Online Screening: Monster Movie

This online screening of Takeshi Murata’s Monster Movie (2005), on view through October 30, 2016, is presented as part of The Campaign for Art: Contemporary. The exhibition also includes Murata’s sculptural animation Melter 3-D (2014).

Brightly colored abstract composition made up of pixelated and smeared fields of color
Takeshi Murata, Monster Movie, 2005 (still); single-channel video, color, with sound, 4 min.; sound by Plate Tectonics; collection SFMOMA, gift of Christopher Vroom; © Takeshi Murata

Takeshi Murata: Monster Movie

by Rudolf Frieling

Takeshi Murata has been influenced by the history of visual music, animation, and abstraction in film, and by the long tradition of reworking this history and recycling its cinematic forms. Yet it takes an artist like Murata to revisit the tradition through digital tools while also exploring a dystopia of the digital age. In Monster Movie a bit of B-movie footage from the 1981 film Caveman becomes a seething, fragmented morass of color and shape that decomposes and reconstitutes itself continuously. Murata’s visions are a nightmare of viral editing, in which all material becomes an endless liquefied abstraction of information, floating in and out of barely recognizable figuration. No image or figure is ever sustained; each is pixelated to its morphology of constant change, driven by currents of psychic states.

When Michael Jackson’s music video for the 1991 song “Black or White” popularized the newly developed technology of morphing software, the message was an ideological call for a global community in which black is white and white is black and historical identities are there to be changed—all ultimately serving the profit of the recording artist and his label. Fast forward to this century, and artists like Murata uncover the latent streams of digital manipulation. Informed by a legacy of Hollywood thrillers and horror movies, Murata’s videos take on the job of destroying any illusion of sustainable identity in the digital realm. Anything can be made out of ones and zeros, and anything can be unmade just as easily. As if we were not yet confused enough about the implications of the shift from analog to digital, Murata’s painterly visuals are unsettling, to say the least. In his work, the scratching and remixing of culture has become a psychedelic affair that speaks to a generation of anime lovers and video-game addicts. And for those still stuck in the realm of the cinematographic, built on frame and narrative, there is at least the possibility of a media archaeology: the narratives of cinema live on, but not in the way we imagined them. For moments, then, there is the sublime recognition of what once was.

This text was commissioned for the Bielefelder Kunstverein’s online exhibition platform Subjective Projections in 2009 and is republished here in slightly revised form.


Rudolf Frieling

Rudolf Frieling

Rudolf Frieling was appointed SFMOMA’s curator of media arts in January 2006. At the museum, he has recently co-curated Bruce Conner: It's All True and organized Film as Place (both 2016), Christian Marclay: The Clock (2013); Lynn Hershman Leeson: The Agent Ruby Files (2013); Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media (2012); Descriptive Acts (2012); Sharon Lockhart: Lunch Break (2011); David Claerbout: Architecture of Narrative (2011); and Long Play: Bruce Conner and the Singles Collection (2010). In 2008 he curated SFMOMA’s influential survey exhibition The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now. He also collaborated on the SFMOMA presentation of the traveling exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera (2010) and oversaw the exhibition William Kentridge: Five Themes (2009).

Spearheading the notion of the museum as a producer, Frieling has recently commissioned for SFMOMA’s public spaces Jim Campbell: Exploded Views (2011/2012) and Bill Fontana: Sonic Shadows (2010). During SFMOMA’s temporary closure that began in 2013, he curated collection shows at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, and at Borusan Contemporary foundation in Istanbul, and co-curated the SFMOMA On the Go program Doug Hall: The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Frieling is also an adjunct faculty member at California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute. He has lectured on media history and theory at institutions nationally and internationally. He studied English literature, social sciences, and philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin and received a PhD from Universität Hildesheim.

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