Akeroyd Collection


Takeshi Murata, I, Popeye, 2010

I, Popeye is a digital animation of an unexpected depiction of the more prosaic side of Popeye’s life. We see him on a factory assembly line before falling asleep at his spinach can filling station. As he sinks into his hallucinatory dream, we watch his life fall apart while he sleeps and then live the aftermath of his mistake. In desperation at his plight, he turns to his trusty spinach can, only to unleash hell in his apartment, smashing everything in sight. A cathartic act, but one that leads to his decision to hang himself. This is not the Popeye of popular public consciousness but a Popeye for an era of social commentary and critique. The film was made as a result of Murata’s interest in seemingly paradoxical international copyright laws. In Europe, Popeye’s copyright expired on January 1, 2009, which means his likeness can be used in comics, on clothing, and elsewhere without authorization from the copyright holder – but only in Europe. In the U.S., however, copyright stands for ninety-five years after it is first registered, so the uses of Popeye will have to be registered through 2024. The discrepancy in US and EU law created a situation where geography determines legal constraints in an age where images circulate internationally without friction on everyone’s personal devices. The possibility of ‘unauthorized use’ of images so deeply embedded in the popular consciousness, whilst not breaking any particular law, is of interest to Murata. Here, he twists a cartoon of heroic triumph into a litany of failure – the opposite of what Disney does, for example, when adapting a Grimm tale that doesn’t end happily. This reversal is amplified with the minor-key version of the Popeye theme song. But by rendering the characters in the slick three-dimensional animation commonly associated with big-studio production, Murata complicates the discrepancy between the official Popeye and his own version, where the character only finds liberation in his own death.

MediumSingle-channel video, sound by Devin Flynn and Ross Goldstein
Duration6 minutes
Editionof 5 + 2 APs