Shotaro Wake: Use of Ma, the space “in between”, where observational filmmaking meets auto-ethnographic writing in the world of cancer in Japan

Title: Use of Ma, the space “in between”, where observational filmmaking meets auto-ethnographic writing in the world of cancer in Japan

 

Shotaro Wake

A Ph.D. candidate for Social Anthropology with Visual Media, University of Manchester, UK

 

Abstract (295 words)

 

This article explores the intersection where observational filmmaking meets auto-ethnographic writing style, a combination not very much used, but with great possibilities for visual anthropologists. I specifically examine how my filmmaking approach over a ten year span and has been shaped by my cancer experience as well as by my Japanese background. By combining the two styles, I could go deeper to see the dynamics of the shift in my filming style which is closely related to my understanding of my cancer experience. This again has influenced my way of dealing with visual representation, particularly my way of using the complex concept of ma, the space “in between”. Ma is not an empty gap, but filled, ambiguous and plentiful in meaning with spiritual and temporal possibilities, aesthetic codes and relationships to both objects as well as subjective matters. Working with people afflicted by cancer in Japan, I became sensitive to not use ma in terms of only aesthetic codes often done by Japanese classic filmmakers. Instead I moved toward considering ma as a creative space in which the boundaries can be deconstructed, helping me to move away from an aesthetic observer to a sensitive participant. With ma as a backdrop, a more sensuous filmmaking style is approached by the use of a mobile phone as filming device combined with feedback screening. It allows to free up my face and creates a sense that the filmed person and I are having a conversation during the filming. It is in this fluidity in exchange that is thus created one finds the possibility for deconstructing boundaries of ma. In filming and later in editing I used the ambiguous and communicative space in ma, where I could find a balance between concealing and revealing the filmed person’s illness experience.