One of the most intriguing works we watched at the last [S8] 5° Mostra de Cinema Periférico were the short films of visual artist and filmmaker Rei Hayama. A young japanese girl, Hayama’s intuition for a cinema of memory, of child-like wonder cathartic imagery and the exploration of the subconscious mind permeated in the celluloid texture of 8mm, was a refreshing look in an already stimulating exhibition. Desistfilm tracked her down and exchanged a couple of emails, which resulted in the following interview.
By Mónica Delgado and José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Desistfilm: Rei, discovering your works has been one of the most gratifying experiences of the year for us. Could you talk a little about the road you had to travel to become a visual artist and filmmaker?
Rei Hayama: Thank you for your kind words. I’m still on that journey. As you know, there is no map for the travel. Before I started making films, I used to paint. I especially loved to make small dolls with clay, paper and other sorts of trash, but I was not familiar with films and videos at that time. I didn’t really understand the results; the things that I made. But I knew I was interested in the difference between fiction and reality. Fortunately or not, I grew up surrounded by wildlife because of my parent’s job. So I wondered about the mysteries of other living things and human beings. Later I started to pay attention more to sequences and time while I was making something or painting. And one day I touched a camera. I’m making films like making a forest. This is what I feel through my creative thought process, the feeling tells me how the fiction and reality is like a house and nature, and how we traverse between these two worlds again and again. I can say my interest hasn’t really changed since before I started making films. I’m focused on filmmaking more, but I’ve been walking on the same road that I was walking when I was painting.
Desistfilm: In this game of experimentation that you show in your work one can perceive a resistance to flee the infancy or the game like experience of childhood. It shows in your look of the world, in the use of the music, in an idea of the original. Is this as such?
The word “Child” is a very difficult word. and it is deeply related to a time too. It’s our common past. Some say the concept of a “child” does not exist, only small humans and big humans. I can sympathize with this idea at some point because I never intended to live as a child when I was a child. At the same time, I recollect there were so many ceremonies developed among us, and somehow, they were functioning for us to find order in the world. Some of my films are deeply related to this primitive part, though what I’m doing is not depicting children or the world of childhood.
Desistfilm: In The Focus, as in Their Bird, there is interdependence between images and intertitles which give your films even a more oneiric or poetic feeling to the shots that in themselves already show a construction of an alternate world. How did this style of experimentation came to be?
Phrases, small sentences and songs are as important an essence as other images in my films. I only know Japanese and little English, yet I use both. In A Child Goes Burying Dead Insects, I sang in nonsense language too. Usually I don’t show exactly who is speaking or writing these words. They just cast a spell on other images. I prefer to use languages but beyond nationalities, in a way. Just like chanting a charm.
Desistfilm: Your work with different formats: with video, 35mm and 9mm and the intervention of celluloid is evident, because it seems that the experimentation resides precisely in breaking the “magic” of cinema in itself and stripping it completely nude., like when you stop in the small squares that go with the celluloid reel to show the mechanism and its speed ¿How would you describe this use of your technique?
Spontaneously, I used them simultaneously. It was also due to timing. I started making films in 2008, a time that was a turning point for media. I found both materials at same time. It seems very simple to say mixing materials and format, but once you do it you’ll find many technical problems between them. On the other hand, your eyes will become more analogical against media, too. What I’m doing by using different format is to alternate between being “awake from cinema” and “sleep in cinema.”
Also, the format of a medium is related to the period of development of the medium itself. Intentionally I wrench this unconscious sense against each different formats and let it in limbo.
Desistfilm: Music and sounds play a crucial role in your films. You have even made the music for some of your works, that also seem playful, or coming from a world lost in time (almost anachronistic or traditional) ¿How do you add the music or build it from the images you work on?
The sounds for my films are all made by self-education. Some of them have a clear melody of decorating films in persistently musical way. They are unlike a sound of which we often hear from experimental films, such as noise sound or sonic art. I give film a sound that evidently tells fiction from reality. Therefore, a certain comfortableness or a immersed feeling brought by sound is important. It entices you, and let you stray into the forest. But you have to awake and pass through it.
Desistfilm: How was this “man/child/memory/nature” relation that is reflected in your short films born? Would you say it’s an exercise on dream-like memory that is captured in your images, something coming out of the subconscious mind?
My films are a bird’s-eye view. However, I am a human, not a bird. I don’t depict individual drama. I don’t depict childhood memories. I don’t depict the beauty of nature. I depict human beings. It’s too complex to explain the relations of man/child/memory/nature. And it’s better not to explain, anyway it’s impossible to explain. I think it’s better trying to understand them.
Desistfilm: In Emblem, we see an open book right along a photo frame, and suddenly it appears like we are entering a prologue of a non-told story (hence the image of the blank book). How do you structure this kind of work that sends us to a visit of a past story on the hidden corners of memory?
In EMBLEM, the sequence of seeing from the window, where the open book and picture frame were on the desk, may be more cinematically kept in mind than a bird’s nest’s sequence because it is elaborated fiction. Both sequences intimate the view of a surveillance. The open book sequence presents a contrast to the bird’s nest. There are no actors and subtitles in the film, but these two sequences that stabilized almost like a still-life picture, are whispering to each other.
Desistfilm: Initial Vapor is a sublime short film, where you lay out somehow the idea of apocalypse from the observation of this camera/man that returns again to nature. What was the inspiration that drew you to deal with this subject of the apocalypse and how is it related with your own observation of nature?
It is maybe peculiar, but I have a strong image of excavating ruins. I already forgot what caused this image, but I’m thinking how it goes, if the civilization will end up, and what will happen afterwards. This questioning is at my heart. for Initial Vapor, I was thinking of someone who took a submarine and is writing. The film is a fiction of an excavated story and the image he left. I don’t know if the film will really be excavated, but I hope it will be.