center rooftop because it was the location where I was converging all the research materials that I was gathering during the residency period and that culminated in an exhibition format, in December 2019. The resulting sounds are a real-time assemblage of simultaneous receptions and emissions of radio frequencies available in that instant, in that area of Tokyo. This was a private event, not open to public, having been produced only for the aim of the recordings. By introducing this artefact, I expect to provide a possible materialization of invisible and intangible information, a reflection of the gained knowledge, regarding technopastism and a collaborative work between me and a Japanese musician. Such dispositive sending back to the air all received sounds and frequencies provoke a continuous feedback and an uncontrollable regeneration of sounds. That is, the outcome results in an infinite layering between what is received, that is put back into place, towards the open-air, functioning as an action that propose answers by sending back its own sources, only mediated through the time-space condition and, of course, chance/opportunity.
The resulting collection of sounds is an artefact by itself, that might be accessed as a sonic art piece, nevertheless, I decided to also include an excerpt of these recordings in the film, as a conclusion chapter. Even though I try to escape a linear progress of the film, this outcome has its own documenting and pertinent qualities.
The opportunity to engage within an artistic residency at "Ongoing Art Center" in Tokyo, Japan, provided a great experimental context to apply an outsider vision of the doubled images in the far-East. Therefore, it unfolded in several dualities, which resulted in the exhibition entitled Double-double, which presented the overall of the research praxis.
 Hagström, Linus. (2014). The "abnormal" state: Identity, norm/excpetion and Japan. European Journal of International Relations.
 LaFleur, W. (1983) The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press.
 Okakura, K. (1883). Ideals of the East. The Spirit of Japanese Art.
 Yuk H. The Question Concerning Technology in China. An Essay in Cosmotechnics (2016). Urbanomic Press.