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Blog

Code-Based Eye Candy from a Tokyo Renaissance Man

Jun 14 2017

As a longtime resident of Tokyo, Matt Fargo finds ways to make Japanese culture more fun for everyone. He's written books about speaking dirty Japanese, created dynamic audio and visuals for musicals featuring dancing dogs, and built games for Tokyo train riders. He’s one of those restless creative people who just goes forth and makes. Before living in Tokyo, he spent time creating interactive experiences for Second Story in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. He's since continued his quest to build weirdness into technology through his work at Party. Let’s peek into his brain, shall we?

Matt Fargo Portrait

In one sentence, who are you?

I'm a 37-year-old Tokyoite with a mane that's swiftly moving from Pauly Shore to Kenny G.

What do you do? How did you learn to do it?

I do interactive design and Japanese literature. I learned the former at NYU's ITP program, and the latter from my amazing high school Japanese teacher Susan Tanabe.

Matt Fargo Shibuya A Web

SHIBUYA::EXTRUDED is a map of the neighborhood in Tokyo. It consists of seven layers, each layer representing a different type of street or path: walkways, roads, highways, byways, freeways, and interstates. 

What are your 3 favorite possessions?

  1. The Twitter app 
  2. My mint copy of Zik Emmy's "Perfect Change"
  3. My engraved Tamagoyaki frying pan

What does a typical work session look like?

To me, code is like jazz, man. Improvisation. I've got a synth—a Korg MS-20—and I run the input through Max MSP. Max interprets frequency to the nearest quarter tone, and white keys are mapped to reserve words in my current coding idiom, while black keys spit out numbers. There's not a lot of reserve words in programming, so all I need to do is throw on a fatback beat and just jam.

(J/K—coding is mostly just copy-pasting stuff from Stack Overflow.)

Pierre Menard and the infinite monkeys. Created using openframeworks, a series of openGL shaders, and about 48 hours of processing. The image is drawn using images Googled from the lyrics to the album "Irresistible."

How do you get over creative block?

I'm not "real-time" at all. I'm useless in a brainstorm, and even worse at a Q&A. First dates are a disaster, and job interviews are even worse. Whenever I'm asked something, I wish I could pause the world and go on a nice walk through Shinjuku Gyoen, because I know that right around the fifteen-minute mark, when the blood starts moving, I'll find the right idea, the right reply. Working alone is great because you have this affordance, but sometimes in groups it's hard to say, "Hey y'all, keep brainstorming, you're doing a great job. I'm just going to go take a lil perambulation, if you can just hold that thought until I get back?"

I'm also usually most creative when I'm working with some idiom or technology I've never touched before. Figuring something out for the first time is the best way to have ideas about how to use it. People like to rap about reinventing the wheel, but I feel like reinventing wheels is how we come up with bicycles.

What was the last item on your to-do list?

I have this great translation I did of Aida Makoto's novel, Youth and Perversion. I need to nudge him about rights, because it's really a sterling translation.

Matt Fargo Southamerica 1

The Polarity: Imagine if we woke up one morning and found that the Polarity had shifted.

How do you see the world in 2078?

(Assuming a Werner Herzog mien.) I must confess, I'm pessimistic. I think we'll either have a benign socialist matriarchy, or else it will be a hellscape. My expectations have not been appreciably bolstered by the last year of world history.

What’s your number one bucket list item?

I'd like to get into hang-gliding or some other flying sport. I'm banking on somebody from IDEO designing an affordable, eco-friendly personal flight module.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

Mohri Yuko, a great Japanese interactive installation artist.

Kevin Freeny, funniest man alive 16 years running.

Matt Fargo This Or That Card

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