Love may be the most beautiful experience two people can share, but it is certainly never easy. For all the pleasure and joy it brings, there is a weight that comes with attaching your soul to another and a pain that comes from the howls of love that bellow inside us all. But along with those complexities, come the myriad ways that love takes shape between two people and the dynamics that form when two otherwise clashing personalities find themselves ensnared in a symbiotic but rigorous kind of affection. And for Japanese artists Noriko and Ushio Shinohara, they have spent the last 40 years of their lives in tandem, married not only to each other, but to the work they have sacrificed and devoted their existence to.
Noriko Shinohara: I like that people like the film, I’m happy for that. But to see the film with an audience, I was surprised at how miserable I looked, because living my life, I didn’t know I was so miserable. Everybody has to struggle for their life, so I thought I’m just living—sometimes struggling, sometimes happy, but it’s my life. But oh, I look so miserable!
Ushio Shinohara: At the film festival in Missouri, the audience was very pleased with the film and there was a standing ovation and when I saw that, I thought it was really fantastic. This kind of reaction you never get from the art audience in a museum or gallery, so it was very moving.
NS: Artists are exhibitionists. Most of the time we show only painting or sculpture or drawing, but the film is not only for the work, but more for life. And I don’t have any embarassment to show because my life because artists make art, and it’s coming from my inside, so showing my inside is okay. People think artists are quiet and stay in the studio or stay away in the countryside, but I think that’s a lie. Artists have always been center stage, wanting to be seen by an audience. So life is the same thing. It’s like a diary and my life is like a diary and I don’t have any embarrassment to show that.
US: Getting such a reaction from the film audience is very moving, and now I’m thinking about if I could create artwork that could make people have the same type of reaction as the film. So that’s what I’m striving for now.
NS: As an artist, that opened up the possibility for my work with animation. When Zachary took my drawings and two months later showed me part of the animation, I was surprised because I didn’t know it was possible. I thought animation takes a huge sum of money and is a big project and many people have to work, but it was done with Zach and some computer specialist. So maybe in the near future I can make the entire animation of Cutie and Bully.
US: After this film I was really influenced by the film experience, so I really want to make some type of work that would grab the audience’s heart. I’m trying to find that kind of expression in art and if it succeeds, then I’m going to be very happy.
NS: It took a long time before he became part of our everyday life. But he and his friend Patrick came here all the time, like once a week at first, and in that time I felt not so easy after they left and tired. But gradually they grew close to us, so it was easy. When they first started coming, I thought they were young people doing experimental work, so it would finish so soon—like just a few visits. But he kept coming. Some people film forever and they never edit, but after we gave up wondering, Zach said he made a 3-minute trailer. It was so surprising, but I thought it would take another ten more years to finish the whole movie. And last year he said, “Almost done!”
US: One thing I noticed, and I’m not very happy about is, that he was never interested in capturing the core of my art.
NS: I knew it, because in the beginning they were trying to be like a journalist or filmmaker, so they tried to do interviews with us. But gradually, they became grownups and Zachary started his own ideas. But it took a few years too. He established his ideas, and at that time he started coming to film more of me. So I could see it was not a normal film about artists. I’m very happy with it, but actually even after he finished, I started complaining that our life is more difficult than you saw. Like when Ushio came back from Japan and I counted it the money, it wasn’t enough. I said, “It’s not enough for one months rent!” But he cuts it off because it was too bitter.
US: I find it surprising that it turned out to be a love story, but a love story without a kiss scene—but what can I say, this is a movie.
NS: Relationships continue forever, all the time, all over the world so the relationship of Cutie and Bully looks extreme, I thought, but everybody agreed and most men and women laughed. To see his film and my work inside, the theme of the film is going to be universal because it’s love and relationships and the struggling of life for everybody. If the advertisement was right, people love it and I hope they see it again and again.