Q&A: Takeshi Murata on His Love of B-Movies

Murata_Grant-Night_Moves_2012_Still3Takeshi Murata, the artist whose computer-animations, photographs, and sculptures are as humorous as they are uncanny, is the subject of a new survey catalog, edited by writer and curator Dan Nadel and published by Salon 94 on January 26. In honor of the release, Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, as part of their ART SEEN series, invited Murata to screen a film of his choice. His selection was “Return of the Living Dead,” the comedy-horror cult oddity, which will screen at the theater on February 23 along with a few new shorts. Ahead of the screening, Murata answered a few questions over email about his use of technology, the balance between the gallery and the cinema, and his interest in b-movies.

Technology is still commonly thought to erase the individual, but your work feels, at least to me, very hand made despite the mediation of a computer program. Do you think of your work as personal?

Yes, it’s important. Computer mediation should facilitate personal expression, not hinder it. It’s a matter of understanding the parameters, both as the artist and viewer. If the work is new, without a technological context, it can feel foreign and cold. As a broader context for the work emerges, the artist’s hand in the work becomes more evident.

You have often referenced a certain period of b-movie movies from the 1980s in your work. What draws you to these films?

There was a system in place at that time, b-movie theater, drive-ins, midnight movies, later straight-to-tape, that supported cheap, schlock movies. The production speed made them loose and immediate, and the focus on the bottom line created constraints teed up for subversion. At best, they are wild, crass, hilarious- a direct and honest reflection of the human condition.

Despite its ambiguous narrative, your film “OM Rider” plays with the conventions of popular film. Is your moving-image work moving away from the gallery and more toward traditional cinema?

I’ve really enjoyed making work between both. I don’t see much of a distinction in conceptual context, and the physical context I often set up to be similar. Producing my videos however, I lean more towards the gallery. I begin work visually, without much sense of narrative or even a linear temporal structure. I follow the direction of the visuals almost the entire time, allowing the story arc to peel off this. It’s intuitive and more freeing for me than writing and following a script.

Do you see yourself pursuing narrative even further in the future?

Yes, definitely.

Can you talk about your choice of “Return of the Living Dead” to screen at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn on February 23 as part of their ART SEEN series?

When Caryn Coleman offered to host a book release party at the Nitehawk (A survey catalog of my work that was just released this week), she invited me to select a film to screen. “Return of the Living Dead” was my first choice. It is one of my favorite horror/comedies. Like most horror movies of that era, it’s low-brow without pretension. The plot is straightforward, though layered with satire. The practical effects are amazing, and the horror reflects real anxieties. It’s capped with ridiculously over-the-top scenarios and acting. It’s also a great party movie! It was written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, famous for writing “Alien” and “Total Recall,” and making the student film “Dark Star” with John Carpenter.

What about some of the new horror shorts you’ll be showing at Nitehawk?

These are very short shorts, some with characters from past videos, and some introducing a new character. They were commissioned by Daata Editions, a new platform created to support editions of short video sound and web based artwork.

Craig Hubert (@craighubert)

(Image: courtesy of the artist)