Artist Profile – Takeshi Murata

Published on 2018-05-22

Artwork featured in the salon –  'Untitled (Pink Dot)' (2006) Single channel video, Duration: 05:00 looped (20 minute soundtrack by Robert Beatty.) Courtesy of Empty Gallery.

Takeshi Murata merges video, illustration, and digital manipulations in works that have been shown at MoMA, New Museum, Eyebeam, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., Taka Ishii Gallery in Tokyo, and Empty Gallery’s booth at The Armory Show in 2018. SFMoMA acquired his Melter 3-D sculpture and displayed it in the first show following the museum’s 2016 remodel.

Murata puts media production under a microscope. He recreates the effects of scratched DVDs, pays homage to synthesizers, animates familiar but alternate realities, spins simple digital patterns into oozy dreamscapes. He celebrates the flaws, breakdowns, and temporality of digital technology. 

The intention is new ways of seeing. “Technology is this monster: a fast-moving, crazy thing that seems alien in a lot of ways, and culture is trailing it.” Murata says. “I want culture—the things that are produced with the technology—to move as fast and as quickly. And maybe another anxiety is when technology gets that far out control, out there, where it’s not really addressed within the arts.” 

To address that desire, he puts formal explorations of media and technology in dialogue with the culture it transmits. He remixes and refracts the conventions of werewolf horror movies into an aesthetic that would look at home on Adult Swim. He makes infinite loops of The Price Is Right reveals. He does still-life portraits, but chooses subject matter like VHS tapes and French horns, and makes them look alien. He talks frequently about looking to humor to guide his work. And, from when he wakes up to when he knocks out, he reports a near-constant stream of cultural consumption in his daily life.

His playful media mixups are in full display in Untitled (Pink Dot). Murata takes footage from Rambo: First Blood and burns a sunspot through the middle, soundtracks it for an ambient bender, and melts the frames to flowing lava. His manipulations put a familiar, everyday cultural touchpoint through a digital torture chamber. The end result both accosts and elates, highlighting the peculiarities and vulnerabilities of video as a medium.