Presented as part of the BFI’s new year-round BFI Expanded programme which showcases new forms of visual storytelling by artists who work across a range of media.
9 December to 30 January
Main Foyer, BFI Southbank
Open all day*
This installation explores the rich cultural history of Japan through the concept of “a river in time”. It is a six screen and multichannel audiovisual work that has been created by leading UK media artists The Light Surgeons, featuring new music by Japanese percussionist and composer Midori Takada. Recontextualising a set of newly restored films from the BFI’s Japan on Film archive, the work re-traces the themes and locations in these early cinematic views of Japan with new material gathered by the artists across the country in 2020.
This film footage from the past and present is analysed in order to transport us into the near future. It is a future where archives are continually examined and mined by semi-autonomous programs that participate in an endless form of data archaeology. This memory retrieval and its “artificial gaze” is presented by an animated infographic layer in the work created using bespoke AI software tools. These algorithms “read” the films and present us with a surreal deconstruction of the editing process itself. The installation seeks to provoke its audience to contemplate how all archives, past, present and future, form an collective social memory. It asks us to consider how our understanding of these moments frozen in time might be affected by the rise of these new and emegring AI tools and the inherent biases they will bring.
Alongside this representation of past, present and future, the films and audio tracks weave together a range of different themes. From our relationship with nature and the built environment, to the ancient traditions that are juxtaposed with contemporary imagery reflecting Japans accelerated modernity. All these threads come together to form a meditation on time, place, memory and the nature of archive itself.