Makoto Yamaguchi

Architectural evolution

Embarking on the architectural journey of Makoto Yamaguchi, our conversation explores the evolution of his approach across various projects, spanning commercial offices, private residences, and museums. A significant focus lies on the acclaimed “Villa / Gallery in Karuizawa,” unraveling insights into the flexibility of its spaces. Transitioning to the distinctive MONOSPINE project designed for a game production company, we delve into its unique architectural elements. Our dialogue extends to considerations for newer generations and delves into the prevalent challenges in contemporary workplaces, specifically emphasizing well-being.

Dear Makoto Yamaguchi, I’d like to begin by asking: How has your approach to architecture evolved, considering the diverse range of projects you’ve undertaken, ranging from commercial offices and private residences to museums?

My  approach to design is the same regardless of the size or type of project. It’s about creating a scenery. I was originally very interested in how to create scenery.

Scenery, to me, means the same as so-called natural sceneries, which don’t seem to have any purpose. This is common to past projects, but I feel like I’m more aware of this than in my early projects.

When we mention “Villa / Gallery in Karuizawa,” the first thing that comes to mind is its recognition as the best residential project in the world in 2004. I can’t help but inquire for more details about this remarkable project. Could you elaborate on the flexibility and adaptability of the spaces within the residence? What considerations were taken into account to integrate kitchen and washroom facilities seamlessly into the concrete floor of the villa?

The clients for this project were a couple of musicians. After talking with them, we realized that the villa could be an abstract, empty space with no defined purpose. In this way, the kitchen and bathroom became no longer just places for that purpose, but places where the activities could take place. As a result, equipment was buried on the floor.

Amidst the increasing yearning to reconnect with nature, what specific elements of the local biodiversity influenced the client’s decision to select that particular location as the ideal space to build their house?

They are very good at cooking and like to cook. Before the building was built, when they entered the forest grounds, they always found edible wild vegetables growing wild and large leaves that could be used as plates. I have often seen the couple using them to create truly beautiful and delicious dishes. They enjoy discovering and using different things in a place.

Now, I would like to learn more about MONOSPINAL. Considering the project was specifically designed for a game production company, how do you perceive the current significance of video games as a social, cultural, and technological expression in contemporary society?

The name was given by a novelist who writes stories for games produced by the company. The games created by them are probably different from the video games that are generally recognized, and are characterized by their excellent story-telling. They have fans all over the world, and you can see many animations by other Japanese companies that have been influenced by the settings, lines, and scenes of their works, and you can feel the magnitude of their influence. can. We are paying attention to how these artists, who have such great influence in media culture, produce works of even higher quality.

What inspirations led to the selection of the term “MONOSPINE” for the design of the company headquarters? 

This word is a coined word that combines the words “monochrome” and “spine.”

The architectural element that most characterizes the space is the repeating pattern of sloping walls. How does this specific design contribute to the functionality of the new building in terms of lighting, ventilation, and acoustics?

Facing the site is an elevated railway where trains pass every 1.5 minutes on average both ways. The site is also surrounded by small-scale buildings, each with a variety of tenants. While the slanted walls enhance environmental elements of light, wind, and sound, every wall height is optimized according to the different purposes on each floor. For example, behind the third-floor walls are studios for recording the voices of game characters. They are heightened as much as possible to reduce noise from the railroad. While the walls block the views of the surroundings, they reflect natural light to bring in indirect light, maintaining the world and ambience of games during the recordings. On the fifth floor, which is vertically further from and with a lessened sense of connection to the elevated railway, the lowered walls provide a cropped view of the cluttered cityscape and the sky. With a great balance between direct and indirect lights, while steadily taking wind into the interior, the room offers a relaxing dining experience.

The slanted walls protect the interior from the external gaze, making it impossible to tell what the building is for from the outside. Not being able to see the purpose is much the same for natural landscapes. The slanted walls are made of thin, ten-centimeter-wide aluminum plates, a material of relatively familiar scale to humans. Rather than constructing a large building with large modules, we brought small-scale things together to create a bigger scale. This approach echoes the way nature is formed and grows. By adopting such a method of creation and making the building an object that does not give away information just like the natural landscape, the architectural work becomes part of a new townscape.

Among the newer generations, there is a growing acknowledgment of the vital importance of nurturing intercultural and intersocial dialogue to foster emotional connections and stimulate contemplation on various aspects of life. The communal table on the fifth floor stands out as an ideal setting for these endeavors. Could you share more insights and details about this space?

