Don’t let its size fool you. The tiny Digital Harinezumi camera combines the unpredictability of analogue with the portability of digital technology and has inspired the Masses to embrace a style of filmmaking that is intimate, poetic, and groundbreaking.
Matt Amato rolls up to Blythe Projects on a chrome hybrid cruiser complete with chopper-inspired handlebars raising brows among Culver City art-goers. Amato, the founding director of the Los Angeles based art and video collective, The Masses is here to discuss his collaboration with director Hillary Metz of Blythe Projects. From his jacket pocket he reveals a black plastic shell, shaped like a roll of 110 film that fits comfortably in the palm of his hand. This is the Digital Harinezumi camera created by the Japanese company Powershovel/ Superheadz, the dual photography and video tool holds up to two hours of footage and because the Harinezumi is battery powered it is the ideal camera for filmmakers like Amato to take everywhere… and he does. Amato recently completed a black and white short film aptly titled the “Harinezumi Movie” staring Mia Doi Todd and Azul Niño, which premiered at the inaugural “Imperfect As They Are” at the New Museum in New York City. Amato was joined by an impressive line up of filmmakers including Agnes B, Mark Borthwick, Isabel Coixet, Christopher Doyle, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kim Gordon, Miranda July, So Yong Kim, Harmony Korine, Bruce La Bruce, Patrice Leconte, Albert Maysles, Jonas Mekas, Mount Eerie, and Chan-Wook Park. The exhibition then went on the road to Tokyo and is slated to come through LA at Blythe Projects in August.
“Harinezumi Movie” proves that less is more, and Amato’s skillful direction and lucid camera angles create a rich narrative tapestry though not a single word is spoken. Mia Doi Todd’s hypnotic melodies consume the film, which observes an afternoon in the life of a young mother and her ten-year- old son. “It’s just moments shared,” Amato explains. “It’s something I have always wanted to communicate. I have always wanted to make a movie about a mother and son and film it in black and white, and make it a Los Angeles story in particular.” Filmed in the “reflection house” designed by celebrated Southern California architect John Lautner, Amato integrates the floor to ceiling windows as means of reflecting Todd’s anxieties about the future. Although it’s a regular afternoon after school, the wife has decided to dissolve the marriage. Amato continues, “It’s a tender afternoon because his life is going to be impacted in a potentially dramatic way. Together they’re going to be fine, and I think you get that feeling.” Taking full advantage of the intimacy the Harinezumi afforded him, Amato shot the entire film handheld and without the use of artificial lights. The Harinezumi was not designed to be a perfect camera; rather just the opposite is true. If often distorts the image or over exposes colors, however it combines the most basic components of digital technology and beckons artistic liberation.
The collaboration between Blythe Projects director Hilary Metz and The Masses began with Masses member Börkur Sigthorsson’s exhibition of his film “Come to Harm” and photographic series “Conditions” at Blythe Projects. Both Amato and Metz share the same creative spirit that nurtures innovation, and fosters the art community. “That’s the reason why we’re called the Masses,” Amato declares. “The art world has so often been and exclusive and elitist place.” Los Angeles will mark the third stop for the traveling exhibition and when it does hit Blythe Projects it will completely transform the gallery space with the audio mixes of Dub Lab and the installation of small Numark monitors on metal stands that display the films. Metz admits that Matt is “simultaneously a magnetic and a respectful orchestrater of magic.” We’re anxiously awaiting Amato’s curatorial debut- and his magic.