95 Minoru Fujimoto(Lighting Choreographer)

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Minoru Fujimoto is the designer of the lighted costumes worn by SAMURIZE from EXILE TRIBE and is known for his works that combine wearable computing with dance performances. The 34-year-old Super Creator has created a new genre of physical expression using lights which he calls "lighting choreography." Fujimoto told us nonchalantly, "I want to make things that nobody else in the world can come up with". We asked Fujimoto, whom people call "LED professor", about how he got started, and about the future of performances that feature lights. We also asked him about his ideas for entertainment staged in Roppongi.

update_2018.8.8 / photo_yoshikuni nakagawa/ text_tami okano

My starting point was an electrifying encounter with dance

I'm 34 now; about 20 years ago, when I was in my teens, there was a bit of a boom in dance. A dance studio opened in the Kansai area, and I started learning dance. When I was a high school student, I went to a dance battle event for the first time in my life. The dancing I saw there was incredibly cool. It was electrifying.

The moment I entered the hall, there was a big booming noise and in the middle of the pitch-dark space, a competition was taking place, with the dancers facing each other. It was a scene that I cannot forget even now; it had a bigger impact on me than a baseball game or a concert, or any other event I'd been to before. From that point on, I fell headlong into the world of street dance. I stopped watching television. I wanted to concentrate on dancing, so I canceled my Internet contract during the four years at college.

The electrifying experience I had when I first saw the dance battle event, and the days I spent dancing have led to what I am doing now. Technological systems for dance performances are often created from the point of view of the developer. In many cases, the performances are simply demonstrations that showcase the technology. It's as if they're saying, "This is capable of recognizing these movements. Amazing, isn't it?" I was never impressed by those things. What I want to do is to create a system from the performer's perspective; I want to fulfill the wishes of the performer to be a certain way or to do certain things. That has been my strong desire from the very beginning.

Thinking about creating things that only I can make

"Ars Electronica" Ars Electronica

At Ars Electronica 2010, Fujimoto performed a dance wearing lights. An application software was used which could easily control the patterns of the lights in line with the music. Fujimoto says the performance was his starting point of "lighting choreography."

Eight years ago, when I first showed my work at Ars Electronica, the maximum number of LED lights that could be fastened on a performer was 200. Now there are 9,000 lights on one costume. The size and efficiency of the devices have evolved, and the number of lights that can be controlled wirelessly in real time has increased nearly 50 times.

There's clearly been an advance in technology, but the number of LED lights isn't what really matters. What's important is that there are now more ways for performers to use the lights. But even with great technology, I would not use anything that doesn't make the dance look cool. That is my rule and my philosophy. Whether it's new or cutting-edge, I will not use technology that restricts how people move.

Because I'm not a genius engineer, I'm constantly aware of the significance of making my own original things. I want to make things that nobody else in the world can come up with. Instead of having people simply wear lighted clothing, I want to expand the possibilities of performance by using lights. My hope is that this new genre in dance called "lighting choreography" - which syncs lights, sounds and movements - will become widely accepted. "Lighting choreography" is a term I coined; I think the concept itself was new at the time and I've been responsible for developing all the necessary hardware and software. I've written the computer programs and undertaken the choreography. I'm proud of having done these things that only I could have done.

"Lighting choreography" - a new form of entertainment

Recently, I've received awards in digital art and interactive art, and opportunities have grown for lighting choreography to be seen as a form of art. But I personally feel that what I'm basically doing is to create entertainment, rooted in engineering and street dance. I'm glad that people regard it as art, but I personally have no intention of creating art.

The difficult thing about creating works is that there is no standard. Rules have not been established in this genre yet. There are no rules about how lights should be used for human movements. Motion graphics and projection mapping are established forms of digital entertainment; those genres are about showing finished movies on unmoving objects. However, no studies have yet been made on the subject of how things appear when moving lights are combined with moving things, and there is no method of analysis. With a movie, you can replay what you have made and you can imagine how the viewer will feel when watching it, but lighting choreography is the combination of movements, and there is also the movement of the viewer's eyes, and so to put it bluntly, it's difficult to grasp all the factors involved.

I make my works by first creating about 50 different kinds of "hypothetical" movies. I then go through a sifting process many times, picking those which are interesting and discarding those which are not. I connect the interesting sequences until I think "This is perfect!", and then I refine the work about five times, adding the finishing touches. There are times when I have to change 1 percent of the work which compels me to redo the remaining 99 percent. Despite the long hours of work, only about 10 to 20 percent of the original plans are actually used. It's hard, but the effort behind the work is not something that concerns the viewer.

Studying the relationship between lights and the physical body

"SAMURIZE from EXILE TRIBE" SAMURIZE from EXILE TRIBE

A performing group led by EXHILE HIRO. The group is made up of talented dancers who perform using LED lights. Fujimoto and his company mplusplus are in charge of designing the LED lights, the software and hardware, and programming the lights for the performances. The group has performed at events such as Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2018 and NHK Red & White Year-end Song Festival.

About two years ago, I made panels showing images that can be worn on the body - that was an evolvement in expression. The panels have been placed on the chest part of all the costumes worn by "SAMURIZE from EXILE TRIBE". That was a big advance. Until then, I'd sought expression by using LED lights as dots and lines, but now I have to think about the additional factor of "surface" and about the relationship between images and physical movement. I used to think about displays in two-dimensional terms, but now I need to think about how displays will look when they are moving three-dimensionally. I had felt that I had done everything I wanted to do, but last year, I started "Quantified Dancer" where digital figures are shown with human movements; this project has brought me new challenges to tackle.