Being photographed is never a pleasant experience for me, the best you’ll get is a begrudging smile with flushed cheeks, the worst is an unsuspecting relative being thrown into flash as I dive behind them. It’s not big or clever, but I just don’t like it. This makes me admire the subjects of creative duo Nerhol’s latest project involving time lapse photography and paper cutting. Taking multiple portraits over a three minute period, Ryuta Iida and Yoshihisa Tanaka asked the subject to try and stay as motionless as possible (worst nightmare). The stack of images are then sliced through to create a graduated crater effect, showing the passage of time like the rings of a tree.
Warped, layered and wondrous, this new set of works, Misunderstanding Focus, is currently on show at limArt in Tokyo and looking through their portfolio of paper-cut pieces it’s clear they have a knack for transforming the 2D into 3D by stripping the materials they use of their original function and turning them into just objects to manipulate and alter. There’s a delicate skill and art to their work, so we had a chat with Nerhol so they could describe the process of working together…
How and why did your working relationship start?
We met during IIda’s exhibition and realised we had so much in common in regards to experience, design and taste. Gradually, we began working together. Our very first piece, Oratorical Type, used books as the theme, after sculpting them by carefully carving out certain sections of each page, it resulted in interesting dimensions. At that time, we still hadn’t decided on our name but soon came up with “NERHOL”, a mash-up of two words, “neru” to plan ideas and “holu” to sculpt and carve.
What is the distinction between your individual contributions to the artwork? For example, is one responsible for sourcing imagery and the other for deconstructing it?
We brainstorm together but the physical work is divided. Tanaka is in charge of designing the layout, shooting and printing and Iida takes care of the sculpting process. We give each other feedback during the process of final touches. Often we discuss the rules and the process and even give each other directions on how to approach a piece physically.
There are times when we find sources of inspiration separately, but for the most part, we decide everything together. Because of the nature of our work, it’s difficult to determine where the construction ends and from where the deconstruction begins, but we always share the same artistic philosophy.
What do you hope to achieve by working as a team?
Our goal is to break the invisible barrier that separates design and contemporary art. We hope to set new standards through our work and to free ourselves and the audience from being bound by categories. At least, we hope to spark this way of thinking.
Is the work you make together very different from your individual practices?
Yes, it’s completely different from what we create together. Some aspects are similar method-wise, but the themes, concepts and contexts are completely different.
Do you know what an artwork will look like when you start working on it?
Of course we share a vision of what to expect in terms of end result, but not in complete detail. Since we assign ourselves separate roles, the finished work is often different from what we originally envisioned. Keeping in mind, the fact that we both approach a particular piece under the same philosophy, we’re faced with situations that is out of our individual control, rather at the mercy of two different people. This process, in a sense, magnifies the slightest fluctuations of the human body as well as art itself. Nonetheless, the final form is always a nice surprise and experience.
What can you tell us about the story behind your work in this show?
It wasn’t easy to get this far but we’re both very content with the results and especially pleased with the fact that we were able to successfully integrate our slant on photography through our work.
In Japan, photography is strongly established in both contemporary art and design so we’re very proud that we were able to cut into this field in our own unique way. Our work has been coined, “Time-Lapse Portraits” on the internet and I think it capture the essence of what we’re trying to accomplish.
(Coordination&Translation : NORIKO YAMAKOSHI／iNTOUCH Japan LL)
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.