Interview with Sadam Fujioka – Founder of anno lab

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Design and art as we know it here at DI is an exciting, diverse and holistic fusion of different worlds. We try to bring together as many different crafts, approaches, techniques and concepts as possible. However we also have to admit that we are, maybe naturally, inclined to report from an Eurocentric point of view. And we love it. I love it. And it is maybe the most truthful representation of design. But this time I wanted to consider and discover design from a new perspective- Japan and its unique way of seeing craft and design.

To better understand such a practice I gladly met and interviewed Sadam Fujioka. Fujioka is a Japan based artist, designer, researcher, urban planner, thinker and founder of anno lab.  Amongst the most successful projects he has been involved with are NTT docomo TOUCH WOOD: Xylophone, intel UltraBook Clap For Dream and the somehow controversial Back Streets of the Internet as a member of IDPW.

Because a lot of these projects where collaborative projects, here are the full credits for them:

Xylophone: a part of the creative team, director: Morihiro Harano (Mori inc.), film director: Seiichi Hishikawa (Drawing and Manual),  creative team leader: Kenjiro Matsuo (invisible designs lab.)

Clap For Dream: Agency: Dentsu Inc., Creative Team: Sadam Fujioka (anno lab), Nariaki Iwatani (anno lab), Kanta Horio, Hiroshi Murakami(MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd.), Hiroki Inokuchi (MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd.), Kazuya Tateishi (Redot Co., Ltd.)
eaderlanc Pictures Co., Ltdstani()Drawing and Manual)b), Kanta Horio

Back Streets of the Internet – IDPW: the century-old secret society on the internet

Concept video: W+K Tokyo



Hello, can you introduce yourself?

Hi everyone, I’m Sadam Fujioka from Fukuoka, south Japan. I’m 33 years old and last year I have founded a creative lab called anno lab.

Can YOU describe your artistic practice?

Most of my works aim at inspiring curiosity and fun in people in their daily life. By creating intervention in people’s life I hope to trigger unexpected and unconscious reactions through curiosity. I believe our action should be done more unconsciously to reveal something deeper. I want people to interact with my installations in a natural, almost instinctive way without prior thinking. Then hopefully when they recall the experience they start realizing the meaning behind their actions. My biggest goal is to stimulate people’s intellectual curiosity.

Why? What are the drivers of your works?

I want to allow people to access complex and very niche realities that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I make something complicated easy for the user. Something like composing music can be very complicated, it might require years of training and practice- but through my installations I want to enable the user to access those worlds with fun and express him/herself in a more free way. And after they experienced it, they might have the motivation to develop it more deeply by themselves.




When where the turning points in your creative career?

First one was at 17, when I first attended the “Newest tech synthesizer” exhibition in my city. I was exposed for the first time to the incredible world and possibilities of technology. I was literally blown away by the variety and opportunities associated with these new technologies and finally managed to change my study’s path from humanities course to the science course.

Second important moment of my career is at age 23 when I graduated Engineering course and met with the famous contemporary music composer Prof. Shigenobu Nakamura at Graduate School of Design, Kyushu University. He invited me to the concert of his students and I was shocked by the experimental music created using the latest digital technologies. So I took part in his class for  the master’s course and PhD.  This decision absolutely changed my life and approach to art, design and technology.

Then, after my PhD I was honoured to be invited working on a project named Serious Games Project. A three years long project where we researched on therapeutic benefits of game and I planned and developed Rehabilium: game for rehabilitation of elderly people. This work was in close contact with city government, industry and university with the main focus on people and their wellbeing. This taught me a lot about people, interaction and design and more importantly to always try to include social ideas to my personal creations.

What are the differences between Western design and Japanese Design?

Myths play a fundamental part in Japanese people and consequentially design. We firmly believe in Shinto. Shinto is an indigenous Japanese philosophy conferring a god-like status to every single object and feeling in the world. For this reason a designer crafting an object, an environment or an experience feels like is creating god- you can imagine what kind of perfection we then aim at when creating. Another fundamental difference is the overall bottom up nature of change in society and design. Great examples of this are  Manga culture, Anime, Games and Shinto all coming from the people, or pop culture if you prefer.


Where is your inspiration coming from?

My inspiration always comes from Japanese culture. Myth, Shinto, Manga, Games and also Ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e and its fundamental concepts of parallel views are a constant source of inspiration in my practice. I love the uniqueness of the old Japanese thinking. Traditions, rituals and philosophies are a constant source of curiosity for me.

One example is the Isogaba Maware proverb that literally translate in “if you’re in a hurry, you have to go round”. If you go round you’ll gain a series of different aspects, perspectives and possibilities that you might otherwise loose if you go straight. Apply this concept to design and you can see how your final result will be enriched by a more thoughtful and comprehensive thinking process. I want my installation to make people go around, drawing them away from the straight line of daily life.


if you’re in a hurry, you have to go round

What is your favourite project?

I cannot choose. Ahahah. But if I really have to choose I’ll go for Clap For Dream project that allowed me to fully express myself. This project represents a fusion between religion and current Japanese culture. People had to clap their hands, which is a typical religious practice in Japan, in order to trigger the interaction with the projection mapping and lighting system. Important to mention that this project is the result of an exciting collaboration between me and Nariaki Iwatani (anno lab), Kanta Horio, Hiroshi Murakami(MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd.), Hiroki Inokuchi (MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd.)and Kazuya Tateishi (Redot Co., Ltd.).





Any exciting future project?

Yes, some very exciting project. But I cannot talk about them yet for obvious reasons. But I’ll keep you all updated. Promise.

Do you have any muse?

Oh, muse. [Very humbly] Yes, I have a lot of muses. I believe you always have to find muses around you, amongst your friends. Amongst others I find myself continuously inspired by Daito Manabe, Zach Lieberman, Exonemo, Kyle McDonald, Amit Pitaru, Memo Akten and many many more.

Do you have any advise or tip for DI’s readers?

Well… Believe your curiosity and go round to it. Share it with others and allow them to go round to it. So the world around you gets more and more enriched and varied. Then your life will be fun and exciting.

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About the author

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This post is written by Mattia, Designer & Writer & Maker trying to make the web a bit more human. Founder of Who Said That, he is responsible for TAH live reportage from design conferences, festivals & exhibitions around the world.

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