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Shigetoshi Furutani: A Future Where We All Merged Into One
Interviewe and written by Yenyi Lee


Tokyo Dizzily Land © Shigetoshi Furutani



Right after HAGAI’s first event, Intersections:Pecha Kucha London, we sat down with artist Shigetoshi Furutani by the Regent’s canal and talked about how collage is the chosen method for Furutani and how Furutani developed his work from digital prints, to video collage, kinetic video installation and later on, a video thesis as a way to express his view on the future of human being.

From Furutani’s visual observation, we found out that the world’s logic isn’t simply can be explained by physics or being twisted into an IPO plan or exit strategy by tech startups, it could be done by visualizing the history of humankind and we can utilize research material in animation. When an object exhausts its designated function, it became something else, Furutani is telling a probable near future alongside with all the available technology. In his artwork, when we squint, we might get a glimpse of future.


YY: Could you tell us about yourself?

SF: I was born in Japan and studied in Tokyo University of the Arts with BA major in Design, and MA in environmental Design. Later on I work in TV as set designer, but later on I wanted to focus on my artwork, so I moved to London to become an artist. Currently I am studying in Royal College of Art MA Printmaking.

Tokyo Dizzily Land © Shigetoshi Furutani


YY: From your work, we can see you have done many researches on how people form a community, and studies about how community changes along with the growth of society, could you tell us more about it?

SF: My work is to visualize the social phenomena, and then I do research on how society is changing in order to find out how to think about the future. For example, my work Tokyo Dizzily Land. This is a work about sign and on how sign is changed from the past till now. When signed was invented in Japan, it was very simple. Just characters on the fabric. As the density of population increases, the signs have to be made to be more noticeable to the passengers and then they started to use more colors and electricity. With the larger number of population, shop numbers increases along with the signs. Now Tokyo is full of neon signs and not even Japanese can’t recognize the differences between each signs. So from the street, it looks like a mosaic, and it actually defeats the purpose of making the sign. But at the same time, I realized that the phenomenon creates an individual view as a city. The view became iconic for Tokyo and was included in many films or photography. This is a new entity that is being formed after bombard things have been done. So I made collage of Tokyo Dizzily land.


“Now Tokyo is full of neon signs and not even Japanese can’t recognize the differences between each signs. So from the street, it looks like a mosaic, and it actually defeats the purpose of making the sign. But at the same time, I realized that the phenomenon creates an individual view as a city.”


The other works are focusing on the Internet, around 10 years ago, it had been said that the scale of the community is getting smaller and smaller. People used to know everyone living in the same area, but now it’s became only the neighbors and the family. The family size is also getting smaller which often limited to their parents or children. Now, many people spending time in their private room alone and it’s become a bit of a social problem as we call them hikikomori(繭居族) in Japan.

But one day, a website- Chatroulette– was invented. This is a website where you can chat with people through accessing the site. The system randomly choose people and display you on the screen. If you like it, you can continue to chat and if you don’t like it you can switch to the next person which also randomly chosen by the system. So it means that you can literally bump into people on the internet from all over the world.

After the size of community became the smallest size- private room- it later on exploded to all over the world through the internet. This kind of phenomenon also unexpectedly created and I am interested on this matter.

Pecha Kucha Slide by Shigetoshi Furutani, presentation at Intersections: Pecha Kucha LondonBeyond Extreme: Pecha Kucha Slide by Shigetoshi Furutani, 2017 at Intersections: Pecha Kucha London.


“Image to me is material, just as pigment for painting. So I paint with images in your mind as well as physical images.”


YY: In your collage works and installations, how do you utilizes the material that you collects or created and bring them together as piece of art? It’s both found imageries and imageries you created too.

SF: The reason why  I am using collage is because I want to show different perspectives of an object. For example, the sign used to have a function as a sign, for showing what it’s for to the people pass by. Afterwards, with the increasing number of signs, the meaning of sign has shifted and become part of the cityscape rather than it was designed for at the beginning. Everyone has preconception onto the objects, but to do collage is to insert objects in different places, even weird places which is abnormal for certain objects to appear at. Therefore I think this could show a different perspective to the viewer.

Image to me is material, just as pigment for painting. So I paint with images in your mind as well as physical images.

