Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka
By Sophie Arni, in conversation with Rintaro Fuse
Published on June 30th, 2021
I had the chance to meet Japanese artist Rintaro Fuse (b.1994, Tokyo) for an interview in 2018. I asked him about his views on the state of painting and social media – specifically on his series of Retina Paintings (2017-present) which have since become his signature work. Using camera obscura techniques, he paints live models, through projected images on canvas, which he then later traces with spray-can paint. The results are monochromatic, perfectly airbrushed portraits materializing blurred images, symbolizing the distance we face against blurry screen renderings of human representation. “My concept is that I don’t paint a picture by directly touching a canvas,” he explained, “I want to maintain a certain distance.”
Currently enrolled in a PhD in Film and New Media at Tokyo University of the Arts, Fuse is an artist who was groomed for conceptual art from an early age. He began his artistic journey at Tokyo University of the Arts famed Oil Painting department, known to be incredibly hard to get into. He then transitioned seamlessly to Film and New Media for his Master’s and is currently at the same department for his doctorate.
At the time, Fuse referred to his painting technique as being formally and conceptually connected to the act of taking a selfie.
At the time, Fuse referred to his painting technique as being formally and conceptually connected to the act of taking a selfie. On a physical level, a well-balanced distance is necessary when photographing oneself through a front-view camera, and on the metaphysical level, the photographer, object, and viewer becomes one in a selfie. As Fuse explained, painting with a distance “expresses the distance between subject and object.” He links this distance with prehistoric caves, which for him represents the ultimate white cube gallery, devoid of any human interference and immune to decay, yet holding artworks on walls like database storage, not unlike the concept of freeports in the contemporary art world. “Cave paintings are said to be the original start of animation,” Fuse says, linking early Lascaux cave paintings to GIF images. In addition, cave paintings represent some sort of pre-Internet timeline, where people painted over each other’s drawings without knowing how many authors drew in the same space beforehand. “It is very close to Twitter and the way information is synchronized,” he adds, “[on a social network like Twitter] my principal message becomes unimportant, it goes on a timeline with the interventions of others.”
These references become key for us to analyze Silent Category, Fuse latest curatorial project which took place from March 14th to 29th, 2021 at Creative Center Osaka. The exhibition was held at the site of the Namura Shipyard by Osaka’s bay, a 1,200 square meters space designated as a Modernized Industrial Heritage site by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
While I did not have the chance to physically visit the exhibition, I nevertheless feel that looking at the exhibition photographs and videos, reading the wall labels, and exchanging thoughts with the curator gave me the fullest possible overview of this exhibition in our new “phygital” world. Can online exhibition spaces replace physical exhibition spaces? Not necessarily, but I personally feel that increasingly, the physical experience is only one part of the exhibition, working in tandem with the video archive and catalogue text for posteriority.
Can online exhibition spaces replace physical exhibition spaces? Not necessarily, but I personally feel that increasingly, the physical experience is only one part of the exhibition.
Silent Category shows the work of seven young Japanese artists, all working across a range of different media: Kazuchimi Komatsu (b.1992, Kochi, JP), Yudai Suzuki (b. 1993, Aichi, JP), Shunsuke Takamizawa (b. 1993, Yamanashi, JP), Takuma Tsuzuki (b.1991, Aichi, JP), Aoi Nakamura (b.1994, Fukushima, JP), Ai Mieda (b.1991, Saitama, JP), and Naoki Miyasaka (b.1985, Chiba, JP), as well as graphic designer Heijiro Yagi (b.1999, Tokyo, JP), web designer Issei Yamagata (b.1989, Tokyo, JP), and poet Nao Mizusawa (b.1995, Shizuoka, JP), all listed on the exhibition documentation and catalogue as equal counterparts to the artists, alongside essay contributors and others involved in the organization and archive of the exhibition.
For Silent Category, all the participating artists were commissioned new work. “It’s very important that the artists produce new works for the exhibition: if they only bring their previous work, the curator keeps authority and there is less opportunity for exchange”: Fuse explains that through collaborations and communication, the curator’s preconceived notions are slowly broken – a progression which he welcomes, as it creates more freedom and fluidity in the exhibition-making.
“It’s very important that the artists produce new works for the exhibition: if they only bring their previous work, the curator keeps authority and there is less opportunity for exchange.”
- Rintaro Fuse
In an essay entitled “Note for Art in the Age of Isolation”, accompanying his ITCCC - Isolated Type of Close Contact Chamber (2020) website work, Fuse defines an exhibition as “a place separated from everyday life, where the individuality of the body is exposed.” Finding silent solace in the midst of noise is at the core of his curatorial exploration. In the title “Silent Category”, the word “category” does not refer to the concept of categories proposed by Kant or Foucault but is rather synonymous with a moment in time and space that floats above reality, much like the concept of the Cloud. Back in Tokyo, the curator explains to me his new line of thinking about the body and its relationship to networks: when the human mind meets online networks, “noise is produced,” whereas when the body is placed in front of online networks, “a state of silent meditation is achieved.” The middle space between digital noise and silence is explored in this exhibition through collaboration and a sense of anonymity.
“When the human mind meets online networks, noise is produced, whereas when the body is placed in front of online networks, a state of silent meditation is achieved.”