This table is where they eat lunch and sometimes dinner. For the staff, this building is more like a home where people from a wide range of age groups who share common values ​​can gather, rather than a company. They all gather around this table, eat together, and play their favorite games (which were made by other companies). All of the top creators are fans of the games they create, and that’s why they’re here. It’s the place where people with shared values ​​can relax, be inspired, and gain inspiration.

In the current landscape, the central challenge for workplaces is the well-being of employees, characterized by ongoing discussions about burnout and architectural deficiencies that exacerbate this concern. In response to this, how does the design specifically target the improvement of overall well-being and job satisfaction for employees involved in creative operations?

This is aimed to become a place for the highest level of creation that captivates fans worldwide and for supporting the foundation of the game production process. As almost all employees engage exclusively in creative operation, we focused mainly on providing a balance between concentration and relaxation while significantly removing the burden of operational work. We strived to achieve them by introducing slanted walls that characterize the exterior and a system to control all facilities, including security, with tablets.

We placed the areas mainly used by visitors on the lower floors, while the level of privacy and confidentiality increase as the levels get higher. On the second and third floors that face the elevated railroad tracks, we placed programs that require isolation from the outside such as the theater and the studios. The slanted walls are higher on the lower stories surrounded by existing buildings, whereas they are lower on the upper stories offering more sense of openness.

The landscape design, interior and exterior finishes, and fixtures all incorporate the style of the game world (the period and region in which the game is set, characters, items, etc.) created by the company as metaphors, which can be deciphered if you are familiar with the game. In other words, the headquarters building itself is made of the game.

Credits

  1. VILLA / GALLERY, Karuizawa, 2003. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  2. OGGI Apartment Building, Japan, 2013. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  3. VILLA / GALLERY, Karuizawa, 2003. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  4. VILLA / GALLERY, Karuizawa, 2003. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  5. MONOSPINAL, Tokyo, 2023. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  6. MONOSPINAL, Tokyo, 2023. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.
  7. MONOSPINAL, Tokyo, 2023. Makoto Yamaguchi Design. Photography by Koichi Torimura.

Amia Yokoyama

Amia Yokoyama, Słow Moon Sink
Ceramic

What the immaterial creates, the material makes

The lack of contentment governs the persistence of Amia Yokoyama to unfold the transaction between permanence and impermanence, fragility and strength. She tells NR about the void she desires to fill with whatever gnaws at her at the time she falls under its spell. She always seeks something, always on the hunt to uncover more, the reason she keeps sculpting and producing videos and animations. Somewhere between these works of art, she finds the depth of herself, the truth she owns that lies within the realms of her material and immaterial creativity. When she describes her practice, she lends her audience a piece of herself, and they soon realize the fidelity she upholds, questioning the elements of the Earth, the states of matter, the spaces that live within the physical and the memories, and the existence of layers in the digital world.

Whatever theme she touches upon, she borrows from other cultures, such as the prowess of Anime in Asia, to magnify, and sometimes distort, her objects, videos, and installations. In one work, viewers can find two naked feminine figures in euphoria as one caresses the skin of the other, beneath her breasts. In another work, a talk show occurs, hosted by two tech-driven figures who look the same. The Japanese-American artist gravitates towards pyschedelic approach to her practice, offering drugs to satiate the high-maintenance affairs of her viewers towards modernized, digitized, and sensual art. For NR, she taps into the poetess in her, layering the narratives about her art, self, and beliefs in a nature that reflects what she creates.

Amia, how has your journey been so far with your work? Was it easy achieving the creative process you have today?

It has been long, unruly, twisty, and unpredictably slippery at times, but I would not have it any other way. My process has been guided through searching for moments that trigger my creative spirit. These moments are the catalyst for my motivation. I get excited when these senses are tickled simultaneously like intellect, feelings, sensory, emotions, beauty, and tension, to name a few. When all of these are activated as I work, I know I am on the right path. If they are not, I keep searching.

“This journey means reaching for a visual language that can sing when lyrics alone do not quite cut it.”

Amia Yokoyama, Untitled (red) Ed 1, 2022

Having a Japanese-American profile, in what ways do your cultural background and upbringing influence your art and the way you make it?

I think that my early acknowledgement of my childhood and the feeling of not belonging encouraged a propensity to imagine and create worlds where I did feel I belonged.

“Inside my head, it was much more exciting, nurturing, and generous than my external social world.”

