COOL was born in hope of becoming a bridge to let the art lovers all over the world inspire each other, link together as one, and create a new future in arts. The main contents consist of interviews of both New York-based and international artists and creators, special feature articles, art reports from around the world, reviews and column series. We contribute to the cultural exchange through arts and to the development of the art industry so that people in the world can enjoy arts casually and New York and major cities in the world can connect through the media COOL.
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The new century’s artist, Masakatsu Takagi, works in several mediums, animation, electronic music, and video art in Japan. He exhibits his works at various places, such as Apple Store worldwide, 21st Century of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and the Agnes B store also in Tokyo. He went on tour with the group, Sketch Show, whose members include Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. He also jointed David Silvia’s live tour in the U.S. and Europe. He has created promotion videos for two solo musicians, Yuki and UA (pronounced oohah), who releases albums on German and New York’s labels. His latest exhibit, titled Masakatsu Takagi+ Saeko Takagi: Color of Empty Sky, which took a place in Transplant gallery in Chelsea from 4/29 to 5/26. This exhibit included the latest project, Color of Empty Sky, which is the collaboration work of Masakatsu Takagi and his wife, Saeko Takagi. In addition to Color of Empty Sky, Masakatus also had the exhibition on drawing, titled Zert, was held at ATM gallery. While other Masakatsu’s projects at Transplant Gallery are made with live-action footages, the animation piece, Color of Empty Sky, was made from the very beginning, including materials. It caught a lot of attention for the new front of two artists; as a result, many people visited at the galleries on the opening day.

Masakatsu Takagi was nice enough to sit down for Cool Magazine interview during his busy schedule.

COOL: Can you tell me briefly about yourself and career?

Masakatsu Takagi: I was born in 1979 and am from Kyoto. I was majoring in English at University of Foreign Studies, but I dropped out after a year. At that time, I was making a free paper, like a magazine, with the people I met at the college. I sometimes included an audiocassette in that free magazine. To my surprise, the magazine won the FM Radio Award. I was also doing photography at that time, so we decided to add some motion pictures to the music, which our members were making. Although, I started working on video like the extension of photography, I began enjoying it a lot. I had about twelve footages, after I continued working on video for a year. The people in Tokyo happened to see my work. I then started releasing moving images on DVD. Since then, I began doing live performance at clubs. I had enormous positive feedback to the live performances. My sense of professionalism rapidly rose. I was not interested in clubs and techno to begin with, so I began creating music and screen images as my creation. At first, the music was only extra for the screen images, but there were a good number of people who said that my music was good. Right now, I do both music and video picture.

C: For your current exhibition, you displayed at Transplant Gallery; and your wife, Saeko, did at ATM Gallery, both at the same time. Can you tell me the process of these exhibitions?

MT: The opportunity of exhibiting at ATM came first. As for Transplant, I’ve known them for some time because they have my DVDs placed at their gallery, so, taking this opportunity, we decided to do two exhibitors at the same time. Also, I wanted to show the promotion video, which I created for UA, as one of my creation at museums and galleries.

C: What was the reason to collaborate with UA?

MT: UA saw my DVD piece World is So Beautiful. I had the offer from her. When I showed her the first project Lightning, which I created for UA, she told me it was different from what she thought (laugh). She told me that she was expecting that her promotional video was going to be like World is So Beautiful. She eventually said OK when the video was completed. I made Lightning after I had its proposal from UA, but as for the second project Color of Empty Sky, I approached her with the idea. Therefore, I created the second of UA’s project as one of my own project, so it was more like I borrowed her music. During the process of creating Lightning, I always made sure the UA’s ideas were included. On the other hand, Color of Empty Sky was constructed by all my ideas.

C: Were there no communications involved in the process of creating Lightning?

MT: Lightning was a promotional video, so of course I had meeting with UA. She created her song, imagining that she was in light with absolutely no shadows. This image differed from my perception of the song. Also, I was understating Lightning as “flare,” but it was actually “lightning” as in thunderstorm (laugh). From that time on, we discussed many times.

C: I think most of your work has done by a computer and live-action image. Compared with that, your piece this time is a little different, isn’t it?

MT: In the past, I was creating my work based on the moving pictures that I shot. After I created the videos for UA, I changed the formats and created some pieces, even though I was doing it in the same way.

C: World is So Beautiful was originally made for Agnes B (a retail store). What was the reason for that?

MT: A person who worked at Agnes B saw my work by chance. Agnes B in Japan just wanted to do something related to arts. Then, they got an approval from Agnes B’s head office in France. There were no precedents; therefore, I could freely work on the project. Since I really liked the atmosphere in Agnes B’s store before I took a part in that project, I always thought it would be great if my video picture was placed there.

C: Can you tell me a bit about “Birdland” in World is So Beautiful?

MT: I always get an idea in the middle of working on a project, after I started working on a project. Firstly, I add color onto the images I shot; and I try something I can do with it technically. If it’s a series, something like a total theme in simple Chinese characters comes up in my head. For example, sometimes it’s 成長(growth), 発芽(germination), or 飛躍(rise). It’s always related to explosive energy. If I see my screen image in terms of process, I always leave rough parts, like only the first one-minute. I like to see how that develops. I always have the feeling that I want to reach the place where I never imagined. I do not want to make the piece that has a solid concept from the beginning to the end. It’s more like showing one picture in five minutes’ footage. I want to include the drafts that cannot be seen in the final stage. Unlike making more high quality piece than the first image, when you entirely look at my piece, I want you to have the same impression as you see one picture. As for “Birdland,” I just had the rough idea by looking at people’s movements and images of birds. I don’t decide everything from the beginning, so sometimes; I make silly things (laugh).

C: Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

MT: Travel. I travel three or four times a year. I just came back from Nepal. When traveling, I come up with about two ideas, especially in sketching and taking memos. I don’t shoot while at traveling. However, if the thing I saw during my trip stuck in my mind for a long time, it comes out as my project after at least half a year or a year. When I shoot, the inspiration from my trip pushes me to do something without my consciousness. Inspiration needs to be fermented once. Also, I have to be in a trance like condition; it’s me, but it’s not. Without that complicated feeling, I can’t think of my work.

C: You are doing various things, such as electronic music and video arts, and also joining other artist’s live tours. What is your first priority?

MT: I don't have any special preferences. I just do it when I want to do it. My feeling of what I want to create changes. If I concentrated on one part very hard, I always begin to feel that another part is annoying (laugh).

C: Can you tell me about your eighth DVD, Coieda?

MT: I made this over a year ago. This is the latest of all my DVDs released in the past. Each of my pieces created before Coieda has a different taste. One has computer sounds; one has the sound of musical instruments; another one has songs, so it is more like pop music. They are all separated, no association. My projects were made depending on my egotistic feeling, so each project has totally different taste. For Coieda, I gathered everything that I separated, so it’s a more concrete piece. It’s a comprehensive compilation of my DVD creations for four years. As for the moving picture, I spit all my thoughts out in World is so Beautiful, so I can feel that I’ve begun making the pieces that have the new style. Coieda was the turning point.

C: What are you planning to do in the future?

MT: I saw several pieces done by great artists at museums in New York City after a long absence. And then I thought about this: I was only in a very small world. So, I thought it would be great if I became number one in that small world because I am still young, but for the first time I felt strongly that I have to work on the equal stage from now on with those great people who are in their 40’s and 50’s.

Masakatsu Takagi
Visual Artist / Musician

text by Kazumi UMEZAWA, photo by Wallace Spain
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