- Rintaro Fuse
The first artwork of the exhibition comes through the form of the poster visual, designed by young prodigy Heijiro Yagi, an undergraduate student at the School of Advanced Art Expressions at Tokyo University of the Arts. Fuse gave Yagi creative freedom to interpret the concept of meditative, silent exhibition space in 2D graphic design, and the result is striking. In his graphic design practice, inspired by pre-modern Japanese calligraphy, Yagi aims to break from the traditional mold of grid box design that is pervasive throughout flyer and poster designs in Japan. Detaching himself from the flat constraints of rectangular two-dimensionality, Yagi explores depth and three-dimensionality with the Silent Category poster, with shapes, forms, and colors evoking a sense of movement, fluidity, lightness of being. His original background design was exhibited at the venue on a flat screen, next to the exhibition reception desk area. In addition, he designed the exhibition catalogue to look like bricks of concrete, a 600-pages A5 volume with a rectangular thick format.
Yagi aims to break from the traditional mold of grid box design that is pervasive throughout flyer and poster designs in Japan.
The game’s main character has unique faculties to move, dance, and replicate the artist’s recorded movements – a new direction for the artistic practices of video games, which I believe could be representative of the next wave of digital art.
The exhibition starts on the third floor with a striking video game projected on a double-sided large flat screen. A work by Yudai Suzuki welcomes visitors to this floor dedicated to the Body. On one side of the projection is Window of the Horizon (2021), a video recording of the video game, and on the other is Streaming Planet (2021) with the actual live-simulated game, with its gamepad, consoles, ready to be played. Similar to games such as Fortnite, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft, the game is set in the wilderness of open worlds with miniature subworlds and gardens connected on a large map. Multiple objects are arranged and viewers are invited to move within Suzuki’s world by walking or running, viewing the landscape from different viewpoints.
For the work, Suzuki took motion capture as well as 4K video footage of movements of his entire body. The game’s main character has thus unique faculties to move, dance, and replicate the artist’s recorded movements – a new direction for the artistic practices of video games, which I believe could be representative of the next wave of digital art. The audience is indeed manipulating Suzuki’s movement, creating themselves the final work of art which they get to immediately experience on the screen. I’m fascinated by the fact that the artist injected his own body into an interactive artwork. Fuse tells me that Suzuki is a “heavy gamer” and that he was heavily inspired by actual games and platforms for professional gamers to create this work.
On the floor above, dedicated to Network, Fuse exhibited a unique installation work by Shunsuke Takamizawa entitled Geobserver (2021). This work’s label reads that is made of a computer, copper, wood, plastic, polyethylene, water, electricity, and a candle: these make “ingredients” for an artwork-machine. In technical terms, Geobserver is an internet server, producing an electric conduit by a self-made power generation mechanism which uses the temperature difference between two types of metals sparked by a lit candle. Once the electricity is functioning, this bricolage computer connects a pre-designed website to the Internet. The audience can only access the work’s URL, written in chalk on the floor in front of the work, once the candle is lit. As an elaborate yet rudimentary electric system, this work makes us painfully aware of the energy needed to fuel our Internet reality, an enabling experience that Fuse refers to as the “Internet architecture itself.”
In laymen’s terms, Geobserver is an internet server. The audience can only access the work’s URL, written in chalk on the floor in front of the work, once the candle is lit.
Finally, the exhibition ends on the ground floor with a sound installation by artist and DJ Kazumichi Komatsu, who uses sound recorded from Japanese urban mazes and turns into a psychedelic soundtrack to the exhibition. Also built especially for the exhibition is Y-1 “silent” (2021), a website by designer and artist Issei Yamagata that directly reflects the loneliness and lack of emotional chat rooms.
Silent Category is some sort of material manifestation of the web experience, with artworks directly touching on bodily experiences of the World Wide Web. Zach Blas, in Omar Kholeif’s edited Art After The Internet, coined a term for artists working in “contra-internet” as opposed to “post-internet”, which Blas finds to be a “blanket term.” Fuse is not contra-internet, as this exhibition proves: he embraces the Internet and tries to add a piece of quiet – or Silent Category – in the sphere of non-stop timelines. By creating a physical experience that is deeply linked to digital interconnectivity, Fuse proposes a true hybrid model of a physical-meets-digital exhibition.
Fuse embraces the Internet and tries to add a piece of quiet – or Silent Category – in the sphere of non-stop timelines.
“Silent Category” was held at Creative Center Osaka from March 14th to 29th, 2021.
Visit the exhibition‘s commissioned website, built by Issei Yamagata.
Follow Rintaro Fuse on Instagram.
Watch the exhibition installation views footage.
Rintaro Fuse is a multimedia artist based in Tokyo, whose work oscillates between digital dissonance and social anthropology. Concerned with cave painting, selfies, the birth of the Iphone, and the fabric of postmodern society, Fuse graduated with a BFA in Oil Painting, an MFA in Film and New Media, and is currently pursuing a PhD in the Graduate School of Film and New Media Studies, all from Tokyo University of the Arts. His solo shows include iphone mural (iPhone's cave wall painting) at BLOCK HOUSE Tokyo (2016), The Walking Eye at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse (2019), Marginalia (2020) and When To Kiss Names (2021) at SNOW Contemporary. Fuse also has a curatorial practice based upon the concept of “new loneliness” of the post-internet age. He curated Mapping Loneliness, a group exhibition at Yotsuya Unidentified Studios (2018), and most recently, Silent Category at the Chishima Foundation for Creative Osaka (2021) with seven artists of his generation. He participated in numerous group exhibitions throughout Japan, including In the air, 3331 Arts Chiyoda (2015), Anzai Prize Scholarship Recipient Exhibition, Tokyo University of the Arts Yuga Gallery (2015), Room with a good view at Turner Gallery (2016), LANDSCAPE: detour for White Base at Bambinart Gallery (2017) and New Loneliness at Honkbooks (2017).