Posted: 12/18/2006


Takagi Masakatsu, life so beautiful


by Mike Wood

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Masakatsu takes the randomly photographed world and plays with it, isolating gestures or angles, adding colors or bursts of colors, to highlight just how beautiful the world actually is. Or can be; it this celebration of the mundane and the mundane manipulated that gives the short films in this collection their power.

Working from a palette of mages shot in Turkey, Cuba, German, France, and enhanced with his own music, Life attempts to reveal the beauty inherent in the world by distorting it and turning it into one huge canvas.

While many of the scenes are gorgeous, and Masakatsu’s alteration of the film with his coloring and stop-motion effects help each image transcend the action of each piece, many of the ten shorts here seem like outtakes from a larger video art piece. Scenes featuring children in various playful activities certainly illustrate the universality expressed, but in many of the films there is no context. The viewer is left pausing to muse on a beautiful scene that could mean anything or nothing.

Where Masakatsu’s vision and technique triumph is in two very powerful pieces. In “Sorina Street,” we are drawn to the plight of a little girl playing the accordion on a bust Istanbul street corner. Her wise yet delicate features speak for both the fear and the defiance in all of us. She becomes truly universal, whether bathed in manipulated color or framed in black and white. She is a calm and strong oasis amid the bustle around her.

Making great use of black and white is “Birdfland2,” which follows the slowly building group action of a flock of birds as they prepare to leave their trees and head to where instinct leads them. Here the profound in the mundane is explicit, and moving.

Over all, there are too many static images, altered with color and their meanings suggested by music, to make a truly arresting statement. Still, as a reminder of what we often miss daily when we are blind to everything we think we’ve seen before, life is so beautiful offers a sweet testament to what glory surrounds us, ready for appreciation. The artist could have chosen more active scenes to prove his point.

Mike Wood is a novelist, painter, and critic living in Rhode Island.

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