Culture can be born out of a specific time and place, and yet, it possesses the ability to become timeless. In this series, “時音” TOKION invites people who are shaping culture today to talk about the past, present, and future.
The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed our world, leaving many anxious about the uncertainty of our future. But the music that comes out of these fraught times might offer us a glimmer of hope or insights into how we can turn our situation around.
This time we talk with imma, featuring pink bob hair, is the first virtual model influencer in Japan.
imma, who burst onto Instagram in 2018, is not known for her height, weight, nationality or background. According to past interviews, she likes fashion, art, culture, has a younger brother (plusticboy/he is virtual human, too), has a dog named Einstein, has minor changes in makeup and hairstyles, and likes to joke around. As well as being virtual, she is “a woman,” a label that may stir up curiosity, and possibly sympathy, in the viewer. She has more than 290,000 followers on Instagram (as october 19, 2020). Since featuring on the cover of “CG World”, a comprehensive computer graphics magazine, in January 2019, she has been active in many industries in Japan and overseas.
She speaks words used nowadays, but they occasionally have persuasive regardless of real or virtual. When I heard imma’s story, I could see her belief in a bright future, even on dark topics.
ーーHow did you start modeling in the first place?
imma: At first, I was just posting what I liked on my Instagram account. Then, I gradually started to get requested, so I tried to model myself. It’s still challenging, even now.
ーーWhat do you think of for your Instagram posts?
imma: Actually, I may not think of anything (laughs). Perhaps because I’m changing my way of thinking flexibly. I take pictures in a place that I thought was cool, and I might only think about my posts as .
ーーWhat are you conscious of when you dress as a model?
imma: First, the concept of modelling has changed dramatically, and I feel that the model is chosen based on an individual and their lifestyle, rather than style. So, the first thing I think about is how to express my own identity.
ーーWhat was the most impressive job you’ve ever done?
imma: Working as a model for Burberry. As a representative from Japan, I was happy to work with the top models from Taiwan and Korea. It was also exciting to go beyond the normal modelling boundaries and appear in global commercial movie for SK-II.
ーーWhat are your interests at the moment?
imma: I like art, but I’m hooked on CGI production software, such as Maya and the Unreal Engine! I’m learning to make CGI by myself.
ーーWhat does it mean for you to encounter art and culture?
imma: I really feel it helps me collect myself.
ーーIn the past, you said that you like Gerhard Richter. I think pieces with an ambiguous line between painting and photography, such as “Over-painted photos” and “photo paintings,” are linked to your existence.
imma: I like his work very much. I first saw it in Paris, and it was love at first sight. I watched documentary and became even more enamored. Of course, the ambiguity of the boundary is something to think about, but the mind quickly settles down.
Virtual human has also each personality
ーーVirtual models are becoming more prevalent in Japan, but what would you say your advantages are?
imma: My pros… I guess it’s my desire to improve society? Everybody’s different and there are many things that only I can do, but I think it’s the same for others.
ーーYou post on Instagram with the hashtag #ithinkimcgi. If you say you’re CGI, I think you may be seen as something new or strange.
imma: I think things are consumed depending on how they are used. I look at each job and see what I can do, but I refuse jobs if I can’t express myself, in fact. I think my personality is what viewer feel. Since there are many things I don’t know, I want to absorb what I can and work to give constant output.
ーーNow, with VR and editing apps, humans are approaching CGI. How do you feel about the difference between real and virtual life?
imma: I don’t think there’s much difference. Virtual is now real, and real has become virtual. It’s all about what you believe.
Living in the Now and Facing the World
ーーYou sometimes send post your opinions on social situations through social network. Now that individual influence is growing, we must take responsibility for what we say, yet we can also say irresponsible things.
imma: I think many people find it difficult to live when anyone can say anything. However, I think it’s good to be able to communicate our feelings.
Sometimes it’s hard to build discussions and know them more deeply, but that’s just how individua is. How to make the most of that to their lives is up to individual, but I think it’s important not to be afraid.
ーーDue to COVID-19, some of your work appears to have been canceled. Have you had to change the attitude towards work throughout this period?
imma: Yes, we are in an age where there is always change, and I often think that what we took for granted yesterday may not be so today. However, there are many correct answers regarding social and human behavior. I believe that if I work on something with a pure intention, I will not lie to myself and go in the wrong direction.
ーーNow, there are many people who feel depressed because of all the negative news. How do you change your mindset?
imma: I sometimes feel depressed about the negative news myself. However, we can’t go back to the past, so I think about how we can make a brighter future and get better. By thinking and acting in this way, I want to always positively grasp the current situation.
ーーThe survival of origin of art and culture is in jeopardy. As someone who loves that, what do you think should be done?
imma: I think it’s important to protect and forgive, and to keep them in mind so they are not consumed.
ーーI think that people like you will expand the playing field in the future. Do you have any new projects or areas that you would like to take on?
imma: Many! There’s too much to say here, but now I’m gradually moving forward. The future is bright, and I think there is more that only I can do. I can’t say anything yet, but I got surprising request. I want to excite everyone through being myself.