Throughout December and January, the British Film Institute (BFI) is hosting Tokinokawa, a unique audiovisual installation inspired by the BFI National Archive’s moving images from early 20th century Japan. This artwork is the creation of UK media artists The Light Surgeons, with sound reproduction for the installation provided by Yamaha.
Tokinokawa is being presented at BFI Southbank in London as part of the BFI’s Japan Cinema month and its new year-round BFI Expanded programme. It has been created and co-directed by Christopher Allen, producer and director of east London-based The Light Surgeons and showcases a set of newly restored films from the BFI’s Japan on Film archive through the concept of ‘a river in time’.
Presented across a line of six screens, the ten and a half minute presentation displays the BFI’s early cinematic views of Japan with new material gathered by The Light Surgeons from across Japan in 2020, which is then analysed in real time by custom AI software. This analysis is displayed in an animated infographic layer, inviting the viewer to contemplate how the understanding of such moments ‘frozen in time’ might be affected by the rise of new and emerging AI technology in the future.
Tokinokawa features a soundtrack which combines music by renowned Japanese percussionist and composer Midori Takada, a pioneer of ambient and minimalist music, with sounds from the footage and field recordings made by The Light Surgeons. Christopher worked on the project with co-director and sound designer Tim Cowie, who collaborated with Yamaha Music Europe application specialist Scott Coltham to deliver an innovative audio solution.
A Yamaha VXS5 surface mount speaker is located above each of the six screens, reproducing Midori Takada’s musical motifs that drift from left to right across the installation, highlighting the concept of a river of time. At the same time, the VXS5s deliver localised reproduction of the field recordings and sound from the footage displayed on each screen.
The system is managed by an MTX3 matrix processor, which routes the audio from six media players to the speakers via an XMV8280 eight channel power amplifier. The MTX3’s matrix also allows the bass frequencies for all six feeds to be mixed and routed to a single VXS10S subwoofer.
“There are lots of layers to the installation, both in the sound and video elements. We went for smaller speakers above each screen to keep the sound as localised as possible, but with enough spread to draw people in to the installation,” says Tim.
“The bass is quite subtle. The subwoofer is on the floor and viewers almost feel part of the installation through its understated vibration. It helps to fill out the sound and give a little more emphasis to an almost subliminal ambient hum with tones that draw things together, driven by the music and sounds.”
A DCP series surface mount control panel was also installed so the volume level can be adjusted and the audio system switched off when BFI Southbank is closed.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with Yamaha on this unique project. The distribution of the sound is a critical aspect and having their support and excellent hardware has been invaluable,” says Christopher. “We have always been massive fans of their audio equipment and musical instruments, so Yamaha was a natural fit for this project’s focus on Japanese cultural history, but also its eye on the future of technology and media in general.”
Tokinokawa is free to view in the foyer of BFI Southbank until 30th January 2022.