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In this whirlwind of a music video, visual artists Edd Carr and Rollinos string together a host of experimental processes that keep you on your toes.
Chaotic would be the first word that springs to mind when seeing the music video for Japanese producer 99Letters’ new track Shishimai. The track is part of the artist’s upcoming album published by the record label Disciples, alongside songs like Genzitsu Touhi and Shubun Goretsu. The video – more accurately described as a spiritual experience – comes courtesy of visual artists Edd Carr and Rollinos. Edd runs Screw Gallery in Leeds while also co-directing the arts organisation Sustainable Darkroom. Rollinos has been working with a range of artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Toro y Moi and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Both creatives have been tugging at the same thread of analogue and digital experimentation.
The pairs’ interest in exploring the tension of analogue and digital developed from their joint project Return of the Wolf – one part of a media campaign for the conservation charity Endangered Species Coalition. Edd tells us that, since then, they had wanted to work on another project “specifically expanding the combination of AI and analogue print techniques.” For Edd, the style used for Shishimai really became apparent after making Lepidoptera, his experimental moving image project using rainwater-degraded colour prints. “After listening to the track, I immediately connected the vibrancy of that technique to the acoustic madness of 99Letters,” he tells It’s Nice That. Though Rollinos works in both analogue and digital, he was brought into the fold to enliven the project through his experiments with digital glitch art and AI. He had already been busy “developing new processes to transform and repurpose footage” through live visuals for bands – a process he calls visual synthesis.
Shishimai unfolds in distinct parts. Firstly, stock footage of modern-day Japan and traditional Shishimai also known as the Japanese lion dance was put together. This was digitally distorted using pixel sorting and AI. The AI generates new images from every frame which blended completely unexpected elements. Of this part of the process, Rollinos says: “It's kind of scary and neat at the same time”. The entire video was then split into individual frames, printed out using eco-inkjet on recycled paper and then further degraded using water and ink before being re-digitised. That’s a mouthful! But this seemingly never-ending process produced over 3,000 images that Rollinos says could have easily stood on their own as Risograph prints.
Though the two had developed a seamless working relationship, Edd being in Yorkshire and Rollinos in São Paulo meant the “collaboration was more formal than organic”. Still, given how laborious each individual treatment was, it’s difficult to believe that it’s come together in such a harmonious outcome. The pair were guided by 99Letters aka Takahiro Kinoshita’s initial idea or, as Rollinos puts it, “Taka's song traced the route we needed to follow”. Edd says that it was through Takahiro’s album Kaibou Zukan – which sampled “traditional Japanese instruments into a contemporary acoustic landscape" – that he became interested in the “tension between the modern and traditional that is essential to the album, and to Japanese culture in general".
Edd details that it was notes taken from Takahiro as well as a “general impression of contemporary and historical Japan, distilled through the lens of a non-native” that loosely inspired the direction of the project. And even though the final video is mangled and erratic, it’s still distinctly Japanese. Edd says that, amid the noisy ensemble of processes vying for attention, they wanted to retain the “kaleidoscopic joy that is so associated with modern-day Japan” – a goal that they most certainly achieved.
Edd Carr and Gabriel Rollinos: Shishimai for 99Letters (Copyright © Edd Carr and Gabriel Rollinos, 2022)
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That as editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design. Feel free to get in contact with Roz about ideas you may have for stories from the Global South.
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