|The Image of Time
Taka Iimura interviewed by Alberte Pagán
Together with Austrian Peter Kubelka and Lithuanian-born Jonas Mekas, Japanese artist Taka Iimura forms a triumvirate of great non American experimental filmmakers who have had an acknowledged influence on the US underground film practice since the 1960s. People like Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland were foreigners, too, but they were American and English was their mother tongue. After so many decades living and speaking in New York, Mekas has an accent and writes his poetry in Lithuanian; the language of Kubelka’s films is German (and a very dialectal Austrian German moreover); and Iimura, although he consistently uses English in his films, almost always obliterating Japanese, speaks, in films and performances, a very accented and even broken English. Theirs is an accented cinema which managed to reach the core of US experimental cinema.
Iimura started as a lyrical and surrealistic filmmaker but then in the 1970s he erased any trace of image from his cinema in order to concentrate on questions of time and duration. These are demanding films which, nevertheless, have an intense intellectual and conceptual beauty. In parallel, he also investigated the semiology of video and has been very active as a performer, using both video and film in his performances.
The filmmaker now transcribes his surname into the Roman alphabet as “iimura”, to avoid the common misreading “Limura”.
I interviewed Taka Iimura on 6 June 2014 at the CGAI in Corunha (Galiza). I have also made good use of some of Iimura’s statements during the presentations of his films and performances at the (S8) Mostra de Cinema Periférico, where he had a retrospective. A brief fragment of this interview, kindly corrected by the interviewee, was published, in Spanish, in Caimán Cuadernos de Cine in July/August 2014.
This text was further revised and corrected by Iimura in November 2014 by e-mail. After rereading it, I sent him a few further questions which he was kind enough to answer in January 2015 and again in July 2015.
Filmography of Taka Iimura
This filmography is mainly taken from The Collected Writings of Takahiko iimura (Wildside Press, 2007). It is not a comprehensive filmography, as Iimura has been very active revising his films, turning them into videos, transforming them into performances, transferring them onto tape or making new DVD versions. Most of the films originally filmed on regular 8mm have been blown up to 16mm, which are the versions currently screened. The filmmaker has also added a new soundtrack to the DVD transfer of some of his early films, previously silent. In some cases he re-edited them, too, shortening the original length. Performances and installations have not been included.
Kuzu (Junk, 1962, 8’, 8mm, b/w, sound)
On Eye Rape (1962, 9’, 16mm, colour, silent)
Iro (Colour, 1962, 12’, 8mm, colour, sound)
Dada 62 (1962, 10’, 8mm, b/w, silent)
De Sade (1962, 10’, 8mm, b/, sound)
Ai (Love, 1962, 10’, 8mm, b/w, sound)
Onan (1963, 7’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Sakasama (Upside Down, 1963, 14’, 8mm, b/w, sound)
Anma (The Masseurs, 1963, 20’, 8mm, silent)
Ura to omote (Inside & Outside, 1964, 2’, 16mm, b/w, silent)
My Documentary (1964, 3’30”, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Barairo no dansu (Rose Colour Dance, 1964, 13’, 8mm, b/w, silent)
A Dance Party in the Kingdom of Lilliput (1964, 12’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
I Saw the Shadow (1966, 13’, 8mm, b/w, silent)
Honey Moon (1966, 7’, 8mm, colour & b/w, silent)
Taka and Ako (1966, 13’, 8mm, b/w, silent)
New York Scene (1966, 35’, 8mm, colour, silent)
White Calligraphy (1967, 11’, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Summer Happenings U.S.A. (1967-68, 28’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Camera Massage (1968, 6’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Flowers (1968-69, 11’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Flowers Orgy (1968, 12’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Virgin (1968, 12’, 16mm, colour, silent)
Face (1968-69, 17’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Filmmakers (1969, 28’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Kiri (The Fog,1970, 5’, 8mm, b/w, silent)
I Love You (1970, 8’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Film Strips I & II (1966-1970, 12’ & 13’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Buddha Again (1969-70, 12’, 16mm, colour, sound)
In The River (1969-70, 17’, 16mm, colour, sound)
A Chair (1970, 5’, video, b/w, sound)
Blinking (1970, 5’, video, b/w, sound)
