Itsuo Sakae:

Admiration for his Talented Imagination

- from my personal experiences with him -

Tamás Waliczky is a rare genius, a type of media artist who has deeply explored his own unparalleled manner of expression in a time/space framework based on his meticulous way of image making. When I first met him at ZKM at the beginning of the 1990's, he was involved in creating his early work The Garden. After a cursory look at his draft of the animation, I was greatly impressed with his new vision of the spherical perspective, a metaphorical and imaginary interpretation of his baby's point of view. Since that time, I have had many chances to see his other new works at various venues like Ars Electronica in Linz, or ICC in Tokyo, and each time, I found an ever more innovative way of expression within his works as they expanded such a time/space framework beyond the traditional manner of visualization. Especially in his The Way, one gets a strange feeling at first, but soon develops a deeper curiosity about such inversions of perspective beyond the classical. It stimulates our intellectual inquiry and inspires a new type of sensibility towards visual expression.

Then, when I saw his interactive installation Focus at Ars Electronica in 1998, I decided to display this work at our exhibition Biennale of Interaction '99 which I organized for our school IAMAS and Gifu Prefecture in 1999. He indeed presented this work at the show, but the result surpassed expectations, because he had added several new portraits of our staff members at IAMAS within this work to give it a more site-specific effect in Japan. It was one of the highlights at our show, held in Ogaki City, Gifu. Through those personal experiences with him, I realized his interest covered the widest range of genres, from animation to interactive works, and felt his talents would expand further in the future. So when he applied to be our artist-in-residency at IAMAS in 2000, I decided to invite him. He came to Japan by himself, and then during his stay in Ogaki City for 13 months, he and his wife Anna Szepesi, a great partner in his works since his early years, his daughter Annamaria who worked as a protagonist in The Garden, and even his mother, took part for a while in the rural life of Ogaki City. When he showed me his sketchbook full of beautifully hand-drawn images for his proposed new work The Fisherman and his Wife, I was very much interested in this motif and impressed with his elaborately-drawn images, but at the same time I was a little bit skeptical whether it could be accomplished within the limited time of his residency, because it would take so much time to create the frame-by-frame images for such a long story. But surprisingly he managed to complete even such a 30-minute computer-animation work within 13 months, although the music was added after his return to ZKM where he had worked previously.

But when I looked at his final version of The Fisherman and his Wife presented at our Interaction'01 exhibition, I was surprised to find the work greatly expanded beyond the bounds of normal animation movie. It was now more than just twodimensional, and even more than a three-dimensional type of animation, revealing depth in every image. The images of the characters of the fisherman or his wife within the movie received a new kind of treatment, with shadows created from the different light sources projected onto each character. The shadow even changes its position according to the relationship between the fisherman and his wife at any given moment. So the film, based on the old German fairy-tale, became a new type of experience, using new kinds of symbolic metaphors. Even the music matched the story quite well. Tamás was also kind enough to mention in the postscript the names of staff members who helped him during his creative stint at IAMAS. Our artist-in-residency was organized for educational purposes from the outset; the staff and students were so much inspired by Tamás during his stay, and Tamás himself also seems to have tremendously enjoyed such a friendly environment.

Among the works he showed me, I was also strongly impressed with his piece entitled Sculptures, a new visualization of the invisible locus or track of the movement of people within the space. In thus showing the invisible outlines of such traces of body movements, we could feel the four-dimensional expression of his/her performance within the space. After seeing this work, I became inspired to use this system within more interactive types of installations in the future. For example, imagine someone doing a very brief body performance before the camera, then at the same time (or a few seconds later), his/her four dimensional image showing the traced locus of his/her movement shown on the big screen. This could be seen from any angle by controlling interface devices. Tamás agreed with my idea, and I hope it can be realized someday.

While he and his family were staying at IAMAS in Ogaki City, Tamás and Anna were interested in the Japanese style of housing, visiting the home of one of our acquaintances and making a survey of traditional Japanese home interiors. They even wrote an article on this survey with photographs for a journal published in Hungary, and sent copies to the owner of the house and to me. They must have had some different, yet still similar, interest in the space/time relationship within the lifestyle of a different culture. It is, in fact, a very exciting opportunity for people to experience such a different lifestyle within the living space and time by means of a real personal encounter. I feel such human contact (and chain-reaction between creative artists), even in today's networked world, will become ever more important.

Just recently, he sent me a copy of the DVD of his works from his early days till recent times. Among his old works, I found the Memory of Moholy-Nagy which was made under the direction of the well-known English animation artist John Halas. It was also surprising for me because I didn't know that Tamás had worked with Mr. Halas before. For me, Halas was a nostalgic acquaintance, a person whom I had met at the ICOGRADA convention in Vienna in 1971. He gave me a copy of his animation book after our personal discussion there. I asked Tamás how he worked with Halas, and he explained the detailed story about how they had met, and how Halas invited him to work with him. This was really his big break at that time, as he was young and not yet well-known. Of course the two had rather different styles, as Tamás ultimately realized later (and as he described to me in his e-mail). But I guess Halas himself might have been deeply impressed by Tamás' insightful image-making from the outset, so their collaboration must have seemed inevitable. When I first saw the Memory of Moholy-Nagy, I felt vividly how it must have evoked the joy of surprise for many people to see for the first time the animated image of Moholy-Nagy's pictures. Such a chain-reaction, which happens sometimes through the accidental encounters of talented people, must have always been very important factors in producing creative outcomes in the world of art and science. I feel this through my personal survey of the history of art, science and technology since the 1960's. Halas and Tamás' case was only one example.

I could also understand why so many artists from Hungary since the end of the 19th century have been active within an art world based on the integration of art and science. There must have been so many chain reactions happening among people who had shared a natural, social and cultural environment, and also the traditional way of thinking within the scientific and mathematical way of visualization characteristic of the Hungarian tradition. I have met so many inspiring Hungarian artists not only in historical art works, but even through my personal contacts over the past 40 years, not only in Budapest but in other countries, such as György Kepes in the US, Nicolas Schöffer and Vasarely in France, and others. From such personal recollection and my own imagination, I feel the next step for such inspiring chain reactions would be to expand, not only through networking, but also through direct personal contacts which would happen worldwide through various cultural exchanges. Tamás must be one such artist who could inspire the younger generation in the world of media arts tomorrow. I am extremely hopeful of this.

The author is Emeritus President of IAMAS (IAMAS: International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences & Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences, Ogaki, Japan)