EMAKI - film by Daniel Belton

Auckland Art Gallery Auditorium, Auckland

13/10/2017 - 14/10/2017


Production Details

Emaki is Daniel Belton and Good Company Arts latest work featuring Japanese artists. Emaki is a digital picture scroll of dance, sound and light with state of the art technology that connects Asian and South Pacific cultures, reflecting on the poetics of space, nature and art. 

For Emaki our digital space is a construct of the picture scroll – the scroll conjures narratives through which the dancer figure voyages. The Japanese ancient art of Suminagashi is digitised to suggest sentient hills, mountains, ocean, geology, weather systems and the Five Elements. Each episode or scene is an interaction with one of the elements – these journeys are performed by Japanese dancer Meri Otoshi.

We follow her path as she navigates different environments and seasons. She embodies in her movement a choreographic meditation of each element, and a physical responding to the multi-dimension world of the Emaki picture scroll. Otoshi conveys the human figure deeply held in nature. Emaki creates a series of digital chapters, which reflect and project the human spirit in cinematic expression. 

Presented with OneOne (World Stage Design 2017 edition).

Performer: Japanese dancer Meri Otoshi

Performance installation , Dance ,

20 minute loop

An ancient-contemporary mystical journey

Review by Carol Brown 17th Oct 2017

Belton and Good Company’s latest work features the artistry of Meri Otoshi, Jac Grenfell, Kan Roku, Kuoko Matsuura, Naotoshi Osaka and Ko Suzuki. A meditation on travel through physical and virtual landscapes, the 35 minute single screen video, sees a lone dancer, Meri Otoshi, navigate diverse terrains through an ancient-contemporary mystical journey. 

In this work, blooming pixel-drawn spaces become a visual scenography that entangles movement in layers of time. Organic and geometric filigreed networks enframe Otoshi as she travels, becoming palpable matter which suggests a relation between interior and  exterior lifeworlds. Shaped by algorithmic environments of vegetal, gestural and digital patterning, Belton and co-artists have developed a work that is sublimely beautiful.

Navigating different elements and environments, Otoshi’s pathway intersects with architectural fragments that appear to hover and extrude in these scapes – a white rectilinear plane, a window of gossamer threads, polygon mesh – she negotiates these terrains with somatic curiosity and quiet attention, her movement always precise and detailed.   At one point, she lunges; her hands flexing from the wrists,  flicking and pecking the air in syncopation to a drumming rhythm. At the same time, a group of dancing figures form a shadow chorus that traverses and dissects the cinematic volume.  Dressed in traditional clothes including veils over their faces, they appear as ancient and enduring figures.  Montages created through video editing, machine vision and motion graphics shape a textured world that references the Japanese art of suminagashi, paper marbling.  Described as a ‘digital picture scroll’ of dance, sound and light, Emaki (Fire Element) developed through Belton and his collaborators drawing on the Japanese tradition of handscrolled narrative painting called emaki. Traditionally composed of sheets of paper or silk joined horizontally and rolled around a dowel, emaki handscrolls are like books, unfurled one segment at a time.  Turning a handscroll into a choreo-cinematic experience Belton and collaborators unfurl scene-by-scene detail of an imaginatively constructed world. I was reminded of the journeys of characters in Ursula Le Guin’s science fiction fantasies such as the Earthsea Trilogy. Quests that involve journeys with uncertain outcomes, that take us into imaginary worlds where there are discoveries to be made. The choreographic logic of scrolling lends itself towards the cinematic structure and framing.  We read the images from one side to the other, unperturbed by an absence of figure-ground stability.  In this floating world, mesh networks grow and decay like gossamer threads.  Sounds interpenetrate this sepia toned world as resonating frequencies that thrum and stir the air turning movement into song.


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