Time (1971, 5’, video, b/w, sound)
Moon Timed (1971, 15’, video, b/w, sound)
Time Tunnel (1971, 35’, video, b/w, sound)
The Pacific Ocean (1971, 11’, 8mm, colour, silent)
Shutter (1971, 25’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Yoko Ono: This Is Not Here (1972, 18’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Models, Reel 1 (1972, 43’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Contains 4 short pieces:
2 min 46 sec 16 frames (100 feet) (1972, 8’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Timing 1, 2, 3, 4 (1972, 9′, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Time Length 1, 2, 3, 4 (1972, 12′, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Timed 1, 2, 3 (1972, 10’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Models, Reel 2 (1972, 44’, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Contains 4 short pieces:
Counting: 1 to 100 or Xs (1972, 12’, 16mm, b/w, silent)
A Line (Parts 1, 2, 3) (1972, 10′, 16mm, b/w, silent)
To See the Frame, Not to See the Frame (1972, 12′, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Seeing, Not Seeing (1972, 4′, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Register Yourself (Berlin Tape) (1973, 30’, video, b/w, sound)
Register Yourself (New York Tape) (1973, 30’, video, b/w, sound
+ & – (1973, 26’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
1 To 60 Seconds (1973, 30’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Parallel (1974, 28’, 16mm, b/w, silent)
Field Works (1974, 30’, video, b/w, sound)
Video Field (1975, 12’, video, b/w, sound)
24 Frames Per Second (1975, 24’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Observer / Observed (1975, 20’, video, b/w, sound)
Observer / Observed / Observer (1976, 19’, video, b/w, sound)
Camera, Monitor, Frame (1976, 20’, video, b/w, sound)
Visual Logic (and Illogic) (1977, 20’, video, b/w, sound)
Talking to Myself: Phenomenological Operation (1978, 17’, video, colour, sound)
Sync sound (1977, 9’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Ma (Intervals) (1977, 22’, 16mm, b/w ann colour, sound)
One Frame Duration (1977, 12’, 16mm, b/w and colour, sound)
I=You=He / She (1979, 30’, video, b/w, sound)
Double Identities (1979, 8’, video, colour, sound)
Interviewer / Interviewed (1980, 30’, video, colour, sound)
Repeated / Reversed Time (1980, 12’, 16mm, b/w, sound)
Talking In New York (1980, 18’, 8mm, colour, sound)
Talking Pictures (The Structure Of Film Viewing) (1981, 15’, 8mm, colour, sound)
Self Introduction (1982, 10’, vido, colour, sound)
Video Talking: Back to Back (1982, 30’, video, colour, sound)
Video Gesture (1982, 9’, video, colour, sound)
Video Hundred Features (1982, 10’, colour, sound)
Video Self: I=You=He / She (1982, 30’, video, colour, sound)
A I U E O NN (1982, 10’, video, colour, sound)
A Conversation with Video (1983, 16’, video, colour, sound)
Robina Rose and Me (1983, 12’, video, colour, sound)
Hit Your Own Back (1983, 8’, video, colour, sound)
Happy Halloween (1983, 11’, video, colour, sound)
New York Hotspring (1984, 10’, video, colour, sound)
Ayers Rock (1984, 40’, video, colour, sound)
Colette (1984, 11’, video, colour, sound)
Moments at the Rock (1984, 12’, video, colour, sound)
Talking to Myself at PS1 (1985, 11’, video, colour, sound)
John Cage Performs James Joyce (1985, 15’, video, colour, sound)
Arakawa: Atmospheric Resemblance (A Life of Blank) (1986, 11’, video, colour, sound)
Double Portrait (1973-1987, 6’, video, b/w and colour, sound)
I Love You (1973-1987, 5’, video, b/w and colour, sound)
Monet Garden Synthesized (1988, 15’, video, colour, sound)
New York Day and Night (1989, 55’, video, colour, sound)
Ma: Space / Time In The Garden Of Ryoan-Ji (1989, 16’, 16mm, colour, sound)
Scared to Death (1989, 7’, video, colour, sound)
Excerpts from “Ayers Rock” (1990, 20’, video, colour, sound)
To the Garden of Water Lilies (1990, 31’, video, colour, sound)
Fluxus Replayed (1991, 30’, video, b/w, sound)
Sky and Ground (1991-93, 59’, video, colour, sound)
A I U E O NN: Six Features (1993, 7’, video, colour, sound)
This is a Camera Which Shoots This (1982-85, 5’, video, b/w, sound)
As I See You You See Me (1990-97, 7’, video, b/w, sound)
Seeing / Hearing / Speaking (2001, 7’, video, b/w, sound)
I Am (Not) Seen (2003, 5’, video, colour, sound)
Ma: The Stones Have Moved (2003, 8’, video, b/w, silent)
Shadowman (The Structure of Seeing / Hearing) (1984-2008, 8’, video, colour, sound)
A Rock in the Light (2008, 18’, video, colour, sound)
Making an Audience (2006-2013, 12’, video, colour, sound)
Pagán, Iimura and Ángel Rueda presenting As I See You See Me at the
(S8) Mostra (Photo by María Meseguer).
