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Video and Before: Five Japanese Pioneers


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Video and Before: Five Japanese Pioneers

Video and Before: Five Japanese Pioneers 

Works by Takahiko Iimura, Toshio Matsumoto, Ko Nakajima, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, and Fujiko Nakaya

*Image: Still from Ko Nakajima, What is Photography?, 1976. Courtesy the artist

Date: Friday, September 11, 6:30 pm
Location: NYU Silver Center, Room 301 (enter at 32 Waverly Place) 
Duration: 75 minutes screening + 15 minutes talk
Selected by: Ann Adachi (Collaborative Cataloging Japan), Christophe Charles (Musashino Art University), and Hirofumi Sakamoto (Wakkanai Hokusei Gakuen University/Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive)
Technical Support, in part by: Hirofumi Sakamoto; Christophe Charles; Collaborative Cataloging Japan; and Kentaro Taki, VIDEOART CENTER Tokyo

*Format information indicate the original format. All works are shown in digital video. 

Takahiko Iimura [Courtesy artist]
A Dance Party in the Kingdom in Lilliput Nos. 1, 1964, 16mm, 12 min / 4 min excerpt
Film Strips II, 1966–1970, 16mm, 24 min / 4 min excerpt
Chair, 1970, video, 8 min / 3 min excerpt
I Love You, 1973–1987, video, 4:40 min / 3 min excerpt
Toshio Matsumoto [Courtesy artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive]
The Song of Stone, 1963, 16mm (transferred), 24 min / 3:47 min excerpt
For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968, 16mm x3 (digitally transferred to single channel), 13 min / 5 min excerpt
Magnetic Scramble, 1968, video, 0:30 min
Metastasis, 1971, video, 8 min / 2 min excerpt
Mona Lisa, 1973, video, 3 min /2 min excerpt
Enigma, 1978, video, 3:22 min / 2 min excerpt

Ko Nakajima [Courtesy artist & Taki Kentaro, VIDEOART CENTER Tokyo]
Seizoki, 1964, 16mm, 4:10 min
Biological Life Part 1, 1971, film processed in video, 6 min / 3 min excerpt
Shokutaku ressha (Video picnic), 1975, video, 7:46min / 3:45 min excerpt
What is Photography?, 1976, video, 20 min / 4:45 min excerpt 

Katsuhiro Yamaguchi [Courtesy artist and Christophe Charles]                              Image Modulator, 1969, video, 0:45 min
Eat, 1972, video, 1:30 min
Las Meninas, 1974-1975, video, 7:17 min / 1:07 min excerpt
Ooi and Environs, 1977, video, 10:08 min / 6:50 min excerpt
Girl in Vortex, 1977, video, 10:06 min / 4:40 min excerpt

Fujiko Nakaya [Courtesy artist]
Friends of Minamata Victims, 1972, video, 20 min /5:04 min excerpt
Statics of an Egg, 1973, video, 11 min / 4:11 min excerpt
Sojiji, 1979, video, 18 min / 3 min excerpt
Coordination: Right Hand/Left Hand, 1979, video, 2:06 min 

In conjunction with the touring exhibition at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968–1979, Grey Art Gallery and Collaborative Cataloging Japan present Video and Before, a screening program featuring five Japanese pioneers of video art—Takahiko Iimura, Toshio Matsumoto, Ko Nakajima, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, and Fujiko Nakaya. Intended as an introduction to the five artists' wide range of work, the Video and Before program explores various contexts in which artists began using video, bringing art historical, technical, social, and biographical backgrounds forward against each artist’s discovery and experimentation of the new medium. 

The featured five artists were the first to use video as an artistic medium in Japan. These artists came to video from different areas: animation, experimental film, performance, and sculpture. Presented chronologically within each artist’s group of works, the selections demonstrate their wide-ranging interests in filmic expression, technology, and themes. Works are sourced from either the artist or researchers working on preservation or digitization projects and are building archival records of the artists' oeuvres. Researchers involved in this screening program are: Christophe Charles (Musashino Art University, media works of Katsuhiro Yamaguchi), and Hirofumi Sakamoto (Wakkanai Hokusei Gakuen University & Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive, works of Toshio Matsumoto).