The technical aspect of Tokyo Dizzily land is that I took thousands of photographs myself, and I scanned everything then I photoshopped and reconstructed the images.


“Animation is a kind of fiction, and lots of anime are doing a lot of research in different fields. Their concepts are really interesting so I think Japanese anime is really pushing the boundaries of human sense.”


YY: In your work, we can see many familiar clips from asian animation, so how did you find these clips and why did you decided to make it become part of your narratives? 

SF: I am a big fan of Japanese anime. I watched it a lot. Because animation is a kind of fiction, and lots of anime are doing a lot of research in different fields. Their concepts are really interesting so I think Japanese anime is really pushing the boundaries of human sense. These are many interesting concepts in anime such as Ghost in the shell is about how we can live with the technology and with robots. So I made the work as visual disertaiton, so I quoted and referencing images that I have watched in anime.

So I connected all the different concept of each animation that I watched and that technology introduced work made that idea real.

YY: You move on the developed from video installation to longer films, and you also mentioned that you developed your video into sci-fi like films. In your work, The Trifle of Immaturity, we can sort of read through the image. It was different from the previous works such as Tokyo Dizzily land, you were able to get the idea with frontal gaze.

SF: The Trifle of Immaturity was an autobiographical work. I remade the painting of “Triumph of the immaculate” by Paolo De Matteis, and the painting was about the hierarchy of the Christianity. On the top of the class, it was a figure of the king. I saw the structure as something similar of what is happening in my mind, about how my personality is made.  I think my personality was made by many experiences I had before and there are lots of things that I tried that builds my personality. The robot is a metaphor, such as education we all had. Along the path we all experienced in education, I can chose a factor or an experience build into my character. Therefore, in the collage there were a conductor on the top (robot conductor), it can direct the traffics of experience.

I decided to try showing my work in different way. At first, I just wanted to use images to explain my thoughts. But now I am also interested in using words at the same time. I think both can be my tools to communicate with people. For me, it is still quite experimental for me to use this format to communicate with people.

The Trifle of the Immaturity, 2016, Loop Animation © Shigetoshi Furutani

YY: How would you display when you presenting your work?

SF: It varies according to each works. For example, Tokyo Dizzily Land is digital prints. It’s metallic paper. The sheets I print are different the ink inject printer. It’s the same technique that photography expose the light on paper so that it lives longer on the inject paper. The others like Merry Go World is an installation pieces, and I printed out the images while paste it onto boards and cutting the imageries along its edges, and put it onto the toy trains. The toy trains carries the imageries and this is my kinetic pieces.

There are other pieces are video works, I also did the video collage, so showing on the monitor, projector. My solo exhibition var i = phenomena; var x = future; for (i < x) {i++} at Daiwa Foundation in which I exhibited a video installation, I used a lot of monitors, almost ten monitors, and three projectors. Each of the monitors or projector shows different image. It is a collage that I show in the space, using video collage to create an environment.

YY: Could you talk about your artwork, Galassie?

SF: I was thinking about ideal world, what is an ideal world, and if human could have ideal world? I think logically, ideal world is a place where people can satisfy. But even so, I think human cannot have an ideal world because everyone is different and there are lots of diversity and the diversity is created by the situation they live or the environment they grow up. 

A research done by Miguel Nicolelis in 2012 on brain connection. Nicolelis had done research on two monkeys by connecting their brains. The two monkeys somewhat achieved something together while being in different rooms and afterwards the scientist Nicolelis has done the same experiment on human brain. That research was one person gets information from another person when they were both at different places, with the piece of information was informed through internet.

So then I thought if all the human brains were connected by the technology, and then we could all become one creature. Logically, by then we might have an ideal world (due to more direct communication between each other). Technical wise it will be possible to happen in the future (Since the technology is already there).

However,  if there are also people who might not enjoy the ideal world, some of them could go to other planet, they can live in different place, and make a society themselves. Since human cannot live alone, even though they move to another planet or another place, they will have to form a society for the new planet in order to build infrastructures or accommodation. I think in the process of society development, the same thing will repeat again. They might choose to merge as one creature and again, some of them might not like the idea, so they will leave and start a new society. This as part of the expanded galaxy. In the end, each planet will also connected by the same technology and finally the galaxy itself becomes creatures and this is kind of like the unseen creature like Nessie from Loch ness. This is the idea of Galassie.