How important was the influence of Tokyo based Donald Richie and the Tokyo Fluxus group in your formation as an experimental filmmaker?
I forgot exactly when I first met Donald Richie, but we founded the Film Independents in Tokyo in 1964, and I started myself making films in 1962 with a regular 8mm film, because at the time super 8mm was not available in the market. Since high school I was interested in modern poetry, and I wrote some poems; then I moved into painting. At that time abstract expressionism was mostly in fashion in modern art. I was looking for something else, something in-between poetry and painting. And I found it in film, somehow, where both of them, poem and painting, came together. As I am not interested in story telling, I got naturally into experimental cinema, which is more oriented toward the visual than toward the story. At the time it was called “film poem”.
As for Fluxus, I liked their art, or non-art, and we had a small group of Fluxus in Tokyo including the High Red Centre, a group name taken from the first characters of the names of three artists: Takamatsu, Akasegawa, and Nakanishi, with whom I became friends and made films with their participation. Also when Yoko Ono came back to Tokyo, she did an eye to eye contact performance piece; she was sitting at the front edge of the stage watching the audience one by one, making eye contact individually. But nobody understood what was going on and sneaked out of the theatre. I was one of the few who remained in the theatre at the end. Later when I asked her, she made the music for my film Ai, which she had liked, recording wind noise out of her window.
What were the first experimental films you saw before becoming a filmmaker yourself?
Ah, I can’t remember exactly. But there was no cinematheque in Japan. So, we couldn’t hardly see any experimental cinema. According to written history, there were a few films which were made in Japan before World War II, in the 1930s, but they were not available. I found out about the [European] experimental cinema of the 1930s, that kind of dada-surrealist film poems, only by name, through the written histories. So I only could imagine what they were like.
You could only see all those films once living in the USA.
Yes, later. I went to the USA in 1966. Occasionally someone would come to show some avant-garde film privately in Tokyo. And also in 1965 there was a big exhibition of avant-garde cinema from the French Cinematheque.
Self shot in Kuzu.
KUZU (Junk, 1962)
How did you make your first film, Kuzu? Did you get some funding?
No, there were no funds in Japan. I got a regular 8mm camera and bought some film because I wanted to shoot my own film. At that time they mostly considered that film had to be produced by an organization or a company. No individual could make films, there was not such idea in Japan. If you did, you were considered an amateur. But I wanted to make it myself, which was rather a kind of adventure, even with a regular 8mm camera. Regular 8mm film, which no longer exists, is 16mm split in two, a very tiny frame, very hard to look at. I was not rich at that time, so I couldn’t afford to have a viewer to look at what the picture looked like, so I used my chopsticks, I put the film between two chopsticks and I saw the film against a light bulb. I wasn’t able to make any precise cutting or editing, so more or less I used my instinct in the cutting. That was my first step.
As we see that Kuzu is an ecological denunciation of industrial waste, did you share the surrealists’ political leanings?
Well, there was no ecological idea in the 1960s, that was much later. Everything was made in the name of production. No regard for ecology not only in Japan but everywhere, I guess. I had many artist friends, among them specially the avant-garde group High Red Centre I mentioned earlier, who were making art objects out of junk, as well as neo-dada happenings and events. They used a lot of garbage and abandoned objects, such kind of material. I was very excited about that, and I wanted to do something real, so instead of making art with objects, I wanted to go into the real object, which I found on the beach in Tokyo bay, a very dirty beach at that time. There was no ecological consciousness, so everything was thrown onto the beach. And being myself interested in film, I shot all the industrial and home garbage along the beach, in a way reviving the waste, giving it a new life. There were also some kids playing with and among the junk. So I played with my camera just like a kid. In fact I was one of the first to shoot with a free hand held camera, which was not yet used in regular cinema.
Were the kids living there, or just playing on the beach?
They were living there. In fact they were the sons and daughters of the families from the village who collected the garbage, professionally. They lived on garbage. I didn’t just want to shoot objectively, but to get involved in the scene. That’s why you can see my feet walking and running on the beach. I didn’t want to just show the junk on the beach, but also show myself acting as junk. And my idea was not just to shoot statically, but to jump and run: the zigzagging and floating shots are like Jackson Pollock acting on the canvas. But I did it in the real world. I was acting very much against the norm. It was a very movable camera, which was very rare at that time, although much later it became common. In a standard production you had to shoot with a tripod, a static shot. But I wanted to move the camera around as an extension of my hand.
Was your film publicly screened at the time?
At the time I showed it in a very progressive gallery called Naiqua, run by a friend of mine, Kunio Miyata. He was a doctor’s son and had a space in the centre of Tokyo. My screening was the first of this Cinematheque screenings, with a capacity for about 20 people. We showed the film on the gallery wall with a regular projector. And that was also my first step into what would later be called “performance”. In the gallery we used the projector as a kind of instrument, rather than just a machine to project film. The first thing I tried to do was to manipulate all the devices the projector has: I changed the speed, froze the frame, changed the focus. And we not only projected on the screen, but also on the ceiling, the wall, the floor, on somebody else’s clothes. We would even carry around the projector, which was not heavy. There was nothing like that, so we didn’t know how to call it. So I called it “Film Concert”, where we would have this visual music, using the projector as an instrument.
What was the reaction of the public?
It was rather very quiet, which is normal in Japan. Then later the gallery was famous, they did some avant-garde and arthouse exhibits. The owner is one of the famous art critics, he brought Jasper Johns to the gallery, and he showed my films too.
I see in Kuzu the same hidden surrealism of reality that can be seen in Buñuel’s Las Hurdes (1932). His film is clearly very political in its denunciation of social inequality, as in a way is your Film Strip II (1970), about black riots in the USA, and your Summer Happenings USA (1968) against the Vietnam War. Do you consider yourself a political filmmaker in these cases?
Yeah, you could call those films political, right, though I am not a political filmmaker myself. I’m just a filmmaker. There was a very political scene there at the time, in Japan as well as in the US. I went to the US, to New York, in 1966, and that was a time of lots of black riots and the hippie movement and happenings, and also against the Vietnam War. So there were a lot of scenes I saw on TV and I filmed some of them from the TV screen, like the black riots in Detroit, and that’s Film Strips II.
As in Ai, in Kuzu you use a framing device, in this case newspaper cuts. I understand they are listings of companies which pollute Tokyo Bay.
Yeah, that’s right. I shot a newspaper page with the Stock market reports, with the prices. Those are the producers of the junk.
Did you do the editing in camera?
Most of it was edited in camera, but I also edited by hand. But as I said before, I didn’t have a viewer, so I used my hand and some chopsticks.
But I can see some superimpositions.
That’s right. They were done in camera, just by flipping my regular 8 camera. You can rewind and make a double exposure, although not exactly on the shot you want, but close enough.
Did you shoot much more material that didn’t get into the final cut?
I couldn’t afford many outtakes, so I used most of the material. But also there were some cut-outs too.
ON EYE RAPE (1962)
Natsuyuki Nakanishi, who would act for you in Onan (1963), is credited as co-author of On Eye Rape. What was his role in the film?
He found in fact the original film in the garbage, in Tokyo, and he showed it to me and I was quite interested. It was a kind of American sex educational film, dealing mostly with plants and animals. And we punched many of the frames, and also scratched the film, and that kind of Dadaist gestures.
So, you worked together on the idea and the film?
Right. He was one of the High Red Centre. He was sort of famous in the Japanese new Dadaist scene. Recently they have been showing his work dealing with junk material in the MoMA in New York.
Did you re-edit the found footage film, or you found it just as we can see it now?
More or less it was like that. There’s maybe some cut-out, I don’t remember exactly.
And that’s your only found footage film.
That’s right. But I also inserted some forbidden footage in Japan, that shows the pubic hair, that you are not supposed to show publicly, it’s forbidden. They put a black dot in the newspaper or magazines to cover the pubic hair. Instead of inserting a black mark or dot on the spot of the pubic hair, we punched it, what was censored we censored again, as a gesture against censorship.
Extreme close up in Ai.
Ai is one of your most famous films, and the one who took you to the USA. And you commissioned Yoko Ono to do the soundtrack…
No, I talked directly to her, and she in fact had seen my film, and she was very interested in it and she recommended it to show in New York. So I asked her if she could do the sound, and she gladly helped me and we worked together.
Once in New York I wanted to have a screening at the cinematheque that Jonas Mekas was running, he was the only man there, selling and taking the tickets. He said “Just bring your film and we will show it”, so next day I brought some 8mm film and he projected it. That was my first screening in New York, my first exposure in America. It was surprising.
So before the meeting with Yoko Ono the film was silent.
And you had already screened the film publicly.
Yes, but only in the gallery I mentioned, because the owner was a friend; a small gallery where only 20 people could seat.
I used to think that the light that frames the film was an ordinary light bulb.
Yes, it’s a light bulb, although not a regular bulb. It’s a bright bulb for using in a studio.
Did you attach a magnifying glass to the lens when filming the bodies?
