Shape Shifting

Título: Shape Shifting

Resumo: In order to challenge the understanding of nature situated apart from human, the film Shape Shifting suggest another arrangement where human and nonhuman join relations and productively interact. It outlines an affective cartography of a specific landscape, which exhibits a high natural diversity and is called “satoyama” in Japanese. Located on the border zone between mountain and arable land, the landscape is formed by a land-use based on observation and experimentation with nature and is accomplished over a relatively long time span by the methods of observing (mi) and trying (tameshi). The method of observation and try out was first articulated in the time of the Edo period and unified in the phrase “mitameshi”. Marked by the mutual effects of nonhuman and human life forms, satoyama can be regarded as a manifold of assemblages of transformations.

Present research on satoyama claims that the variety of species in the area is so high, not because the land is untouched and undisturbed by anthropogenic impacts, but rather because of a limited and elaborated land-use. Integrated activities caused by human and other natural circumstances are enhancing, and not diminishing of nature’s diversity. During the making of Shape Shifting we encountered different fire related routines and learned about a fire farming pra ctice called kishiaki in Japanese. Through kishiaki the farmers regularly use fire to change the co mposition of plant varieties in a certain area. The dogma of ecology as a state of equilibrium has long suppres sed natural fires and human burning or pruning practices with the argument of damaging nature’s “natural state,” but in fact these disturbances enhance and revive diversity. Whereas the suppression of fire, hinders for example the germination of lower plants and various sleeping seeds and eliminates animals that depend on these plants.

Autors: Elke Marhöfer & Mikhail Lylov

Elke Marhöfer

Born in the year of the goat in Baracoa/Cuba, Elke Marhöfer is an artist living in Berlin. Via the potentialities of moving image and suppositious writing she works with notions of self-admitted foreignness and radical othering. She collaborates with dear friends and things, revising notions of animals, vegetables and objects. Within distant environments she investigates specific events and practices that traverse binary oppositions. Linking for example, the nonhuman with the postcolonial, she discusses how nature cuts across history, being simultaneously historical situated, evoking human and nonhuman testimonies of past and current events, recognizing their specificities, and at the same time surpassing and escaping historical formatting with its unique and machinic mode of constantly evolving, changing and creating something new. Elke tests nonhuman perspectives, translating a technology like the camera, from a human cultural and technical device into an extension of the intensive forces within the surrounding environment, so that the camera becomes a tool, which is in principle not different from nonhuman animal tools, similar to orangutans using leaves to make squeaky kiss noises.

Elke studied Fine Art at the University of the Arts in Berlin, at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. Since 2010 she pursues a PhD at the University of Gothenburg. Elke has received fellowships, grants, and generous support from IASPIS Residency Sweden, Akademie Schloss Solitude Stuttgart, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. Her art exhibitions include the Palais de Tokyo Paris, Manufactura’s Studio Wuhan, FCAC Shanghai, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, NGBK Berlin, Kunstverein Hannover, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen and The Showroom, London. She lectures in conferences such as DARE, Deleuze and Artistic Research ConferenceGhent, Deleuze’s Cultural Encounters with the New Humanities, Hong Kong and Daughters of Chaos,Deleuze Studies International Conference Stockholm. Her films have been screened at the BFI – Film Festival London, Berlinale Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Courtisane Festival Ghent and Images Film Festival Toronto.


Mikhail Lylov

Mikhail Lylov is an independent artist and curator, who lives in Berlin. His works establish or discuss the situations in which economic and knowledge models are questioned, renegotiated or rendered useless. Lylov’s work investigates a genealogy of the divide between mental and material in different contexts, especially labor and anthropology. On the affirmative side, his work looks for situations in which concepts become sensually available forms, or knowledge becomes a matter of perception.

Mikhail Lylov’s projects were supported by Le Pavillon program at Palais De Tokyo in Paris, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Berlinale Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, Courtisane Festival Ghent, BFI British Film Festival London.

His art exhibitions include Palais De Tokyo Paris, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts Taipei, D21 Leipzig, Kyiv Biennale Ukraine and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.



The film was made with help and support of: Hiroyuki Yoshioka, Katsue Fukamachi, Ayumi Ogino, Tomoyo Adachi, Sninichi Mori, Satoshi Asakura, Kent Hadlock, Naoki Shiomi, Kazuma Higashida, Mamoru Daido, Shinichi Aoki, Susumu Nakanishi, Horie Ryohei.

Additional support was provided by Pavillon Neuflize OBC, Palais De Tokyo and the University of Gothenburg Akademin Valand.

Sound mixing: Marian Mentrup

Shape Shifting´s book:

Interview with Elke Marhöfer:

16mm film transferred to HD, color/sound, 18 min. 26 sec., Japan, 2015.