Galassie, 05’00” video thesis, 2017 © Shigetoshi Furutani

YY: You’ve mentioned that there are also two other works.

SF: Yes, Galassie is just an introduction of the ideal world of human life. What I am going to say is a little different, the next one is going to be about what’s gonna happen once we choose to merge with everyone, and how we will to become one. It will also talked about what is perfect. The one after, I wanna talk about what human will be, or what I want to be in the end.  I won’t say what exactly what I am going to do, but the story will continue in other works.

YY: It is easier and common to see future world as in sort of apocalyptic, dystopian picture with broken buildings and bridges, even zombies. It was rather rare to see a new way to live in future world that’s being portrayed in general.

SF: Because I don’t want to die.  I want to see the possibility of human. I think human has a lot of possibility and why do we have to be extinct? This is why I am interested in technology and if the natural disaster will happen in the future, we might not be able to live longer because human body is made of very fragile material. Only solution might be technology, this is why I am interested in technology and science. 

I also don’t like the dystopia and apocalyptic idea. I like human, and if there is a possibility that human can live longer, I would love to try to see that.


“You have sympathy for your body because you have been using it since birth  But I think if you were born with the metal body parts, you might also have sympathy to the metal parts and you might think it’s part of you too.”


champlord_4k Shigetoshi Furutani
Champ Lord, 2016, Loop Animation, 10 sec © Shigetoshi Furutani



YY: Don’t you think the fact that human won’t die, it’s quite scary? of course it’s nice to know that I am going to be live longer, but it is also scary to know that people who are conservatives or in a position where they could abuse power and is abusing it continue to live.

SF: Actually I don’t want to live forever, but it might be nice that we could choose when we die. There was an interesting interview that I watched of Marvin Minsky. He was the father of Artificial intelligence and also a professor at MIT. In the interview, it was released before him passed away, he said he doesn’t want to die. He hasn’t achieve his destination and he wants to achieve more. I really can understand that dying before achieving your destination is quite frustrating. If human body can live longer, and that gives human a lot of profits and also push technology to advance.

The reason why we had to die was because small malfunction of the body and I think why not use artificial part of organs or body parts to prolong our lives. You have sympathy for your body because you have been using it since you were born.  But I think if you were born with the metal body parts, you might also have sympathy to the metal parts and you might think it’s part of you too.  This is very interesting to me.

There are also research about connecting human brain with robotic arms for disabled person who can’t move their arms. The scientist connected their brains with their robotic arms, and the patient can use their brain to control their arms. This helps many people too, not just for immortality. In the society, most of the products are designed for people with two arms, two legs, ten fingers, one head so if you don’t have that body. it is really difficult to live in the society, so this technology solve this problem too.

I think in the future, our value of life is going to change as well. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s an ongoing changing process. For example just like how music, internet, and the society is changing too. 


UCL, Pearson building, 20170513
Shigetoshi Furutani presents “Beyond Extreme” at Intersections: Pecha Kucha London. UCL, Pearson building, 20170513



Shigetohshi Furutani 古谷茂利

1980   Born in Japan

Shigetoshi’s practice engages with the formation of a language of visuals, exploring methods for visualising social and personal phenomena, which do not have a conventionally recognised form. His work attempts to develop responses to limitations of language and expand the expression of two dimensional form in an age of social media, and engages with the limits of chaos and order, generativeness and restriction.


“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day”
– E.B White

{HAGAI 花開} 於2014年春天發行創刊號,以集合體(collective)的概念,探尋著當代思潮、藝術、設計、音樂、科技發展、政治觀察,透過身邊認真的青年藝文創作者的著作分享,企圖成為時代的探針,於各領域的交界處以知識的追求為手段連結彼此,以巨大而深層的力量綻放。邀請大家一同來體驗各種不一樣的人事物,用心生活,也希望能創造千種文化於任何交叉縫隙之中。

{HAGAI 花開} was born in Spring of 2014. Trekking through the realms of contemporary philosophy, art, design, technological developments and political happenings, as seen through the fresh eyes of the upcoming creative generation. Through publications, exhibitions, talks and events, {HAGAI 花開} aims to bridge the gap between different fields, and create a cross-pollination of cutting edge ideas and brand new possibilities in our contemporary times.