Takahiko Iimura and Toshio Matsumoto, who both began as filmmakers, have engaged in
distinct techniques, subjects, philosophies, and expressions. Their activities before they embraced the video medium in the early 1970s are expansive and cannot be fully reflected in this short program; the selections here offer a glimpse into their early interests. The section on Iimura presents two film works (before 1970) and two video works (after 1970). A Dance Party in the Kingdom in Lilliput Nos. 1 (1964) features the artist himself and Kazakura Sho, a member of the group Neo Dadaism Organizers. The comedic piece incorporates structuralist elements, reflecting Iimura's filmic interests at that time. On the other hand, he uses filmic techniques and effects to abstract the imagery of a riot in Detroit in Film Strips II (1966–1970). One of his first works on video, Chair (1970) explores perception in using the flicker effect. Later on, these early experiments in video develop into conceptual work. Many of his conceptual investigations involved performance on camera, such as that captured in I Love You (1973–1987), on which he collaborated with his wife, Akiko Iimura. More information on Iiumura’s works are available on his website

Toshio Matsumoto’s section starts with his seminal experimental film piece, The Song of
(1963), an abstract piece representing the repetitive visual motives that he later explored further in video. Another work on film but worlds apart from The Song of
Stone, both in subject matter and technique, is For the Damaged Right Eye (1968), a short
film depicting Tokyo’s underground scene, presented on three projectors. One of Matsumoto's early video experiments is Magnetic Scramble (1968), which he made by magnetically interfering with the footage of a protest on a television monitor. This work is included in his feature-length film Funeral Parade of Roses (1969). Matsumoto then explores electronic techniques such as sequence, synthesis, overlay, and feedback by manipulating his film-footage in video, as demonstrated in Metastasis (1971), Mona Lisa (1973), and Enigma (1978). Hirofumi Sakamoto of Wakkanai Hokusei Gakuen University and Director of Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive has been researching Matsumoto's material and works on its archival projects.

Artists Ko Nakajima, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, and Fujiko Nakaya all derived inspiration from
the intersection of technology and art, or technology and life. In this program, Nakajima’s section begins with his animation work Seizoki (1964), produced by painting on the film during his solo exhibition at the Sogetsu Art Center, a space for avant-garde art in 1960s Tokyo. Intersections between film and video, as well as his practice of documenting "life," are explored in his Biological Life (1971-), which he made by manipulating film footage, copying it onto video and using a video synthesizer. In 1971, Nakajima established Video Earth Tokyo, a video-art collective formed by people from a wide variety of professions. With Video Earth Tokyo, Nakajima documented a performance piece using nascent technology, the portable video recorder. In Shokutaku ressha (video picnic) (1975), Nakajima and others cooked and ate a meal on the platform of a subway station. Another work investigating the technical materiality of video and photography, What is Photography? (1976), is two-channel piece with video documentation of thirty naked men with cameras shooting a naked woman on a table on one monitor, while the other monitor presents the still photographs taken by the men. Kentaro Taki of VIDEOART CENTER Tokyo works with artist Ko Nakajima to present his works internationally.

Katsuhiro Yamaguchi worked in wide-ranging disciplines and groups from kinetic
sculpture, involvement with Jikken Kobo (a multi-disciplinary collective in 1950s), Fluxus
happenings, video art, and the Japanese video collective, Video Hiroba, among others. Selections for this screening show representative video installation works he produced
between 1969 and 1977. Yamaguchi's interest in multi-media assemblage, video technology
as structural element, and electronic synthesis are present in these documentations of
the installations. Christopher Charles, professor at Musashino Art University, is working
on an archiving project of Yamaguchi's works.

Fujiko Nakaya, one of the first female artists to use video in Japan, continues to explore
technology and art through her fog sculptures to the present day. Early in her career, Nakaya was a member of New York's Experiments in Art and Technology, and then continued its work in Japan, including a fog-sculpture project for the Expo ’70 world’s fair in Osaka, in 1970. In Japanese video-art history, the establishment of the collective Video Hiroba (of which Nakaya is a co-founder) is considered an important milestone. Encouraged by the Canadian video artist Michael Goldberg to use video as alternative broadcasting tool, Nakaya and others established the collective. In February 1972, Nakaya and Goldberg organized the eleven-day symposium “Video Communication DO IT YOURSELF KIT,” held at the Sony Building in Tokyo. Many artists who participated in the symposium, including Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, Toshio Matsumoto, Rikuro Miyai, and others, learned from Gooldberg how to use video as a documentary and communication medium. At the symposium, their works were presented alongside pieces from the U.S. and Canada. In 1974, Nakaya translated and published American video artist Michael Shamberg’s text Guerrilla Television, which proposed the use of subversive tactics to oppose technocratic control of major broadcast television, and expressed his hope that guerrilla television could demonstrate the potential of decentralized video technology. This program includes Friends of Minamata Victims (1972), a piece by Video Hiroba that documents a protest against the Chisso company who metal leakage caused the Minamata disease outbreak, as well as Nakaya's individual experiments in the moving image.

Both screenings are being offered in conjunction with the exhibition For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968–1979, on view at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, September 11–December 5, 2015, and Japan Society Gallery, New York, October 15, 2015–January 10, 2016.

They are organized by Collaborative Cataloguing Japan and co-sponsored by NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute; Departments of Art History and East Asian Studies; Moving Image Archiving & Preservation Program and Asian Film & Media Initiative, both Department of Cinema Studies; and Grey Art Gallery.