I began to develop my own relationship with my environment rather than a relationship that was heralded by my parents, teachers, or peers. 

I grew up in a multicultural household isolated within a vast sea of homogeneity, so differences, misunderstandings, and uncertainties were regular companions. This gave way to always feeling and knowing I was sutured of diverse and often disparate parts that do not fit into the ways the world told me they should.

“This understanding left the needle and thread in my hand to sew, take away, and ultimately give permission to myself to be something of my own desire.”

Amia Yokoyama, Slow moon sink, 2021
Ceramic

When the world told me that I did not make sense, I began the process of liberating myself from their idea of this ‘sense’ and allowed myself to expand the rules of existence.

“The childhood process of building sanctuary within my inner world has propelled me into my practice as if art were the overflow.”

Do you see the world – in general – as a symbiosis of humanity or dependent on self? Are you dependent on anything, artistically speaking?

Neither, or both, plus everything else. Humanity suggests a human-centric understanding of interdependency. I feel dependent on everything, all the spectrums of living and non-living things. I also know that the division between those two categories are not so exacting.

Amia Yokoyama, Slow mon sink, 2021
Ceramic

I see that you have this penchant for constant movement in all directions. Where does the affinity for this concept stem from? What is your opinion about those who map out their lifeline up to its finest details (go to college, find a job, earn money, buy a house, have a family, etc.)?

I have never experienced life as something linear. My experience in life moves in all directions, so I know nothing other than that. Being alive is ecstatic and chaotic with so many forces at play. I sometimes imagine it as a hurricane or a tornado whose energy needs humidity, dryness, coolness, and warmth, all happening at the same time.

Amia Yokoyama, In Our Embrace Eternal, 2021
Porcelain and glaze

The energy that I conjure feels like all those factors. They need to happen to create the core force that pulls things into the center.

“This movement, the tension between the core and the outer winds, is ultimately what gives the tornado its visible form, a form that can build and grow in this energy or dissipate just as easily.”

The idea I am trying to embody might be located at the center – in that stillness in the middle, the eye of the storm – but I may never arrive there. And if I do, it might only be moments before I am thrown back out again into the chaos of the surrounding energies at play.   

Amia Yokoyama, Biding Time For Enrapt Demise, 2021

You have mentioned that when it comes to your art, you are not interested in judgment and relation. Could you elaborate more on that?

I believe you mean that I am interested in relation. Judgment is arrival, a fixed point, a decision, something definitive. Whereas relation is something that is more wayward and present, something interstitial. For me, that is the intriguing part.

Amia Yokoyama, Deliquesced in the Valley of Heaven, 2021
Porcelain and glaze

A sense of femininity and feminine prowess is present in your sculptures. The softness and hardness of the edges complement, an overview of Yin and Yang. How do these concepts influence your life as an individual? What other themes do you convey in your sculptures?

With clay, there is a loud and constant negotiation between permanence and impermanence, fragility and strength. There are moments of transformation that happen throughout the process, when earth and water come together, when the air hits the water, and when the fire hits the earth. This flow between states of matter or the shapeshifting of material identities is something I feel connected with.

With my video and animation practice, it swings between dimensions, materializing and dematerializing from 3D to 2D space, back into 3D, sliding into 2D again, and back and forth.So much of my existence resonates with this multi-dimensional translation. When these various modes of existence play out at the same time, and this back-and-forth is engaged, there is an illusory or almost binaural experience where the mind simulates something that is obviously not there in a physical sense.

“This is the space where the alternative forms of being are born. This is the place I seek.”

Amia Yokoyama, Harbinger (Tengu), 2022
Ceramic

“I am interested in another layer of existence which is the dematerialized, the digital, and the fragmented projections of the self.”

The characters in my work come from notions of digitally rendered, animated, non-human figures bearing feminine shapes. They are Anime-inspired erotic and aesthetic objects that can traverse existence between the physical (clay) to the digital (dematerialized).

Anime is one of the most visually distinctive, largest exported and consumed contemporary media from East Asia. They embody borderless beings who increase their collective life force through rhizomatic reproduction. They are an amalgamation of bodies, fluid, and overflowing desire and excess.

“The portion of their bodies seduces by promising ecstasy and ultimately death.”

They are literal and abstracted in their philosophical underpinnings and poetic in their materiality.

Going through your video installations, your works engage the meeting between utopia and dystopia. How do you conceive these realms? Are they based on personal or external experiences?

