Interview with Mamoru Iriguchi

Mamoru letterbox

This year we’ve joined forces with the wisdom of Mary Paterson to further engage us all with three artists at the heart of this year’s SACRED: David Hoyle (21-22 November), Mamoru Iriguchi (26-27 November) and Stacy Makishi (28-29 November). Mary is launching three interviews with each of them, over the course of the three weeks, allowing a unique insight into their processes and practices.  This week, Mamoru Iriguchi lets us into his 4D Cinema


Can you picture Marlene Dietrich? Can you see her smooth skin, her half-closed eyes, her softly parted lips? Can you watch her turning towards you slowly, blowing smoke rings from the cave of her velvet mouth?
And how many of her films do you remember?


“The films are actually not that interesting,” says Mamoru Iriguchi, gently, as he describes why he chose to perform alongside Marlene Dietrich – or rather, images of her – in 4D Cinema. Most people can picture Dietrich’s sultry presence, but they cannot place her in a plotline. She became an icon in the 1930s via a string of films directed by Josef von Sternberg which, Iriguchi says, are each like “one long pop video”: stunning images that nonetheless amount to nothing more than a testimony of desire.


Of course, this reveals a fundamental truth about images in general: they say more about who is looking than who is being looked at. Dietrich belongs to an era when people “went to the cinema to see Stars”, Iriguchi says – to revel in the luxuriousness of the gaze, wrapped in the anonymity of the mass encounter.


This was also the era in which ‘The Movies’ was a communal experience. Audience members were packed warmly together, cloaked in darkness, and hushed in front of screens the size of buildings. Much has been written about this kind of ‘oceanic’ viewing – whereby the individual is lost in a sea of togetherness. Together, we generate the (real) feeling of shared experience, by subscribing to the (false) belief that we can all perceive the same thing. Or as Iriguchi puts it, “the experience [of each individual in the audience] is not so dissimilar.”


Live performance, however, is completely different. The significance of the live, says Iriguchi, is in the ways that audience members interact with other bodies in a room. For a start, the architecture of a theatre (for example) affects viewers’ individual sight lines and angles towards the stage; we are all, literally, seeing a different show. More importantly, we are all watching “someone who is alive at this very moment; someone who might die at the next moment … we never know.” While photographs and film offer a pervasive and illusory eternal life – “they are all dead,” Iriguchi says of stars like Dietrich, “but they are not allowed to be forgotten and disappear into oblivion” – live performance is literally a matter of life and death.


In other words, Iriguchi’s new show, 4D Cinema, deals with momentous themes – the relationships between the virtual and the real, between eternity and mortality, between what you long for and what you have. And yet the artist’s approach is modest and playful: a mix-tape of live performance and image technology (both analogue and digital: “digital does not mean much in this context”), which performs its own sleight of hand. Iriguchi disarms his philosophical subject matter until it is (apparently) simple to behold.


This effect also stems from the fact that Iriguchi occupies the edge lands of experience, teetering between what audiences expect and what lies beyond our knowledge, in order to draw us into a dialogue with complex ideas . The journey of discovery is indeed where he wants to focus our attention: we “give up examining the boundary between real and virtual experiences,” he says, because of “the sheer number of photos and videos force-fed to us through social media today.” In 4D Cinema, Iriguchi will perform with a screen around his head: literally testing the boundaries between the pure humanity of live experience, and the manipulable imaginary of the image.


Iriguchi’s relationship with film often plays out in this kind of physical proximity: he projects film onto bodies and objects, moves it across stage, and interweaves it with performers’ actions in a way that makes the technology feel both clunky and vulnerable. In doing so, he inspires an emotional connection between audience and image that matches the emotional resonance between audience and performer. In other words, Iriguchi offers an alluring reference to the oceanic aspirations of the Hollywood golden era, at the same time as he makes the audience aware of the frailty of our individuated positions. And this, of course, merely reinforces a sense of desire for the first, and an intuitive understanding of the second. It’s a virtuous circle of artistic-philosophical-sensation.


The ribbon that ensures this all hangs together is Iriguchi’s modest and hesitant stage presence. He proves his own theory about what is at stake in the live: diffident, polite and funny, the artist’s personality emerges through and within his (apparently) earnest performance style. As both the performer onstage and the individual standing before us, then, he probes and embodies the possibility of failure. And in this beguiling way, Iriguchi delves ever further into the hearts of the audience (which is to say, of the human race). Here, he explores our desires for meaning, memory and the eternal longing of desire itself. Iriguchi balances on the edge of technological and/ or mortal meltdown in order to ask us – quietly, and with a smile – what we are looking for.


Mary Paterson is a writer and curator. She is the co-founder of Open Dialogues, which produces writing on and as performance. In 2014 she established up Something Other, a collaborative programme of research that explores the relationships between live art and digital culture. Mamoru Iriguchi’s 4D Cinema  is showing at Chelsea Theatre on 26th and 27th of November at 7.30pm. Tickets can be booked here.

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