Only after seeing an image can we identify it. Ascribing words to what we see gives us a foothold in the world, makes visual information coalesce into understanding, and allows us to place it in time. But the artist Shigeo Arikawa believes that time is not as linear as we might think, and that images are continually being refreshed in the present to create a reconstruction of the past in the form of a memory. This shift of meaning gains its most potent expression in our dreams. During REM sleep, our “time out of time,” experiences and observations are not only processed, but also distorted and changed. The fleeting nature of dreams means they are notoriously difficult to re-render when awake, but Arikawa comes very close to achieving just that. He combines geometric shapes with surreal shots of church clocks, rabbits, slugs and ants. The images are simultaneously familiar and strange – as is the soundtrack, with its hum of a crowd, but no individual voices. The combination gnaws away at our certainties – to a disquieting effect. Boundaries blur between the self and the other, between life and death, and between now and the future. The viewer ends up in an indefinable state of being, where imagery is detached from linguistic labels.
Shigeo Arikawa for Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten