"The Approaching X-Ray Train''
A momentary glimpse into the meaning of history is not the privilege of poets alone. Though we are all supposed to be born with an innate poetic sense, we tend to lose it somewhere along the line. If we want to retrieve our capacity to grasp our place in history, we need to undertake a journey into our inner depths.
The flash of a strobe light in the dark creates the illusion that a moving object is at a standstill. By synchronising a camera's shutter speed with a flash, one can 'freeze' rapidly moving objects in the form of a photograph. Interestingly, translated from Greek 'stroboscope' means 'act of whirling' (strobos) 'look' (scope). By closely observing a rapidly rotating object such as a wheel, one tends to have the impression that it isn't moving. Perceiving moving objects as stationary, and stationary objects as being in motion, fascinates us just as much today as it did our ancestors. We are still filled with that longing to get to the bottom of the mystery of these phenomena. In that sense, a wheel in motion, and the moving frames of a film-reel share a common thread. A flash of light embraces an infinite number of images.
The same could be said when discussing the SHIMURABROS works. Thanks to digital technology, their signature is resolutely modern in form; its probing nature will one-day earn them their niche in the history of images. Where does X-ray Train fit into the historical scheme of things? Its title obviously alludes to a series of events that occurred toward the close of the 19th century. The first being the projection of moving images by the Lumiere Brothers. Panic struck the Parisian spectators of one their early films Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, as they watched what they perceived to be a real train looming towards them from a screen. The second was William Roentgens' landmark breakthrough with X ray. 1895 will go down in history as the year in which both of these extraordinary discoveries came to light.
In X-ray Train, the image of a model locomotive engine projected onto a medical scanner results in different sections of the train appearing on a series of screens. While both techniques involved in making this work originated in Europe in 1895, their reutilisation in 21st century Tokyo isn't simply a question of technical reinterpretation. At the Lumiere Brother's screening, the audience faced a single screen from one particular direction, whereas in X-ray Train the SHIMURABROS employ multiple screens to emit images at fixed time intervals. The audience can thus view the screen from whatever angle they choose. In other words, the audience have the possibility to view the moving images like a sculpture in three-dimensional space.
Another reference point for this work is chronophotography--a third major invention in the history of moving images, but often overlooked and relegated to being merely the technique precursor to cinematography. Discovered by French physiologist, Etienne-Jules Maray, this form of sequence photography involved the release of a shutter at regular intervals. Maray was able to develop the technique necessary to study movement. Using polygraphs he succeeded in analysing diagrammatically the walk of a man and a horse, the flight of birds and insects. While aware that by manually rotating photographs it would have been possible to see objects as though in motion, curiously he showed little interest in the discovery of cinematography. Instead, he concentrated on creating a sculpture from a sequence of photographs of a bird in flight so as to examine from many different angles how a bird-wing functions. Maray's achievement as a physiologist isn't solely confined to his study of movement: he was also actively.
involved in the research of how rapidly nerve signals are transmitted to the brain. He didn't regard, film or chronophotography as a pastime; he availed of their techniques to understand how the human body moved.
The spectators on board the Lumiere Brothers' were passengers on board that train of discovery heading out into the Wild West. The SHIMURABROS. X-ray train's destination isn't the outer frontiers; its journey will take us into those vast unknown lands which stretch between the screens. What we now hold in our hands is a ticket to somewhere deep within ourselves.
*Excerpt from BankART Bank under 35 - SHIMURAbros solo exhibition catalogue