the art and animation of shoji goto

10Nov10

I find the art and animation of Shoji Goto (後藤 章治), husband of Yoshimi P-We of OOIOO and Boredoms fame, to be some of the most incredibly unique and exciting work around.  His video for OOIOO’s song “UMO” engages in a future-primitive aesthetic that manages to convey the urgency of ecological disaster while remaining delightfully playful and full of hope.  The plastic deer that is the star of the video is an object removed from the flow of consumer capitalism and reappropriated as a totemic icon of natural renewal.  This is signaled by the transformation of the hourglass — at first symbolizing the idea that time is running out — into the ribbon-shaped lemniscate, the symbol of infinity.

What is especially wonderful about this video, and representative of Goto’s work as a whole, is the way in which the musicians have been alchemically transformed into spirit beings existing in a realm in which the human and natural worlds are no longer divided into separate spheres.  Reminiscent of Kachina dolls — the embodiment of envoys from the Hopi spirit world — the musicians in the world of UMO take forms that require us to identify with and access the non-human parts of ourselves — the parts of ourselves that can form connections with the shapes, forms, sensations, and multiplicities of the natural realm and escape the confines of an over-civilized human shaping (a kind of violence) that leaves us less multiple than we ought to be.

If there’s one thing that Goto’s work is able to do, it’s to open a door to the multiplicities — the alternative subjectivities — that are always already waiting to be released from within our human skin.  Freedom, expansion, joy, and connectivity are the primary moods that infuse Goto’s work, and everything is alive and moving.  The animism of Goto’s work, however, isn’t replete with any sort of atavistic desire for a return to an imaginary prelapsarian, pre-technological state of being; instead, the emotional weather of his work has more in common with the afrofuturism of Sun Ra and the P-Funk mythology.  The ancient is and will be a present part of the cosmic future that awaits.

In the video for “SOL,” these themes are played out in the image of a young girl pulling a burning school bus that represents the state of technocratic civilization as it exists now.  Civilization is figured as a ruin of violent fragmentation — the volatile last gasp of the age of oil and nuclear power — that can only be redeemed through a solar transubstantiation.  Two forms of power are alluded to here as forms of future transformation — solar and wind power — but it’s important to note that at least one of the moments of transformation involves the disc of the sun being drawn from the sky to become the disc of a record, a unity of the technology of sonic reproduction with the source of all life.

Goto has designed most of the album covers for OOIOO, published in Japan on Polystar Records and by Thrill Jockey in the U.S., and he also has a website that, somewhat sadly, gives only a single (beautiful) example of his design work.

And since artists need to eat too, Goto also engages in commercial work from time to time, including this advertisement for Glico’s Kurujyaga potato treats.  (Thanks to Nishikata Film Review for introducing the Glico connection.)

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