Ryotaro Muramatsu is without question a digital artist, but his commercial work is much more than that.
As chief executive officer and director of the Tokyo design firm Naked Inc., his work blends projection mapping, films, commercials, music videos, interiors, web sites, interactive digital installations, virtual reality and analogs. In New York last month for the first time to oversee Muji’s Kids Earth Fund project, an initiative that includes Naked-designed digital fireworks in the chain’s Fifth Avenue store, Muramatsu discussed his futuristic pursuits. In December in Tokyo Station, he plans to unveil a four-foot diorama of the Tokyo skyline encircled with an accurate replica of the city’s Metro.
Building from the success of a similar concept “Flowers by Naked,” he is organizing Sweets by Naked, an interactive installation riffing on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Hansel and Gretel” that will be staged in a shopping center in Omotesando Hills in December. Held in Japan in August, the “Flowers by Naked” project used real and fake flowers, fragrance and digital art to create a world of flowers. Sweets by Naked will also be a multisensory experience that will be set up as a storybook-type town with shops and cobblestone streets lined with Old World street lamps illuminated by what looks like honey. Shoppers will experience different weather patterns as they walk through the town. At one point, they will be given umbrellas that will be pelted with what sounds like rain but is actually digital jellybeans. They will also be able to buy ice cream shaped liked flowers at the flower stand, or take a brownie from a cordoned-off manhole cover along the walkway. Another manhole cover will periodically explode with digital and real candy. “It’s very difficult to explain. It’s better just to show people,” Muramatsu said.
Last month when Isetan Mitsukoshi opened an Opening Ceremony concept store, Naked designed a two-day art installation with elements of the tea ceremony Urasenke, traditional Japanese floral arranging and incense burning with light and video projections. By placing a flower on a sensored digital component, an array of digital flowers would appear. When guests walked through four areas that were meant to reflect the four seasons of the year, the scent would change from one season to the next, and video footage of the specific season would appear. As for where his ideas come from, Muramatsu said, “Who knows? Tell me,” he said. “Just imagine.”
“I am a filmmaker. This is the same as making a movie for me. You imagine the world. To me, whatever the job – it’s all the same. I don’t consider myself a digital artist. The whole scene is what I want to concentrate on. And just because it’s digital, I want it to also be realistic.” he said. “In Japan right now there are a lot of digital artists and media artists, which is kind of similar. My approach is a little different.”
For three or four consecutive years when Muramatsu was in his early 20s he watched 1,000 movies each year. “I didn’t see anybody – geek. I didn’t like people,” Muramatsu said with a laugh. “Because I’ve read so many books and seen so many movies, I don’t think of any one person’s art as an influence. I want to mix everything together. In my mind, it’s not a matter of being influenced by this person. It’s not just authors, writers, producers, musician, artists – it’s also family members, friends. I grab everyone’s ideas. Everyone influences me. That’s how I imagine and create.”
Dressed head-to-toe in agnès b., Muramatsu planned to meet with the designer in Tokyo about possibly collaborating. He also has a working relationship with Niko and…, a Japanese retail chain. Regardless of the project, Muramatsu uses historical references combined with more forward-thinking elements. “I want to go back into the past and use that heritage to make the future with it. I don’t just want to go forward. I want to make sure that people know the story of the past and the now,” he explained.
Muramatsu would also like to create “a movie beyond a movie that will make people ask, ‘Is this a movie, a theatrical thing, or a mapping show?’ Cirque du Soleil is a circus, but it’s beyond a circus. Maybe I can do something like that with a film and virtual reality,” he said. “But I want people to have the feeling of an interactive experience, too, that is a group experience rather than just a film.”