21 October, Takahiko Iimura: Movies & Performance

Takahiko Iimura: Movies & Performance

21 October 2014, 19:15

“To review all of Iimura’s work is an important occasion for all who are concerned with the development and pleasures of cinema as an art” (Jonas Mekas)

The most influential figure in Japanese experimental cinema, Takahiko Iimura is a pioneer of expanded cinema, video art and film installations in his native country. Living “in & out” of Japan since the 1960s, Iimura has shown an impressive breadth in his artistic practice that spans decades and various continents. His focus, nevertheless, has remained distinctly material, engaged with the physicality of the media with which he works to bring out the key components of darkness and light that he considers the essence of cinema.

Returning to Amsterdam for the first time since his screening at the Nederlands Filmmuseum on his six-month European tour in 1969, our unique program comprise of three distinct sections that highlight his career: the first, a focus on his early Dada-inspired work; the second, a presentation of structuralist film experiments; and the third, an expanded cinema performance. Takahiko Iimura will be present for a Q&A moderated by curator Julian Ross.


Ai (Love), 1963, 16mm (blown up from Regular 8mm), b&w, 10 min, sound.

“This is one of the most beautiful and introspective films ever made” (Peter Gidal). With music by Yoko Ono, Ai (Love) is a document of sex between a man and a woman captured in daring close-up that turns that contours of the bodies into abstract shapes. “A poetic and sensuous exploration of the body […] fluid, direct, beautiful” (Jonas Mekas).


Kuzu (Junk), 1962, 16mm (blown up from Regular 8mm), b&w, 12 min, sound.

Iimura records the industrial waste and animal carcasses scattered around the shores of a beach in Japan with aggressive camerawork. With a noisy soundtrack by Takehisa Kosugi (Fluxus/Taj Mahal Travelers), Iimura attempts with his camera to “revive those dead animals metaphorically and to give the junk new life” (Takahiko Iimura).


On Eye Rape (Shikan ni tsuite), 1962, 16mm, b&w, 10 min, silent.

Educational film discovered in a bin became raw material for On Eye Rape, where a hole-puncher was applied to individual frames in a bold statement against censorship. “The original images are ‘hidden’ by large areas of light appearing so violently that he calls this work On Eye Rape” (Christophe Charles). A pioneering work of junk art and found footage filmmaking from Japan, the film is a unique collaboration with artist Natsuyuki Nakanishi (Hi Red Centre).

4-One FrameDuration

One Frame Duration, 1977, 16mm, b&w (tinted), 13 min., optical sound.

With echoes of Peter Kubelka and Tony Conrad, One Frame Duration is the representative work in Iimura’s phase of structuralist film. Entirely composed of black and clear film leader, the film is minimalist in approach but overwhelming in effect. “Like an unexpected break or lightning, it is a very distinct moment which I found quite exciting” (Takahiko Iimura).


24 Frames Per Second, 1975, 16mm, b&w, 12 min, optical sound.

“Both in terms of its examination of time and space, of light and darkness, of visuals and sounds; and in terms of its demands and potential rewards for an audience, 24 Frames Per Second is a quintessential Iimura film” (Scott McDonald). Part of the series of structuralist film works that Iimura embarked on in the 1970s, 24 Frames Per Second is a bold gesture that illuminates the entirety of the cinema space in its oscillation between darkness to light.

6-white-calligraphy-iimura-london-oct2010-2 copy

White Calligraphy Re-Read, 1967/2014, Super 8, b&w, 20 min, sound.

Scratched onto each individual frame of a black film leader, the written text of Kojiki (the earliest historical chronicle of Japan) becomes illegible as it is projected in White Calligraphy. Almost fifty years after its making, Iimura reinterprets his film through a “film performance” where he paints onto the screen in attempt to trace the projection of light.

Takahiko Iimura performing White Calligraphy Re-Read (1967/2014) at the (S8) 5ª Mostra de Cinema Periférico 2014 in A Corunha (Galiza). Here Takahiko Iimura also introduces his performance [english].


Another version of White Calligraphy Re-Read (1967/2010) at the Window Gallery, Central St. Martin’s, curated by Duncan White.

According to the artist himself, Takahiko Iimura will be visiting the Netherlands for the first time since 1969 when he stopped by Amsterdam during his six-month tour of screenings across Europe. He showed a programme of his own work as well as a programme of films by the Film Independents, a collective he co-founded with other independent filmmakers and critics. [read their manifesto here]




Scans of the film programmes at the Nederlands Filmmuseum.

Takahiko Iimura’s works are distributed by Filmmakers’ Co-operative (New York), LUX (London) and Light Cone (Paris). We thank LUX and Takahiko Iimura for the film prints we rented for the evening.

Suggested reading:

  • Takahiko Iimura’s website.
  • Julian Ross’ essay on Takahiko Iimura’s ‘film performances’ for post, an online publication launched by Museum of Modern Art.
  • Curated section on Takahiko Iimura’s film performance of the 1960s, arranged by Julian Ross
  • An interview with Takahiko Iimura by Julian Ross (2010) on Vertigo Magazine.

You can also find a self-published book of essays and film stills by Takahiko Iimura in the Eye Film Institute Library.





Hope to see you at the screening on the 21st October 19:15!

Hand-out, Hand out Takahiko Iimura


Some pictures of the evening, made by Onno Petersen

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Onno Petersen - 3   Onno Petersen - 4



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