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Shinji Shiozaki talks "Immaterial"

A movie about the Brazilian skateboard artists


Recently we got a mail from Shinji Shiozaki in which he presented his newest movie “Immaterial”. It will be shown tomorrow at the Skate and Surf Filmfestival that takes place online this year, which means you’re able to watch the movie that presents the skateboarding art scene of Brazil. We had a brief chat with Shinji about it.

Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Shinji Shiozaki. I was born in Belém / PA, in the north of Brazil, a city in the middle of the Amazon. I started skateboarding in 1996. In that period I started making zines and videos of the local scene. When I was in college I got an internship at a documentary production company, that's when I started working on documentaries. Then I became a motiongrapher. In 2010 I worked at a journalism company and started reporting. That's when I started thinking about making a feature-length documentary. I was fired from that company and used the unemployment insurance money to start the Immaterial project.

Shinji Self Portrait

Shinji Shiozaki

What is Immaterial all about?

Immaterial was directed by Felipe Santiago and I. We have working on this project the last four years.In the beginning the project was about skateboard photography. Until we interviewed Lucas Pexão, who is an art curator, and opened our mind to something bigger. We realized that a project about photography, we would have to talk about the past, show the history and talk to as many photographers as possible. We wanted an authored documentary, one that is current and talks about the present, that doesn't have an expensive "history course", you know? So the project molded the art perfectly. The documentary is about how skateboarding reflects the life of every person who is skateboarding, focused on art. It ends up being a self-reflection project, in which each person is a prism reflecting the same idea in different ways.

Is there a difference between art in a gallery or art in the streets?

We have completely different surfaces, spectators, concept and curatorship. On the street it is open, it only depends on the artist. He does what he wants and the interpretation is for everyone who passes by and feels the work. In the gallery, there is a hierarchy that does not depend on the artist. There is a hierarchical order that goes from the curatorship of the gallery, to the place where it is located, all of which makes a filter on the people who will see your exhibition. The gallery is even more didactic, with presentation texts and observation routes. Ultimately, art can move from the street to the gallery and vice versa, perhaps what changes is critical formation at the end of the process and not art. Or does the artist and his work change in this process? I don't know how to answer very well. You can't close the answers in art.

"The documentary is about how skateboarding reflects the life of every person who is skateboarding, focused on art"

What should people know about the Brazilian skate and/or art scene? Did you find something unique that is not found in other skatescenes?

Brazil is in Latin America and is the size of a continent. This geographic information suggests the world that works are added to, culturally. Modernism in Brazil is a key piece in the works that appear in the documentary. The fact that makes the scene unique, is that there is a lot of inspiration from experimental, modernist artists, Tropicália, added to the aesthetic references of the street and skateboard. This is the result that generated the documentary.

What did you learn by doing this documentary?

As I said before, where I met skateboarding was in northern Brazil, at that time everything was very truncated and difficult to understand the whole scenario, even because I do not speak English and do not have internet. I confess that I didn't know anything about the artistic world of skateboarding before that, especially the use of these abstract references. My discovery came from the documentary research. Deep down I knew, almost instinctively, of the definition of skateboarding as an artistic object, I already felt that but I didn't know how to define it. The documentary served to fit my ideas, organize them. Documentary research is now on my trail of what I want skateboarding to be for me.

How did you get in contact with the SSFF? Is there a community of filmmakers?

There must be a community of filmmakers, but I was not, and maybe not yet, part of it. As much as I am a skater, for the documentary I was out of this world, I was considered more of a journalist than being part of the subject, you know? I was infiltrating throughout the research, I was lucky to have everyone's trust. As soon as I started the film project, I was already researching possible places to show the film and the SSFF was one of the objectives. I am very happy with their invitation.
I can say that in the middle of the process I found myself wondering if the film would be accepted, both for skaters and non-skaters, I was afraid that the film would appear pretentious for both worlds. I am very happy to see that it has the density it has and is being absorbed by both.