by Paul Michael Brown ~
Last week, I braved the rapidly approaching winter to see ‘OM Rider,’ (2013) a short video work by Takeshi Murata, with sound designed by his frequent collaborator, Lexington based artist/musician Robert Beatty, at Salon 94. The project may be familiar to Central Kentuckians and frequenters of local contemporary art bedrock Institute 193, as they, along with Glistening Examples, produced ‘Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata,’ making Beatty’s dense, brooding, and lonely retro-futuristic accompaniments to Murata’s work previously only heard in gallery settings available for stand alone consumption.
The two artists work effortlessly in tandem, likely shaped by roughly a decade of collaboration and conversation between the two. The profession of their collaborative work seems to have even engaged a kind of osmotic exchange between the two, ideas bleeding into their individual practice as well.
Murata’s work can be generally grouped into three overlapping categories
His early animations, consisting of hand drawn, computer aided, forever melting layers of candy colored lava as in Melter 2 (2003, 3:50 min, color, sound) which took over the gargantuan monument to consumer culture, Times Square as a part of their Midnight Moment series. The works are bright, hypnotic, and absolutely enjoyable.
Next, the artist uses the limitations and manipulative ability of readily available video editing software to produce glitch heavy, constantly shifting assemblages of occasionally recognizable footage, creating a dizzy, fragmented, psychedelic space of occasional object discernment among pulsing chaos. The mood is reminiscent of a synthetic drug come down, misfiring synapses and fading abstracted vision, a vague hollowness drowned out by the low bass beat of an overworked central nervous system and the occasional cringe of biting into aluminum foil.
Night Moves, Takeshi Murata
Last, the uncomfortably smooth surfaces, flawless gradients, and vague narrative most recently exercised in OM Rider filled with dark, empty landscapes, references to pop and consumer culture, and impeccably rendered plasticine and gelatinous textures. Murata’s renderings and animations in this mode are often hyper real, sparsely populated, strangely tense settings that seem at once impossible and familiar.
Likewise, Beatty’s visual work is rife with gradient super smooth texture, differentiated from Murata’s video works by both a muted palette and a visible grain, rendering them seemingly older. Viscous fluid reminiscent of a Goosebumps cover or a Floam infomercial spells out text and spills out of Bosch-like eggs set against backdrops of rigid, too perfect geometries lit by dubious and multiple sources.
His audio work, often released under as ‘Three Legged Race,’ combines found sound, retro synth licks, and heavy digital manipulation to create aural landscapes that feel like dripping neon space caves of indeterminate size, constantly growing and shrinking, seeming to glow gray and saturated green.
In ‘OM Rider,’ Murata weaves a dark, moody thriller, dwelling on the inevitable meeting between two characters of unclear relation. The first, a pot smoking, motorbike riding, synthesizer playing half wolf half man, wanders aimlessly around a flat, deep purple desert populated mostly by rocks and trash. The second, a sour faced, despicable looking, elderly gentleman paces all alone in his dimly lit home outfitted in dark wood and imposing but infrequent furniture and a seemingly infinite spiral staircase.
Both spend the early portion of the video in contemplation of an unclear, but serious immediate fate, heralded by Beatty’s soundscape dominated by the anxiety inducing rev of an airplane engine, on loop, and in increasing volume as the work reaches its inevitable conclusion, and the meeting of the two figures involved.
The work is tense. The vagueness of Murata’s narrative, the uncomfortable smoothness and his not quite real objects and figures, coupled with Beatty’s anxious and hypnotic soundtrack, broadcast a dark, nervous, and occasionally humorous mood that is effective and absolutely worth seeing.