I would say they are based on both my internal and external experience and perhaps even more so where those distinctions begin to overlap. I do not think of the concepts of dystopia or utopia when I am conceiving of these realms. I think of them more as personal mythology.

“Utopia connotes perfection, and perfection has no place here. Dystopia connotes something harmful or undesirable.”

That being said, I do like the literal translation of utopia – “no place” – as if it were a space of refusal.

Amia Yokoyama, Measure Wants the Seam, 2021
Porcelain and glaze

How is your artistic world unfolding these days? Is there anything missing that you want to look for? Also, how would you like your art to influence the world?

There is always something missing, always something I am looking for, always more to uncover, which is why I keep making. I like to keep the carrot on the string and the garden growing within the trampled ground beneath me, you know?

Credits

Sculptures · Courtesy of Amia Yokoyama and Sebastian Gladstone

Aytekin Yalcin

Sweet Dreams

Credits

Models · STERRE HAKET( FABBRICA MILANO MANAGEMENT), IVAN CARBONE (ELITE MODELS), EUGENIY TKACHENKO (ELITE MODELS), CARLY TOMMASINI (URBN MODELS), MINSEO KYUNG (WAVE MANAGEMENT), ANNE BARRETO (NEXT MODELS MILAN), MATTEO PAGLIERANI, FATIMA KOANDA (WOMEN MANAGEMENT)
Photography · AYTEKIN YALCIN
Fashion · GABRIELE PAPI
Make up · SIMONE GAMMINO
Hair · FABIO D’ONOFRIO using DIEGO DALLA PALMA
Make up · Assistant LORENZO RUSSO
Hair stylist · Assistant FLAVIO CHIVILÒ
Studio assistant · FEDERICO PAGANI

Anicka Yi

“If I had to guess I would say I was smelling the Machine Age, but honestly it was hard to tell”

I decided to binge Foundation recently, the Apple Original series based on Issac Asimov’s famous sci-fi novels. It’s a fantastic piece of television but in it there are a few throwaway lines that mention ‘the robot wars’. The series is set millennia in the future, long after humans have populated the galaxy, but that simple phrase sets the imagination whirring.

Quite often when scrolling social media you come across videos of robots that scientists are working on, some humanoid, some not. However one thing is constant, and that is somewhere in the comments people are joking that these robots will one day turn on us, and ‘the robot wars’ will become reality. This sentiment is unsurprising, especially from a generation brought up on media such as Black Mirror. But what if they didn’t turn on us? What if the ‘robots’ or the ‘machines’ become part of the ecosystem, benign artificial beings that live in the wild and evolve on their own?

Anicka Yi’s installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall explores such a possibility. As you enter the space you spot them, flying high above the crowds of visitors, like strange sea creatures with gently waving tentacles and whirring propellers. They come in a variety of pinks and yellows and some are transparent. Yi calls them aerobes, and in addition to sea creatures draws inspiration from mushrooms. The hairy, bulbous aerobes are called planulae, whilst the ones with tentacles are called xenojellies. “Combining forms of aquatic and terrestrial life, Yi’s aerobes signal new possibilities of hybrid machine species.”

Yi collaborates with a team of specialists using artificial intelligence to pilot these aerobes, and they all follow unique flight paths generated by ‘a vast range of options in the systems software’. The machines use electronic sensors placed in various locations around Turbine Hall as a stand-in for their senses and react to changes in their environment inducing visitors heat signatures. “This sensory information affects their individual and group movements, meaning they will behave differently each time you encounter them.”

Another thing you might notice upon entering the Turbine Hall is the smell. When I visited it smelled swampy, almost like a peat bog mixed with the smell of petrol and metal. This is intentional, another part of Yi’s instillation are smellscapes. Based on different times in history these smellscapes change from week to week. There are marine scents from the Precambrian period, coal and ozone from the Machine Age of the 20th century, vegetation from the Cretaceous period, or spices that were used during the Black Death plague of the 14th century. If I had to guess I would say I was smelling the Machine Age, but honestly it was hard to tell.

Overall the exhibition does feel a little sparse. The Turbine Hall is a huge space and it feels like the number of aerobes in comparison are rather small. One feels that in the world that Yi is visualising that these aerobes come in great swarms that fill the skies like flocks of sparrows. Reality is a little different, understandably but the concept remains and upon leaving the space you find yourself wondering what the world would be like if it was populated by herds of roaming robots or packs of floating synthetic aerobes.

