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When thinking about Taro Shinoda in terms of machines and movies, it is not Fritz Lang's Metropolis that springs to mind. Nor the many Frankensteins, or Captain Nemo's Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
What captures the spirit of Shinoda best is Hal Ashby's 1971 cinema classic Harold and Maude. In that film the title character, Harold, transforms a Jaguar E-type convertible into a very flashy funeral hearse (which became the real-life inspirational model for BMW's M Coupe in the 1990s). Harold's joy at turning a machine adored by the rest of the world into something far-more bizarre results in an impish boyish smile, a strangely evil look of real happiness. That is the look that can be seen on Taro Shinoda's face when one of his amazing constructions starts to move.
The first time I worked with Shinoda was during the final exhibition of the Curatorial Training Programme at De Appel, Amsterdam in 1995. The exhibition was called 'Seamless', and six young curators strived to create an exhibition as flawless as the title suggested.1 One of the major works included was Shinoda's Milk, consisting of a 12-square-metre pool filled with a white milky liquid and surrounded by four metal tracks hanging one metre above the pool. On the tracks, four lengths of neon bulbs moved at a slow, hypnotic speed thanks to an electrical mechanism. Each time one of the engines touched the end of the track or another engine, a clicking sound announced the bulbs' change in direction. The installation, informed by the artist's previous occupation as a professional gardener, was a wonderfully minimal and artificial take on the