Objectifs is presenting a video installation by Ric Aw at Shin Minatomura in Shinko Pier in September 2011. This project is a result of a one-month long residency in Yokohama, in conjunction with the Yokohama Triennial.

Titled Man of the Forest, the work is a 3-channel video installation investigating modern man’s relationship with nature. Shot in both Japan and Singapore, it attempts to unravel the complex and contradictory feelings we have towards nature.

Ric and Objectifs have had a long relationship, starting when he won the Panasonic-MDA Film Fiesta in 2005 for Best Short Film (Professional Category). He is a regular filmmaking instructor at Objectifs and we recently also worked together on his commissioned film, Mister Cowboy, for the Singapore Arts Festival 2011. 

Ric’s films have screened at the Singapore International Film Festival, Short Shorts Film Festival Asia 2006 (Tokyo, Japan), 12th Lyon Asian Film Festival, International Film Festival 2006 (Bucharest, Romania), 4th InDPanda International Short Film Festival, and 11th International Eskisehir Film Festival, among others. In addition to cinema, his forms of artistic expression currently extend to video installation work. Objectifs’ Charmaine Toh who is curating Ric’s work in Yokohama catches up with him. 

CT: Your previous films have all showed in more traditional film festivals and other similar cinematic platforms. What made you decide to cross over into the visual arts arena?

RA: I wanted to explore presenting moving images in spaces other than the cinema. These different venues, be it indoors or outdoors, call for a different film language. My previous works were mainly narrative works that described a known reality. For me, the visual arts arena provides the possibility of artistic renewal in the cinema and allows me to deal with more abstract ideas.

I think working with this different film language gives me a greater ability to reflect on an inner life rather than describing an outer life that is often demanded of narrative films. Thus, abstraction allows me to get outside the naturalism box which has surrounded the film medium. Abstraction gives me the chance of replacing objective reality with my own subjective interpretation.

Film still from Man of the Forest

CT: Tell us more about this particular project you are presenting in Yokohama. Why did you chose to investigate man’s relationship with the forest? Was it by any chance related to the 3/11 earthquake in Japan?

RA: The work investigates the idea of forests and nature. The video work places modern technological machines in the space of a forest. The forest serves as a triumphant power that overcomes technological necessity and our modern way of life. Man is made into a marginal being in the forest. In the same room, I presented a metal trunk that shifts the power of the forest back to technology.

CT: But why forests? What’s the significance of that? Or have you always had an interest in forests?

RA: I have always been interested in forests. To me, it always feels like a journey back to home. I guess this journey is a chance for me to reflect on our relevance to the forest and realize the disappearing quality of nature.

The filming was done on a trek up a mountain in Japan. The trail to the mountaintop was difficult but felt natural to me. It was difficult because the path up to the top was a steep 5km walk and a 5km down to reach the bottom, carrying a load of 10 kg worth of equipment! However, the journey through the landscape was familiar and filming became comfortable.

CT. And what about the way you have chosen to present the work? Why the TV monitor in the trunk?

RA: This man in the forest is captured in an industrial metal box. It is a cage to confine nature. I think that film is the closest mechanical visual device that man has ever made to the structure of a dream. I hope that the work captures essences of my dream.

CT: So technology overpowers the forest, which overpowers the man?

RA: Actually, in the grand scheme, the forest will remain after we are gone.

CT: Well, congrats on showing your work in Yokohama! We’re looking forward to seeing the work at the Objectifs Gallery in November too.

Man of the Forest will show at Objectifs Gallery from 2 to 25 November 2011.

Ric in Takeo Forest, where part of the film was shot.