Credits

Images · ANICKA YI
Info · https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/hyundai-commission-anicka-yi

Photos

  1. Anicka Yi, In Love With the World, Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern
  2. Anicka Yi, In Love With the World, Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern
  3. Anicka Yi, In Love With the World, Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern
  4. Anicka Yi, In Love With the World, Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern

Motoi Yamamoto

“Our lives, that we live here now, it is always wrapped up in ephemerality”

Soft white piles of salt weave across the floor in delicate and intricate patterns that fill entire rooms. These transient installations are the result of hours of painstaking work from artist Motoi Yamamoto, for whom these creations are a way to remember his sister, who he lost in 1994 to a brain tumour, and his wife, who passed away in 2016 due to breast cancer.

Yamamoto states that he “keeps creating so that I will not forget memories of my family.” He considers the long hours he spends on each artwork as a way to help him to retain those memories. “I look for a convincing form of acceptance to come to terms with the parting of ways.”

On the last day of each exhibition, Yamamoto invites the public to help him destroy the artwork, gather up the piles of salt, and then return them to the sea. The cyclical nature of this act is inherently spiritual and references the cultural use of salt in Japanese traditions such as funerals. NR Magazine spoke to the artist about his practice.

I’ve noticed that you use a fine white seas salt to create your works, have you ever considered using other types of salt like pink rock salt which typically has larger crystals? 

I’ve only used it once in the past. In 2011, I used pink Himalayan rock salt in a large-scale solo exhibition in a museum. It was a work that looks like a Japanese rock garden. But one of the major reasons I use salt is its transparent whiteness and beauty as a crystal, so I think I will continue to use salt that looks white in the future.

Do you consider the process behind your work as a form of therapy that can help you work through and deal with the trauma of personal loss? 

The reason why I make art is to realise the farewell to the precious persons in a convincing way. I keep making art so that I don’t forget memories of those precious people.

“I see my work as ‘a mechanism to fight against the self-defence instinct of oblivion’.”

Salt has a particularly traditional and spiritual significance in Japanese culture, but also in many other cultures and practices around the world. What do you think it is about salt that makes it a globally significant and spiritual substance? 

Salt is a food necessary to support people’s lives. It is familiar but takes a considerable amount of time and effort to collect, which makes it both rare and essential. Another major advantage of salt is that food can be preserved and stored for a long time by salting. These are important functions of salt that support our life.

You have spoken about how you spend much of your time raising your daughter and that you want your work to look to the future. Do you involve your daughter in your art practice and does her view of the world offer you inspiration for your work? 

Basically, making art is a means to solve my own problems. But as she grew up, I sort of adopted changes in her will and mind and opened up opportunities to think about my work together with her. For example, one of the major reasons why I use blue as the underlying part of my work comes from the words my wife spoke before she died, but I asked my daughter about how bright and vivid the blue colour should be, and I decided to use the colour she chose for the work I am going to show this fall.

Both the process you use to create your works and then the returning of the salt to the sea when the installation is over, have an element of ritual to them. Do you think these acts could be considered a form of performance art? 

Certainly, there are performance elements in “public production” and “project to return to the sea”. However, it only looks like a performance as a result if you try to categorise it. It’s not my intention to establish it as a performance.

The patterns that make up your work are very organic in their form, is there a particular reason behind this? How do you plan out the designs?

The labyrinth-like complex shape was originally triggered by the winding form of the brain as my sister died of a brain tumour. And labyrinths have a meaning of rebirth. I began to draw the swirling works “Floating Garden” because the form of a vortex has a similar meaning to that of a labyrinth, mainly in East Asia.

What was the most challenging installation you worked on and why? How did you overcome these challenges? 

One of the most difficult works was a solo exhibition at a church in Cologne in 2010 in cooperation with MIKO SATO GALLERY. From 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., I worked more than 14 hours a day. Because I decided that the area originally planned was not enough to face the majestic space, it was necessary to take far more time than initially planned. With the help of the gallerist, the director, and many others, I managed to create a very satisfying work. The time I spent in Cologne is my treasure.

There is an ephemeral nature to both your completed artworks and the medium you use to create them. Do you think that nature is something that originally drew you to creating art in this way?

Since my sister and wife passed away at a young age, I always spend a finite time, permanently conscious of death. Even while I’m answering your question I am using my limited lifetime. There is no doubt that it is a very precious and limited time. Our lives, that we live here now, it is always wrapped up in ephemerality.

