Kota Ezawa’s video Last Year at Marienbad draws inspiration from the film of the same name made by Alain Resnais in 1961. As in other works, the artist uses the computer to reinterpret key scenes from the original work in the format of digital animation in a style vaguely reminiscent of South Park. Ezawa takes some central moments of the film encapsulating the story of the main characters, simply labelled with the letters X , A and M, in short sequences. His reinterpretation shifts from one scene to another, omitting the parts that explain the connections between them and with the sound faded out completely. The images thus recall the style of the comic strip, which presents only the key moments of a story and leaves the task of filling in the gaps to the reader’s imagination. The artist is also oriented in formal terms toward the comic or the sequence of frames in the film, built up through the juxtaposition of independent planes that move at different speeds to create a theatrical effect imitating perspective. Ezawa’s digital adaptation thus reflects both the sequence of these ephemeral images and the clear formal and logical arrangement of the original.
Kota Ezawa describes his way of working as “video archaeology”. He takes clips from well-known films and news programmes and reinterprets each figure with the aid of digital drawing software. He pares the essential content of the images down in his reconstruction to the point where they become iconic, comparable to abstract painting, focusing on the limited amount of important information needed to convey a message. Some of the details present in the original are thus eliminated, with the content of the image reduced to areas of colour with thick outlines. At the same time, however, the spectator’s attention directed toward small details and subtle atmospheres lost in the flow of images, thus endowing them with a significance of their own. In the images of Last Year at Marienbad, Ezawa mirrors the purity of the French director’s narrative in terms of form and content. He cites essential moments of the film as icons of the history of cinema, brings the faded images back into the present, and adapts them to the narrative technique of modern animation with the same formal rigor. Taking it for granted that the film and its plot are well known, he obtains the same magical atmosphere as the original with minimal means – in black and white and with no sound – and makes it live again in the mind of the spectator.
Kota Ezawa (Cologne, 1969) has presented works in various venues including the Hayward Project Space in London, the Santa Monica Museum of Art and Artspace in San Antonio, Texas. He has also taken part in group exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the MoMA in New York, the Moore Space/Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, the Caixa Forum in Barcelona and the Shanghai Art Museum. His works are also held in the collections of public institutions such as the MoMA in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Kota Ezawa lives and works in San Francisco.