After studying oil painting at an art university in Tokyo, Sato Masaharu enrolled as a guest student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. I touch Dream # 1, which he produced shortly after arriving in Germany, was his first video work. Suffering from the desperate loneliness of life in a foreign country and incessant nightmares, Sato drew fragments of his dreams in charcoal and photographed them one by one to create an animation. Two extremely personal anxieties, from the realms of reality and dream, are outlined in this work and manifested in a universal and actual reality.
In 2010, when he returned to Japan having stayed in Germany for a decade, Sato was diagnosed with cancer, and his creative work played out within the context of a long struggle with illness that ended with his death in 2019. The rotoscoping technique, which became synonymous with his work, involved breaking down video footage of actual landscapes into individual frames, painstakingly tracing them and then re-animating the whole. This results in a blurring of the line between the real and the fictional, between presence and absence. I want to be a wolf, in which a wolf – an animal that has been extinct in Japan for years – repeats the same action endlessly, awakens in us feelings of uncertainty and yet also actuality. The resulting sense of ambivalence forces us to interrogate anew the many boundary lines that we had always assumed to be self-evident. (N.S.)
I touch Dream #1
Directed by SATO Masaharu
SATO MEIBERGEN Ray
I want to be a wolf
imura art gallery
Estate of Masaharu Sato
Born in Oita Prefecture in 1973. Worked in Ibaraki Prefecture. Passed away in 2019. After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts, Sato was enrolled as a guest student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf for two years from 2000. After shooting footage of real landscapes with a video camera, he traced them on a computer using rotoscoping techniques to create animated videos. The sense of incongruity arising from the gap between the original footage creates an intersection between reality and fantasy, and awakens the viewer’s consciousness.
Major exhibitions include “DOMANI: The Art of Tomorrow” (The National Art Center, Tokyo, 2020), “Dr. Reaper” (solo exhibition–KEN NAKAHASHI, Tokyo, 2019), “Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions” (Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2019), “First Lingering Mist of Spring” (Tokyo Arts and Space Hongo, Tokyo, 2019), “The Iris of a Wolf” (BLOCK HOUSE, Tokyo, 2017) and “Hara Documents 10 Masaharu Sato: Tokyo Trace” (solo exhibition–Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2016). Recipient of the 12th Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art (2009).