What advice would you give young creatives who want to create installations but perhaps don’t have the space or the resources to do so? 

After my wife died, I cancelled all my work to rebuild my life with my daughter. And I printed out hundreds of photos of my memories with my wife and put them on the wall of my room. That’s when I became suddenly aware that creating an installation and putting photos on the wall are equivalent to me.

My aim is to remember people who are precious to me, and I want to make sure that I never lose sight of the fact that creating installations with salt is just a means to get closer to that aim.

What projects are you working on at the moment and what plans do you have for the future? 

This year I am working on a new project. The Oku-Noto International Art Festival is a big challenge. Create huge installations in what was once a nursery. It is a plan to combine an area that uses a large amount of salt with an area drawn with paint. I’ll paint the walls, ceilings and floors of the nursery with the light blue colour that my daughter chose.

From next year onwards, I would like to realise exhibitions overseas again, for example in Germany, France and other countries.

Rina Yang

“the pandemic happened, and I think the drama world struggled more than commercials”

When she was younger, Rina Yang would keep in contact with her best friend in London by making, editing and sending ‘video letters’ from her hometown in Japan. Rina later moved to London to study and while there, saw an ad for a film school. The course was mostly theory with very little practical work, she told Lecture in Progress in 2017, but nonetheless gave her a reason to remain in the UK. Rina’s first roles in the industry involved working as a camera assistant on short projects. ‘I only did it properly for a couple of years,’ because as she tells me over the phone, it was a stressful role. But she did find common ground talking to directors during breaks about the creative processes behind the work. ‘I was better at that, than looking after the camera.’ And so, she pivoted – cutting her teeth in music video and short films jobs that her friends would ask her to work on. ‘One thing led to another,’ Rina adds – and she was able to carve out a space for herself as a director of photography (DP), a notoriously difficult role to break into and succeed in.

As a DP, Rina has worked on music videos for artists including Kamasi Washington, Vince Staples, Björk and FKA twigs (including the “controversial” and “risqué” ‘do you believe in more’ advertisement that twigs directed and soundtracked for Nike in 2017). Rina regularly balances projects across music videos, commercials and narrative work, a crossover she tells me is quite uncommon. And though her approach may differ depending on the project, her work consistently demonstrates an aptitude and eye for capturing the people and characters in front of the camera. A scene from the BBC’s Windrush drama, Sitting in Limbo, from last year, or the third series of Top Boy (for which Rina shot a number of episodes) are as beautiful and captivating as, say, a Rimowa commercial with Adwoa Aboah or her work for Sephora. 

Rina’s talent and vision as a DP have made her a sought after name in the industry – even at such an early point in her career. She was named by British Vogue as one of the 14 rising stars in the creative industries back in February, described as a “New Wave of boundary-breaking visionaries bringing fresh, exciting perspectives to the creative industries”. Her portrait to accompany the piece was shot by Campbell Addy who, like Rina, is part of a new vanguard of young talent. Last year, Rina was also included in the BAFTA Breakthrough list for 2020. Being recognised by organisations like BAFTA is great, Rina tells me, but it’s not something she’s had much time to think about, ‘I haven’t properly got my head around it.’ But, she adds, she definitely feels as though she’s at an interesting point in her career. That said, having faired the storm caused by the pandemic, Rina is now remarkably well-placed to continue to grow and nurture her skill. 

You’ve done a lot of commercial work with the likes of Nike, Rimowa and many others, and TV work for shows like Sitting in Limbo and Top Boy. How do you balance the different projects you work on? Is there something specific that draws you in?

I think the selection of the projects really comes down to your personal taste and what you find interesting. When I do commercials, I’m less selective because it is a very short commitment, and it’s a good opportunity to meet new directors and new collaborators. So I’m less picky and I’ll take the risk to work with new people. When it comes to narrative, it’s a whole different conversation. There’s a lot more boxes to tick to see if it’s the right project to do. It’s a different process, but I do like doing both. With my narrative work, you get paid less but I think it’s more of a romantic thing.

With that said, I love that your commercial work don’t just feel like adverts. They’re like short stories in their own way.

The directors and all the creatives I’m drawn to tend to have that kind of style. I don’t find the very straight up advertising that interesting. I mean, to be honest, sometimes we just do very boring commercials. You just don’t shout about it. But I think the ones that I get to shoot, they tend to be creative ads with slight narrative threads. And I’m grateful that I’ve been able to shoot some of them. You kind of flex your narrative muscle a little bit, but it’s a very different working environment in commercial compared to narrative. 

