NAM creates fantastical installations that defy both gravity and digital manipulations. They use their signature style of suspending objects and people with strings and cables to create dream-like environments that float in-between calm and chaos. The art/design collective was originally founded in 2006 by graphic designer Takayuki Nakazawa and photographer Hiroshi Manaka. The naming is simply derived from the initials of the two founders who, together, create both artistic and commercial work.
NAM’s Takayuki Nakazawa has answered the questions for us.
Who are you?
Hello, we are art director Takayuki Nakazawa and photographer Hiroshi Masaka, and we form the core of NAM, a Tokyo-based graphics and art collective. Under the theme “A Fantasy In Life”, we create works that explore the possibilities of visual expression.
For our most recent project, we created commercial visuals for a client in Hong Kong. We went from Japan to Hong Kong and produced our works in the giant movie production studio SHOW STUDIO.
We started NAM because we wanted to experiment with visual expression and expand what’s possible within the field of visual representation. NAM is a place that allows us to follow these interests.
Thankfully, after our activities gained exposure on the internet, we have been picked up by various design magazines throughout Europe, which then gained us recognition in our home country Japan. Our early, experimental works help influence the projects we create for our clients now, but we are a little dissatisfied that our initial experimental work is currently stagnating. I think the ideal style would be to balance both types of work so that they can bounce off and influence each other, like a pendulum.
Japan x Design
A unique way of expression. Clean, careful works. A sense for the peculiar.
I have recently been inspired by the theatre production of Princess Mononoke at the British Whole Hog Theatre, the first production to actually receive official permission by Hayao Miyazaki.
It is an experiment to turn fantasy into reality, it makes generous use of a large amount of video tape, pet bottles and other objects found in everyday life to create puppets, stage props and so on.
I haven’t actually seen the stage myself. So far, I only saw a photo of the theatre stage, and heard about the peculiar method used to create that fantasy world. But even that is more than enough to stimulate the imagination.
I am fascinated by this primitive method of realising a fantasy. I like the possibility of drawing out and relying on the imagination of the viewers instead of putting the fantasy out there with elaborate CG and special equipment.
We want to organise two exhibitions. One is an experimental exhibition which will not make use of our signature material, nylon string. The other is a wild idea about an exhibition collecting critical, movie scene-like works that push forward the concept of a weightless world.
We work from Nakameguro area in Tokyo. Many designers and creative companies are based in this part of the city, but there are quiet residential areas here as well. We also get to enjoy nature in Nakameguro, like the famous cherry blossoms all along the river during Springtime.
Thanks to many advances in technology, it can seem like it does not matter anymore which place you choose to work from. But even though it might not have a direct influence, I have a feeling that the place or the environment you use to create works in does affect ideas and thought processes subconsciously. Under this aspect, the right environment does play an important role.
I’ll use the work we’ve done in Hong Kong last month as an example for this answer.
First, bridging the distance between Tokyo and Hong Kong with e-mails, Skype etc., we held multiple meetings, came up with ideas and plans, and did the art direction for the whole project. Then, since we would be doing the setup and photographing in Hong Kong, we went there before the shoot to meet with the staff and have a look at the technology we’d be using. Since we communicated only by technological means, meeting in person before the actual production proved very important. We were able to solve many minute details, and sort out mistakes based on mutual misunderstands before they became a problem.
We worked together with the on-site staff because of the enormous size of the setup. We usually decide on the position of the props directly in the viewfinder of the camera. After we’ve agreed on where the props should be, we use nylon string and let the props float in the air. Because all of this is done by hand, we need a lot of staff members to help.
For this particular project, we stayed in the studio for 6 days, including setup and shooting. We were responsible for the still photographs while the movie shoot was coordinated by the Hong Kong staff. A wire action engineer usually working in the Hong Kong movie industry also took part in the project.
At first glance, people often think that our works can be produced with very low budget and basically anywhere (I guess it simply can’t be seen from the works as we try hard not to show the trouble and labour that went into our works in the final result). (Laughs)
But the set costs a lot of money to create: a lot of time is needed for our works, we rent a studio for countless days, we do everything by hand, work together with a lot of people during setup etc.
Also, we are often only asked to create works using nylon string, I think that’s a small understanding as well, maybe because that’s the thing we are famous for. We use various methods and ways of expression, and always think about how to expand the field of visual expression.
A Difficult Work
We think of the SS2013 global campaign for the Onitsuka Tiger as our most difficult work.
It was an international work in which we collaborated with an advertising agency in Holland, and the biggest stage setup we have ever dealt with at the time (17 meters!), it was just a huge project all-around. But I do think it was a tremendously good experience for us.
Of course, we received a lot of positive feedback regarding our biggest project so far, for Onitsuka Tiger. Because of the size of the setup, and because I think we managed to push the limits of visual expression – not just stills but image expression in general – a little further, the opportunities for an expression with new potential has increased.
The size of the setup, and I think we managed to widen what’s possible in the field of expression – not just regarding stills but image expression in general – the opportunity to lead to expression with new potential, the opportunities to work on international projects with new possibilities, has increased.
Thanks to a request by a Shanghai agency, we worked on the visuals for an advertising project with a certain Hollywood star, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in the last minute. I also worked on a project with an American software company that didn’t come to launch. But even so, for us and for them, planning the project was an interesting challenge.
Two other recent projects of NAM: The “Chocoloate Trail” & “Taste Full” campaign for the Harbor City complex in Hong Kong.
My understanding of developing and improving is that – rather than choosing just one clear direction to advance towards to – it works like a spiral in which a lot of elements, reactions and side effects are entangled.
For example, as technology advances, instead of continuing towards the original direction, there’s the chance for a new, unique way of expression if you adjust for the new conditions, for example by fixing things by hand. Doing so means many different methods and ways of expression come into contact, influence each other, and thereby are allowed to affect the shape of the whole.
With the appearance of the internet, the flattening of communication worldwide might continue, but I think it’s boring when everyone’s way of expression becomes the same. To counter-act, creatives should look into ways to make the means of expression more diverse.
The view from Sakurabashi Bridge in front of my office. I have thought a lot about ideas for NAM projects here, and I’m sure I’ll do so many more times in the future.
We thank NAM for the interview and wish them all best in the future!
You can reach NAM on these channels: