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Japanese Cattle 見島牛
8mm black-and-white film on video, 4:3, Sound, 20'
Film still

Installation view at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Singapore, 2016

Photo: Geraldine Kang

Japanese Cattle filmed by 8mm black-and-white film focuses on cattle bred on the island of Mishima in west Japan. Mishima cattle, a protected species on account of their status as pure Japanese cattle that have never been crossed with imported breeds, were once used for draught purposes. In the film, images of the cattle and of peaceful scenes on the island and audio of farmers reminiscing about working alongside the cattle are combined. Despite the fact the footage is of contemporary Japanese events, the black-and-white film along with the distinctive dialect used by the farmers leave the viewer feeling increasingly vague as to the time and place. The film aimed to look back “now” from the future nostalgically. From the landscape that looks as though it has been left behind by globalism there looms both something lost and something immutable.

Expository texts: Roppongi Crossing 2016: My Body, Your Voice

Whether red sneakers tumbling down onto night streets, giant goldfish swimming through tree foliage, or fireworks inside a bucket, Shimura Nobuhiro has a reputation for dazzling video art in unconventional settings. Japanese Cattle (2015), shot on 8mm film and incorporating documentarian techniques, is a new departure for Shimura.

 Over the course of the three years he spent in Yamaguchi, having moved there from urban Yokohama following his participation in the Yamaguchi Akiyoshidai international Art Village residence program in 2013, Shimura studied film projection at Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM) before screening films several times a month at YCAM as projectionist, According to Shimura, in today’s filmic environment, in which equipment and storage formats change with bewildering speed, he was drawn not to these newer formats but to antiquated, time-consuming and tangible film.

 The black-and-white Japanese Cattle focuses on a protected breed of cattle found only on Yamaguchi’s Mishima island. Narrated by the voices of the elderly farmers, speaking in their distinctive dialect about their lives spent working side by side with the cattle, an uncanny impression is created of a lost time and place, almost as if one is looking at footage of some newly discovered Shangri-La. However, it is clearly different in nature to a virtual world, and the time the draft cattle and farmers spent together couldn’t seem more poignant or real.

 And yet Shimura’s art, which always expresses the essence of film, in capturing the time between dream and reality, along with a sense of place and of thing, is essentially unchanged. Our same gaze, which delighted in the red sneakers, and goldfish, now journeys into the past and future via these humble cattle.


Araki Natsumi (Curator, Mori Art Museum)

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