glitch animations and motorcycle-riding werewolves with artist takeshi murata
The digital artist's work is moving into narrative films with his new work OM Rider.
Digital artist Takeshi Murata's most recent animation, OM Rider, tells the story of a motorcycle-riding werewolf and his nemesis, a smartly dressed old man. Known for his glitch animations, trippy videos that explore the disorienting outcomes of randomised computer animation programs, Murata moves towards something more narrative-focused with OM Rider. Made over the course of eight months with Murata's long time musical collaborator Robert Beatty, the 12 minute video pays homage to dark, stylised storytellers like David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn, but also to the video games and cartoons of Murata's childhood. In honour of the premiere of Murata's latest revision of OM Rider at Salon 94, we talked to the artist about glitch animation and what it means to be a digital artist.
What did you want to say with OM Rider and how did your collaboration with Robert come about?
I knew I wanted something to do about identity. I was looking at Halloween masks and different ways of disguising yourself and the werewolf clicked because it's this creature that transforms between two different entities. And the old man had to do with getting older myself. I definitely relate more to the old man.
Working with Robert has been amazing. We've worked together for a long time. I think it's almost been 10 years. Fortunately Robert is very patient. The video was not done chronologically and I didn't make it in a way that made sense for him making a full soundtrack. It started as scenes and he would score it and do different sound effects. I knew he would get what I was trying to do.
What was the genesis for your early glitch animations? They stand out stylistically in comparison to the new film.
In school you'd have an idea and then you'd spend a lot of time working on that idea. There wasn't a lot of discovery in the process, which was frustrating to me. With those earlier videos, that was me getting to work with computers and seeing the process allowing for more discovery and experimentation. Now I've become more interested in clean, realistic spaces. When I started working on this film I thought about things that I would want to represent or characters that were standing out to me, but I would just start working. There was no storyboard or script, I would just work visually.
You didn't plan the narrative in advance?
When you're working with representational, clean images and characters, the narrative is happening no matter what. Even if you are really trying to downplay that side, it is always present. I try to keep it all intuitive. I try to work quickly and not self-analyse.
There are a lot of art historical and cinematic references in your work, from Dali to Tron. What are some reference points that you find particularly influential?
I was definitely into video games when I was a kid. It was also a time of traditional animation, which I have always loved, like old Popeye and Superman cartoons. I always loved practical effects too; blood splatter, and Dawn of the Dead gore. And then all of the sudden everyone was using a computer for everything. I came at CG from being generally disgusted with it! I've come full circle, though, and now I appreciate it.
How do you interact with that CG software nowadays?
I can't do super crazy high-end things. There's a handmade element to it, but it's also using it for what it's built for, which is commercials and Hollywood effects. I've always been interested in that and I'm just a fan. I love horror movies. I'm a huge fan of Giallo - Italian 70s horror films. Probably the central guy for me was Dario Argento. [His movies] are over the top and super stylised with crazy lighting. They've influenced me a lot.
OM Rider is incredibly ambitious. Do you do all of the animation yourself?
I do! I've been trying to figure out ways to get help in areas. The first way was using a render farm. I'll make all the work on my computer and then send it to this render farm in Poland, and in turn they send it to China. I have a new computer, but the same thing that takes them two hours would take my computer 100 hours.
What interests you technologically at the moment?
One of the things I'm interested in is working with fabricators and advances in computer aided fabrication like computer controlled milling and 3-D printing. I've been interested in getting these images that have been in this space that is a non-existing, ephemeral, almost dream-space, that then they can become objects. I can fully pull them out!
Text Clarke Rudick
Photography Brayden Olson