The Nightless City


Most people use Google Street View for directions; Yuichiro Tamura uses it to make movies. “I became interested in Street View’s images because they’re very anonymous,” says the 36-year-old Berlin-based Japanese artist. Never before has there been such an extensive and dispassionate repository of world scenes. “Nobody knows who takes them, and they aren’t shooting [the landscape] – they’re scanning it,” he says.

Bit by bit, Tamura captured screenshots from Street View and painstakingly compiled them in Final Cut Pro, eventually producing a 10-minute video that depicts a road trip through Nebraska, Chiba, Alaska, Portugal and Marseille. He called it Nightless, alluding to the fact that all of Street View’s images were recorded during the day, and narrated the first half in thickly-accented English; the second half features a soundtrack culled from various corners of YouTube, like a car stereo scanning radio frequencies.

That was in 2010; Tamura has since made 10 more versions of Nightless, and his goal is to eventually make a feature-length film. His most recent work took him to Hong Kong, where he created a new Nightless video for Tokyo gallery Yuka Tsuruno. “In the past versions, I chose random images, but this time, I visited for 10 days and I researched the history of Hong Kong,” he says. He also made platinum prints of Hong Kong screenshots, which were exhibited in wooden frames engraved with internet search terms by Buddhist funerary carvers. “Google Street View images are temporary—there are only a few months or a year before they change it—but platinum prints last 200 or 300 years. I’m interested in how it restores narrative to the image.”

It’s never exactly clear what that narrative is, which is what makes Nightless so compelling. “My work is the practice of inserting subjectivity into objective and anonymous images,” says Tamura. It’s also what sets him apart from other artists working with the same material, like American photographer Doug Rickard, who uses film cameras to document dystopian Street View scenes in the United States. Tamura, by contrast, treats Street View like a massive reel of found footage whose origins are unclear. “I’m not a painter, I’m not a sculptor — I am not a creator. I work in distribution,” he says.


Yuichiro Tamura, “Airport.” Platinum print, 2013


Yuichiro Tamura, “Sea line.” Platinum print, 2013

Yuichiro Tamura, "Hills"

Yuichiro Tamura, “Hills.” Platinum print, 2013

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday July 06 2013at 12:07 am , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Film, Maps, Public Space and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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