Tokyo Tonight is one of the first videos made by Ziad Antar. From the outset, when working in this medium, he set himself a strict methodological framework: a maximum duration of three minutes, few or no camera movements, a single sequence, and sometimes a single shot. In this work, the artist took on an additional constraint due to the institutional context: the title.
Shot in the pasturelands of Northern Lebanon, the rhythm of the video is defined by its alternating shots. Through the windscreen, to the sound of a repetitious melody produced by a plucked string instrument, views of deserted roads encourage us to project: travel, traversal, wandering. The ribbon of the road, an almost pictorial motif, also evokes the road movie genre in which physical travel is often a metaphor of a spiritual journey or initiation. Indeed, as in a tale, there will be three stages, three punctuation marks, three “encounters.” At the end, shepherds, filmed in their everyday environment, face the camera and say the word “Tokyo.” And each time the music falls silent, allowing us to hear the sound of the wind and the lowing of the herd. Spoken outside all discussion, at a great distance from its referent, the utterance is neither an observation nor a call to action. It does, however, evoke a whole set of imaginary connotations, summoning up for the spectator what, after all their exposure in the media, have become familiar images of the great Japanese metropolis which throbs at all hours with sounds, lights and crowds.
The technique is highly effective: like a catalyst, the simple appearance of the word draws our attention to what connects and separates these spaces that are geographically, symbolically and culturally so far apart. If video is the “translation of an idea,” as this artist often maintains when talking about his own work, then Tokyo Tonight no doubt constitutes a vision of globalisation and of the impact of our mobility (real or virtual) on our own representations of the world. Indeed, and because it is far from ironic, this work is imbued with a certain tenderness and can be read as an allusion to the artist’s own career: born in Saida, Lebanon, with a diploma in agronomy, in 2003 Ziad Atar had a residency at the Pavillon of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, as part of which he had several workshops and projects in Japan.
Translated by Charles Penwarden