Kagemu's 'Black Sun' Synchronizes Projected Video With Japanese Dance

Black Sun is a meticulously choreographed projection of motiongraphics onto dance, combining traditional and modern elements of Japanese culture and martial arts. Artist Nobuyuki Hanabusa and dancer Katsumi Sakakura, together known as Kagemu, have since been widely imitated by others, including Beyoncé. 

Below, Hanabusa talks about the creative process behind the innovative performance and his take on the Beyoncé story. 

The Atlantic: What is your artistic background? How did you come to work in the medium of projected motion graphics?

Nobuyuki Hanabusa: I am very influenced by Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) artists such as Hokusai Katsushika, but more than that, Japanese comics and movies with VFX like Star Wars have influenced me a lot. I love to imagine invisible things from childhood.

Black Sun draws on traditional Japanese theater, martial arts and aesthetics to create something totally modern. How did you collaborate with Orientarhythm to develop this piece? What was your inspiration?   

When I was thinking about creating something mixed of live action and video picture, I met Orientarhythm and we created the unit called Kagemu.  Since space on dance stages is limited, we came up with this process that enables our performance with simple equipment. After a continuing process of trial and error, Katsumi Sakakura, the dancer, and I refined our idea.

There has always been a culture in Japan that values the minimum, such as the simplest design expresses the perspective of the world. The culture takes root in graphics and influences Black Sun, which leads us to portray Japan without images like ‘geisha’ or ‘Fujiyama.'

In addition, Orientarhythm introduces into their dances the motion of Japanese fighting sports. It is traditional but also gives people a modern impression as the dances are connected with modernistic elements of motion graphics.

We could not do Black Sun without Orientarhythm, Sakakura’s original style. He originated Orientarhythm by combining street dance with the intermittent rhythm and straight-line motion of Japanese traditional culture such as Karate and Kabuki.

How did you create the imagery used in the piece?

Here is the process of the movie.  First, I shoot the dances and scan the data into a computer. I analyze the motion of a dancer one frame at a time and lay out my graphics in an appropriate position.  By continuing this process, I create the animation linked with the dancer.

The Creators Project recently wrote about the debate around Beyoncé's 2011 Billboard Awards performance vs. Lorella Cuccarini's 2010 performance, tracing the inspiration for both back to your work in 2009. How do you feel about the situation?  

I think all creators in the modern world are influenced by old pieces in some way. In that sense, a purely original piece does not exist. However, as long as the creators have pride in themselves, I believe they will pursue a new piece or originality. As one of the creators, I honestly regret this case and want the world to know that our performance is the original one.

What's next for you?

Kagemu is currently working on a new piece with a different style from Black Sun. For my personal works, I am thinking about creating motion pictures that enable viewers to participate in the pieces.

For more videos by Nobuyuki Hanabusa, see http://hana-busa.jp/. To see more work by Orientarhythm, visit http://www.orientarhythm.com/

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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