Akiko Tamaki: Media, Metronome, Memories

Akiko Tamaki is a media artist based in Tokyo. A graduate of Tokyo University of the Arts, Akiko’s work features video and performance in a way that is concerned with elements of double imagery, time, and memory. I met Akiko through Tokyo Wonder Site. The themes of her work are ones I am persistently interested in with media art. The devices we use on a daily basis have so much power to capture and record our daily lives. I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of this power is or why we desire it so strongly. We use our devices to hold onto our memories well aware that we will be gone some day. Perhaps it is for someone else to view.Akiko’s work makes reference to these issues. 

An iPhone or camera becomes a tool for capturing everyday events, in doubling or using repetition, her artworks interprets the capabilities of our media devices and our relation to them on a daily basis.

THE SAME DAY

When I take the train at Ryogoku I walk passed the same streets. For whatever reason I follow pretty much the same path without always realizing it. Maybe it is because I see a corner I like, or because I subconsciously know where the park is. I imagine if I lived here permanently, the same would happen over and over. The earth would change, but there would be familiar corners or objects in windows, like the small figurines at the local laundromat, that would draw my attention and how my day proceeds. They entice and guide me to where I need to be. At the same time, this repetition can break by my own volition or desire for change. Thus, it becomes intriguing to even interpret our patterns and how they develop. 

Recording our patterns and habits via video, photography, or other means, adds an extra layer to our daily experiences. In “The Same Day”, Akiko utilizes video as a form of documenting personal memories, opinions, and how they change over time. Individuals are asked questions over a set span of time, and the same routes are walked by the artist to see what has changed between the memory of a recorded device and a person’s recollection. 

If our personal recollections have certain limitations [capacity and details], should we consider recordings on devices to be the truth? Storage becomes an interesting concept, because video can record massive amounts of details, but perhaps it does not contain the same kind of power or function as a personal memory [the ability to remember a smell or feel]. Digital prosthetics (recording through video, photography or other tools) is limited in this way. The way a video records a memory is without specific types of memory - whereas a person might remember certain aspects that a video cannot contain. Akiko’s work considers this, the devices we use can of course capture the real world, but to what extent? What are the benefits to personal memories or using recording devices? 

Of course, tied to the act of recording, is the act of forgetting. In some ways digital or technological devices do not forget. Data can be deleted or swallowed up by a virus, but in general a storage device is permanent. It will only be deleted by human intervention. On the opposite end of this, a person’s memories can be altered by a number of factors. Dementia, the passage of time, psychological traumas, will all eradicate memories. A personal choice to forget something is also possible. Most importantly though, people forget things even if they do not want to. 

There is perhaps a selective type of storage that the mind has. We remember things subconsciously, like the way to the train station. We remember how to count, or how to type. But, although we eat everyday, it is incredibly difficult to remember what we ate a week ago, let alone a month, or year. Thus, it becomes intriguing to record these small details. We can record everything we want with video or through an iPhone. Then the question becomes determining what data is meaningful to us and the purpose it serves. 

Now, as I continue my research in Tokyo I am documenting my receipts, photographs, and other ephemera on the project website. I am uncertain of why I am doing this, but it is definitely reactionary to digital devices. Perhaps, much like “The Same Day”, I will look back to the information I’ve recorded, and will see certain details about myself that I overlooked while recording the data. 

In “The Same Day”, a metronome ticks away documenting the passing of time. A metronome is used by musicians to keep track of tempo. As an analog device, it remains relevant and useful although music continues to evolve and move into digital realms. The symbol of the metronome, outside of music, is one of order within a world of chaos. Although we see patterns and meaning in the world, there are many things we simply cannot understand. The metronome however continues on, performing the same action back and forth. Time continues to pass, and if we waste time on trying to understand every little detail of the world, we will waste our time before we even realize it. This, perhaps, is why we don’t place so much emphasis on trying to remember what we did a week, month, or year ago. It may also be linked to why we record massive amounts of data we may never look at again.

THIS IS NOT A MIRROR

In a previous writing about the NTT-ICC I discussed the motif and power of mirrors. Akiko’s This Is Not A Mirror relays a similar concept of using mirrors and digital media to alter perception. 

