Nobuhiro Aihara: Works 1982-2008
Programs C & D
Collaborative Cataloging Japan is pleased to invite Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA) to present the works of representative Japanese animation artist, Nobuhiro Aihara (1944–2011). Amounting to 51 titles, the programs cover not only animation but also experimental films. Since 2016 PJMIA has been digitizing these films, which are now available for public presentation in four parts, arranged chronologically.
In 2016-2017, Hirofumi Sakamoto, director of Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive digitized the works of Nobuhiro Aihara. (The digitization of these materials was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 15K02184.)
All works will be presented on video, transferred from film.
Introduction by Hirofumi Sakamoto
Nobuhiro Aihara (b 1944 Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan) has been an active independent animator for over 50 years. After attending design school, Aihara began working as a commercial animator at Studio Zero and Oh!production. Shortly after, he created his first independent animation, Rain (1965). Energized by the activities around the Sogetsu Art Center, the late-1960’s became a highly active time for the production of Japanese experimental and independent film and animation. Aihara’s long career of creative work is recognized as being an important component of this larger movement.
Aihara’s works of the early 1970’s – Stop (1970), [Cherry Blossoms] (1970), Fukei No Shizetsu (1971), Sagaihara Hokyusho (U.S. Army Sagami General Depot) (1972, undiscovered) – reflect the Japanese political climate following the protests against the United States – Japan Security Treaty of 1970. These works stepped beyond the previous realm of animation and began to incorporate social documentary. Beginning with Rhabdophis Tigrinus (1972), Aihara’s work turned inward with re-imaginings of his formative experiences, carrying also through the documentary animations Honeybee Season Has Passed (1972), [Laquer] (1973.6), [Fairy Flower] (1973.4), and [Fox Colored Early Spring] (1973.2).
Following these experiments, Aihara’s work changed direction again in the drawing animation of [Reckless Daydream] (1974.4), which depicts the artist’s subconscious squirming about the frame as an abstract organism. Further exploration of this animated abstract drawing approach carried through in [Cloud Thread] (1976), Karma (1977), [Water Ring Karma 2] (1980), and Zap Cat (2008).
Beginning with Stone (1975), Aihara began to explore the physical space outside of the frame in combination with more expansive and kinetic movements. [Hikari (Light)] (1978), Under the Sun (1979), and [Picture (Shadow)] (1987) all continued this thought.
However useful it may seem at first to attempt to group many of Aihara’s works via these strings of aesthetic exploration, his complete filmography defies categorization. Among his works escaping simple classification are: [The Extinction of Landscape] (1971), a documentary animation of the Sanrizuka Struggle, the protest against the construction of the Narita International Airport; Shelter (1980) and My Shelter (1981), stop-motion animations from within a Pacific War air-raid shelter; [Apple and Girl] (1982), the projection of an animation onto the wall and roof of a barn; [Dragonfly] (1988), a multiple exposure of a female nude and meadow at dusk. Nobuhiro Aihara’s works have presented a new artistry of animation, which strongly reject the previous narrow concept of “animator”.
Aihara’s passing during a trip to Bali, Indonesia in 2011 was a sudden loss to his scores of students, collaborators and contemporaries. As impactful as the whole of his creative works, is his continued presence in the Japanese experimental animation and film community, through his influence on those with whom he very worked closely. Teaching at Kyoto University of Art and Design, founding the independent animation group Chikyu Club (Earth Club) and sponsoring numerous workshops, and his collaborations with designer Keiichi Tanaami are just a few examples of his work beyond the studio, which still continue to expand his artistic legacy.
Program C (70 minutes)
Animated Psychedelia I 1974-1981
25 [Apple and Girl], 16mm, 7min, 1982
Animations of abstract apples are projected onto a film of an old farmhouse.
26 BARVA, 16mm, 10min, 1983
Animated drawings filmed in the outdoors.
27 S＝13, 16mm, 5min, 1984
An animation of lines and apples.
28 [Twilight], 16mm, 4min, 1985
A uniquely psychedelic animation of sordid and chaotic imagery.
29 [Bubbles], 16mm, 2min, 1985
Created for the inauguration of the Aoyama Children’s Castle in November 1985, vivid reflections dance about on the sides of soap bubbles. The work is presented in silence due to the unfortunate loss of the sound negative.
30 PRIVATE, 16mm, 6min, 1986
A travelogue-esgue animation taking place in the landscape of Mykonos, Greece.
31 [Picture (Shadow)], 16mm, 8min, 1987
Another work following in the trajectory of Stone (1975), the filmed image of a hand and the animation of it’s shadow interact and flicker.
32 [Dragonfly], 16mm, 7min, 1988
An animated dragonfly overlapped with the intricate layering of multiple exposures of a field and female nude.
33 GAVORA, 16mm, 5min, 1989
A chilling surreal animation prominently featuring the eyeball.
34 [Water of Cloud], 16mm, 5min, 1990
A re-edit of Cloud of Water, this work is presented in silence due to the loss of the sound negative.
35 LINE, 16mm, 5min, 1989-1990
An abstract animation combining scenes of a forest stream and the Kamogawa River as it runs through the city of Kyoto.
36 MASK, 16mm, 6min, 1991
An abstract animation of shifting colors and shapes created of decalcomania.
PROGRAM D (69 MINUTES)
Animated Psychedelia II 1982-1991
37 [Crow], 16mm, 5min, 1992
A disturbing and mysterious work combining a color flicker over an animated drawing of a crow and stop-motion images of the city of Kyoto.
38 SPIN, 16mm, 4min, 1993
A tense, abstract animation of delicate lines.
39 Ki-Moving, 16mm, 4min, 1994
Similar to SPIN, intricate line-work becomes animated. Both monochrome and full color versions were created.
40 Ringing in the Ears, 16m, 5min, 1995
A bizarre animation based on the body parts, the ear in particular.
41 RAIN–MEMORY OF CLOUD. 1, 16mm, 4min, 1996
A mind-expanding animation of shapes evolved from an ink spill into chaos.
42 MEMORY OF CLOUD, 16mm, 7min, 1997
Scenes of the mountains combined with abstract animations. The deep blue color as presented has been time-processed according to the instructions on the original film canister.
43 YELLOW FISH, 16mm, 4min, 1998
A dream-like mingling of disorderly images of a sea of clouds viewed from a mountaintop, and the candles of a Tibetan temple.
44 THE THIRD EYE, 16mm, 5min, 1999
Beginning with a wriggle of colors, a psychedelic world expands around the motif of a finger through truly extraordinary precise drawings.
45 WIND, 16mm, 5min, 2000
Beginning with a pinhole camera photograph by Yasu Suzuka, an intricate abstract animation develops in the pitch-dark.
46 MEMORY OF RED, 16mm, 3min, 2004
An abstract animation of a dragonfly is layered over with textured images created with the frottage technique.
47 YELLOW NIGHT, Video, 3min, 2005
An anarchic animation of a finger and eyeball.
48 YELLOW SNAKE, Video, 10min, 2006
An animation of yellow fingers.
49 BLACK FISH, 16mm, 4min, 2006
A psychedelic animation of harsh images buried below a violent flicker of color. The work is presented in silence due to the loss of the sound negative.
50 LOTUS, 16mm, 3min, 2007
Vivid, chromatic animation.
51 ZAP CAT, 16mm, 3min, 2008
The pinnacle of Aihara’s psychedelic animations, and his final solo work.