It seems to me as an over-analysing viewer, that your works, via "low-resolution simulation", using analog-digital intermixes, combining analogue and digital media when creating digital imagery, even the use of ASCII art, drive our attention towards the two-dimensional surface of the image, as opposed to "absolute" simulacra qualities that are imposed on us in "mainstream" HD images. Are you aware of this effect as an author, maybe intentionally developing it, or shall I take it just as side effect of the psychedelic bliss I get from your videos?
Lo-fi aesthetic is definitely intentional. All these high end special effects we see in mainstream movies and TVs are great. But those look cold and too perfect. I absolutely don't care to make things like that because I make art, not commercial work. I like the idea of creating things that are in complete opposite spectrum of so called 'mainstream' visuals.
You use for your work a lot of inexpensive, retro equipment such as cheap VHS camcorders, Panasonic video mixer from the 90s etc. What interests you on the combination/cooperation of analogue and digital media in your work?
I usually use my analog equipments to create my source footage. Then I digitize it into my Mac. And I digitally manipulate those in After Effects etc. So what you see is a result of the process. I try to be honest with it and not to pretend like everything I make is pure analog. I just don't see any point in emulating the 100% vintage look. We don't live in the 80's anymore. I just like the idea of mixing the best of past and present and make something for the future.
The simplistic poetry of some of your works on the other hand somehow evoke a sense as if they were referring to some handmade, manually scratched films by Len Lye, or, maybe more likely, to early computer animations by Stan Vanderbeek from 1970s. Specifically I have Line Cheddam (2005) on mind here and even though those connections are of course very unlikely, still I would very much like to know the background for this piece, to decode this striking visual similarity with works that have been presented in the context of our festival before.
Although, I'm totally flattered by the comparison, I honestly didn't have any Len Lye or Stan Vanderbeek in mind when I made Line Cheddam. I don't think I was familiar with their work back then. My experimental videos usually involve a use of vivid colors. But I was in an experimental mode for that. I just wanted to see how I can achieve the same sort of psychedelic effects without using any colors. I also made a piece called Blind Side of A Secret around the same time with very similar technique. I just wanted to prove myself that the colors aren't always needed to make psychedelic animations.
I would like to enquire little bit about the time when you were editor of Word.com (1995–2000). It was late 1990s, before Netscape 2.0, and before it was even possible to have animated GIF's, Flash animations or video/audio files on-line. And you were apparently one of the first people to do animations on the web.
Back in 1995, GIFs were already around but none of the web browsers supported GIF animations playback. Then I had a programmer who knew how to push a series of still GIF images into web browsers with CGI script. That was a total hack. We couldn't even make the animation to loop. And technically, we weren't supposed to be messing around like that. We had a lot people complaining about crashing their browsers. But at the same time, there were absolutely no rules. We got a lot of attentions from the media about that even from New York Times and such. So, we had a lot of fun making a bunch of tiny animations for Word.com. And the thing is that even before the web, I used to make a lot of tiny looped animations for interactive CD-ROMs as a student in art school. So, I've been making a lot of tiny looped animations throughout my career. My main focus now is video making, but I still enjoy making GIFs because it's just quick and easy.
I don't think we ever had somebody who did video albums before at our festival. Could you explain little bit what get you into doing such format? And how is it different for you from doing music videos?
It's totally natural for me to be working with an album format because I grew up listening to CDs and Vinyls as a kid. So, that's one of the inspirations. It's also like a book with chapters or a solo show by an artist in art gallery or museum. The idea is not that different from those. ... My videos have been published as DVDs in the past 10 years. And I used to be able to just call it DVDs. But now DVD is a dying medium. I care less to have my DVDs published these days. So, I realized that there really isn't any other good word to describe this. Then I just figured I would call it 'video album' for now so people understand it. So, it's really nothing new.
Speaking of that, I've been working on a project to start up a label/distribution hub for video artists. We will be ready to launch it by the end of the year. We will be releasing video albums with artists who work in a similar way with me. It's inspired by the ideas of video archival institutions and traditional music labels. You can think of this as a mix of EAI and Warp Records etc. It will start out with a small collection, but I hope it will be bigger in the future, like a hybrid of those two combined later on. It will be called Unervolt & Co and the URL is www.undervolt.com. From the website, people will be able to download the combos of MP4 videos and PDF booklets.
Music videos production is totally different a beast though and it totally serves a different purpose. Maybe that should be separated as a different topic.
And what role in your works does play the narrative?
I haven't really explored that much with narrative works. I've always hesitated to experiment with narrative concepts. I'm bilingual and I don't feel competent expressing my thoughts in either English or Japanese. I always feel awkward communicating my ideas through languages. So, that's why I like the idea of making art that are visually driven and universally appealing. And it might be a bit much to say it, but I am always looking for a way to connect with people with my visual art in a subconscious or spiritual level without any language barrier.
Yoshi Sodeoka interviewed by Marie Meixnerová
Yoshi Sodeoka is a multidisciplinary artist and musician from Yokohama, Japan. He has lived and worked in New York for more than two decades. He gained his place in the programme of this year's PAF because he is one of the significant people with authorial style who, by means of the digital medium, refer to the structure of an analogue image which is brilliantly aesthetized and fetishized at the same time. However, it is not only the use of analogue glitch which originated naturally, or its digital simulation, but also the use of old video feedback, digital-analogue mash-ups and remixes, videos composed of playful letters of the ASCII code, and work with simulation of low resolution, which is typical for Sodeoka and highlights the hidden (or more precisely: nowadays vehemently concealed) image structure, its inner laws and kinetics.
From the content of the video, attention turns to the two-dimensional image surface; from the things that occur inside the image to the image itself; for its visual qualities. The motion here serves as an artistic expression, not as a mediated narrative; and audience accessibility is ensured by the fundamental interconnection of Sodeoka's works and music. It is progressive rock and especially psychedelia that are the most significant denominators of Sodeoka's contemporary work. He rejects majority audio-visual/digital discourse and his work is characterised by its original quasi-retro approaches, a literal visual tornado and a fantastic, colourful floor, all attacking the audience's senses even more intensively than the psychedelic drugs of the 1960s.
Besides producing significant authorial music video clips, and his frequent cooperation with various interpreters, Yoshihide Sodeoka is also an outstanding name within the net art community, and not only because of his famous psychedelic gifs, ASCII art videos, "pirate broadcasting" Prototype #44 and Net Pirate Number Station (interactive video, 2004).
FLOOD, Kathleen. „The Creators Project At The Gaité Lyrique: Q&A With Yoshi Sodeoka." [on-line] The Crators Project, thecreatorsproject.vice.com, 8. června 2011. Dostupné z WWW: < http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/the-creators-project-at-the-gait%C3%A9-lyrique-qa-with-yoshi-sodeoka>
„Yoshi Sodeoka". [on-line] Triangulation Blog, www.triangulationblog.com, 7. října 2011. Dostupné z WWW: <http://www.triangulationblog.com/2011/10/yoshi-sodeoka.html>
KAGANSKIY, Julia. „Concept Albums And Prog Rock Make A Triumphant Return." [on-line] The Creators Project, thecreatorsproject.vice.com, 20. února 2013. Dostupné z WWW: <http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/concept-albums-and-prog-rock-make-a-triumphant-return>