You’ve got a very distinctive use of colour, texture and lighting. How did you develop that style? 

When I started out my style was a bit more documentary because it’s hard to afford to do a big lighting setup. But even with documentary style, I don’t want it to look like what it looks like with the naked eye. So I try to heighten what you see, by using different lenses, or how you expose the sensor or the film – to add your take on the reality you see. 

As I progressed in my career, I could afford to have a good crew with me and all these big lights. And I guess that’s when I started using a bit more colour. I did go through a period of using a lot of colours because I kept getting asked to do that. I think with any artist or DP, we’re versatile so it’s nice not to get pigeonholed into one look. In general, I like to heighten the reality of a scene, and I think, “what if I did this” – I talk about a lot of what ifs, and still do some colourful lighting here and there.

So as a DP, how do you tell a story and create narrative?

How would I tell a good story? First of all, there has to be a good script, and there has to be a good director to execute that. I can only advise how I think we could shoot things, or collaborate with the director. In the beginning when I started out, it was quite hard to find directors on that level. One the hardest things in the beginning is to find a director who can execute the narrative in the way you see it, or better than how you imagined it. So I think I really collaborate with my directors, talk about how we see it. 

I guess it’s such a collaborative process; you’ve got to be able to work together well.

Yeah, definitely. The level of collaboration is different in music videos, commercials and narrative. With commercial, they tend to come with already established ideas –  with exactly how they want it to look because they’ve gone through a lot of chats with the clients and agency, and they tend to have have every exact visual references that I will need to execute. So there’s no huge room for us to create the look from scratch. And then music videos, you can be a little bit more funky with it. And with narrative, if it’s a TV show and you’re the first block DP, you can create the look with your director and showrunner. If you’re coming into the TV show in the middle of it, then you have to replicate what’s been established. And then if it’s a movie, there’s a lot more room to experiment. That’s why a lot of DPs prefer to do movies and the first block of TV shows. 

Has the pandemic changed your work process and schedule much over the past year?

Before the pandemic, I was going to shoot TV shows or films in 2020. I was shooting a lot of commercials early in the year because I was going to work hard on commercials until the spring, so I could afford to do a film or TV show that I like. But then the pandemic happened, and I think the drama world struggled more than commercials, so they’ve been on pause for a lot longer than advertising. Now, I’m reading scripts and trying to decide what narrative projects I should do next. This past year has been an interesting switch I think, because I was going to shoot a drama this year, and after doing commercial for a year, I’m really ready to shoot another long project, TV show or movie. 

Does it help having the balance of both commercial and narrative work, and being able to fall back on one or the other?

For sure – I take influence from both commercial and narrative. But, you know, I do switch my brain; if I’m pitching for a film, I’ll switch my brain to a narrative aesthetic and approach. My visual references would be quite different from what I would put in for commercial work because I think the commercial world is more like eye candy. It has to be catchy because we only have a minute or so to tell something. You have to say something in a very short amount of time. But when it comes to narrative, there’s a lot more room to grow and develop.

Credits

Images · RINA YANG

Isabelle Young

Northern Italy

I am always making up for lost time in Italy. I grew up Italian but have never lived there. 

My family are from Turin with their roots extending across Northern Italy and to England, where my Nonna  rst moved in 1948. Everything always feels so urgent when I am back. I see too much to take in and capture. Architecture plays the lead, and I am drawn to its towns and cities, focusing on fragments. Classical details; modernity; industrial Italy and upright stones.

What draws me to certain Italian cities is the fact that I can still see and photograph the country my family’s generation grew up around because, in a large part, it still exists. 

The upheaval surrounding the Italian landscape and Italian society between the seventies and eighties is one I perceive as still visible, and have actively investigated in my own work within a contemporary context.

Credits

Photography and words · ISABELLE YOUNG
isabelle-young.com
instagram.com/isabellelyoung

Yoshiyuki Yatsuda

It’s Harder Not to Change Than to Change

Yoshiyuki Yatsuda is a graphic designer and photographer based in Tokyo.  He is focused on something that attracts him such as “a place left from the times” and “an unrealistic landscape of the real world”.

Credits

Photography and words YOSHIYUKI YATSUDA
www.instagram.com/yoshiyukiyatsuda

Yis Kid

Michele Yong

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