As the artwork description details: 

“Point your smartphone’s camera at a mirror and, obviously, you’ll see the backside of your smartphone. On the back of the phone, the phrase “This is a mirror” has been printed; and because the letters have been horizontally inverted, they are made legible as a reflection in the mirror. Look at the image of the mirror on your phone, however, and the characters have been re-inverted all over again. This piece embodies the self-referential paradox of media that references media itself.” 

The artwork makes me think about taking photographs of oneself on smart phones [selfies]. Perhaps this idea has been made elsewhere, but it seems that the ability to photograph one’s self while looking at the photo you are about to take, is not only a camera technique but presenting the photographer with a mirror. With smartphones, you can make quick adjustments to your appearance, presenting yourself to yourself. With digital devices though, we can edit ourselves with photoshop, or emojis, and other ‘digital makeup’. These aspects mimic performative and ritualistic aspects of real world interactions with mirrors. 

An allusion to Magritte’s The Treachery Of Images is also present in the work. In the famous painting, Magritte makes a reference to a painting of a pipe. The phrase, “This is not a pipe” is presented alongside a representation of the pipe. There are artists of the past have tried to best replicate or represent reality [the natural or physical world] through their work. Then there are artists who aimed to represent a concept, and those who embodied painting itself or a feeling and emotion. Everyone is trying to represent something, but unique to Magritte’s painting, is an upfront statement that the image is not real or representative of anything in particular. It is a comment on art as production and the perception of images. [It could even go further into how we read images, particularly those in advertising or television.] 

In “This Is Not A Mirror” the mirror and phone become the form of deception. When we take dozens of photographs, or edit our images for instagram, we are creating a representation of what is real, not what actually exists. A photograph for instance, isn’t how a person looks in the real world. In our contemporary times we are not so concerned necessarily with media representing the pipe, but how media is able to transform the pipe, and how we can share or dispense that image of the transformed pipe. Mirrors and our digital devices are able to present some form of our self [whatever the self is for that matter] but they can also trick, deceive, or make slight alterations. When using these devices it is important to note these considerations or we will get caught in false memories and recordings.

BREAK TIME

There is a relationship between our media, how we archive our memories, and how they are projected or dispensed back out into the world. In certain texts that deal with the duplication of imagery there is usually a profound scenario happening. For example, in The Invention of Morel a man is stranded on an island and goes insane after seeing images that appear to be real but are merely projections. However, in the contemporary, these themes of duplication, memory and media, might be more aptly described or present through the regular and everyday lives we lead. 

Break Time is a series of multi-media performances [and video documentation] featuring two versions of Akiko [a real and projected version] carrying out different activities such as making tea and watching a film. In the series, reality and the projected self, cross-over, converge, and coexist. At times, when both versions of Akiko overlap, viewing a certain moment in a film, it appears that they interact with one another. In this way, we can reflect on the recurring themes in Akiko’s work. What exactly is the self in the age of duplicity, media, and memory? How is it archived, remembered, and played back? Video is able to present a sense of timelessness, and performance art depicts the present. In Akiko’s multi-media performance, both past and present converge, creating an ambiguous sense of reality. 

Another point of interaction that occurs in the work is witnessing the present version of Akiko interacting with her projected self. In some ways, this might be like interacting with one’s shadow. This point of topic has also been relayed in literature, but not perhaps in the same everyday sense as what Akiko depicts. Here, physical version and projection version of the artist have tea, play games, take selfies, watch a movie, and converse with each other. 

There might be some sense of happiness achieved by having another version of yourself to interact with. The projected version is almost like a mirror, but slightly different, it understands your tendencies and shares your interests. Opinions may diverge on some things, but a sense of a friend or family is present. Of course, in reality [at least for now] time moves forward, and thus, meeting one’s self is impossible. We could only interact with ourselves if we broke time [or space]. Meeting ourselves might present some sort of ailment to some of the problems we face, like loneliness or anxiety. It is not without its own problems as well, but if the fugitive of The Invention of Morel had met a projected version of himself, rather than strangers, perhaps his story might have been resolved quite differently. 

Taking a selfie with the projected self is a prominent moment in the artwork. We might not feel the need to share our photos over the internet and with complete strangers if we were able to share the content with ourselves, someone who truly understands us, that many people now seek over the internet.