Yes, I placed it in front of the camera, because that regular 8 camera didn’t have that microscopic lens. I used close ups of the two bodies, so that it becomes difficult to distinguish between boy and girl as they intermingle. The intention was not to differentiate by sex but show the body itself.
URA TO OMOTE (Inside & Outside, 1964) and MY DOCUMENTARY (1964)
Ura to omote and My Documentary were made for the exhibition “Film Independents. A Commercial for Myself”, which took place in 1964. In its accompanying manifesto half a dozen filmmakers champion a “cinema of genuine freedom”. Ura to omote credits Yasunao Tone [whose film 2,880K=120’’ was part of the exhibition] with “music”, but on the DVD release of the “Film Independents” (2013) the film is silent. Was the music played live at the time? Was the soundtrack lost?
No, there has been no music ever made for the film, though we had thought about having music for the soundtrack. I forgot the reason why we never made it.
Ura to omote is a collection of western faces taken from a magazine. In the second part we see extreme close-ups of skin. Are they taken from the same faces or from the same magazines?
No, the skins were shot from my own photos. There is no direct connection with the faces of the Hollywood stars you see in the film.
My Documentary is a lettrist film, made up of words and sentences almost all the way through. It ends with a handful of newspaper photographs. What is the general meaning of the Japanese characters we see on screen?
All the characters are taken from a Japanese newspaper’s headlines of the day, jumping and mixing politics, social issues, crime and other news line by line.
Were these two films never screened again after the first screening? Is that the reason why they are not listed in your filmographies?
I lost the negative and don’t have the print, other than the “Film Independents” DVDs.
A DANCE PARTY IN THE KINGDOM OF LILLIPUT (1964)
A Dance Party In The Kingdom Of Lilliput suffered several reeditings. The current copy is the third montage. Am I right?
No, there’s no number three. I distribute number one and number two, but number two means for double projection, and in fact one is silent and the other has sound. My original idea was to arrange the sequences in a different order for every screening, but it was not a very practical idea, so eventually I decided to show it in double projection with different editing orders. And for that I use the third version of the prints, made in a laboratory in New York, which is mostly overexposed. I scratch the film itself and occasionally that’s the one that is shown. I did it recently in New York, at a Filmmakers’ Cooperative Screening.
But the foetus-like pose of actor Shou Kazakura at the end of the film was not in the first version.
No. He was in fact the only actor throughout the film. Number one is a short version, and number two is longer, and also the editing of number two is different, although I use the same material. Mister K, which is the name of the hero, has different kinds of vivences, with intertitles marking the different chapters.
Did you have any notes about what to film, or you just improvised?
It was mostly improvised, although I had certain ideas in advance. Kazakura himself, Mister K, is a kind of happener, he also does such kinds of happenings. But mostly it was my own idea to do these actions or scenes.
Is it really your only film with actors?
I wouldn’t call him an actor but a performer.
Iimura during his performance White Calligraphy Re-Read at the
(S8) Mostra (Photo by María Meseguer).
WHITE CALLIGRAPHY (1967)
White Calligraphy, a black screen with white kanji scratched in each frame, announces your future conceptual cinema.
The first version is written frame by frame, copying from the first few pages of the Kojiki [“Report on Old Tales”, mythological text from the 8th C]. All the frames have different characters. But then the film was also transferred into video, and some of the scenes were slowed down, so I could easily read them. I made also a super 8mm version, for a performance that I’ll try and do here [at the (S8) Mostra de Cinema Periférico] too. Slowing down the film speed I read some characters loudly and play with the text, while at the same time I paint the kanji on a paper screen. So it’s kind of three dimensional action involved.
So there are many versions of the film.
Why do you keep going back to your films and videos and making new versions, version one, two, three?
[He laughs.] Well, every time I use a different version it’s a different experiment. By using the same material you can have different kinds of things in both time and space. Since there is not a story with a limited time and space, many more permutations are possible.
Did you make the film in the USA?
That’s right. In fact I started myself writing the kanji in the frames, but it was so boring, writing all the characters, that then it was mostly done by my wife, Akiko.
At the time you were already in contact with the US underground, avant-garde, experimental filmmakers.
That’s right, yeah.
In what way did they influence you, once, after reading about them, you go to the USA and you actually see the films? Did they change your way of making films?
Somehow, yes. But I also reacted to them too. At that time, in the middle of the 60s, it was a high point of underground cinema, drug culture and psychedelic films, in the States, particularly in California. So I rather reacted to that. The visual image, when I started making films, became a sort of object of worship, even fetishist. It almost became another commodity. That was very strong in the American underground film, especially in the psychedelic films, this kind of worshiping all the visuals. As a reaction I didn’t want to photograph any more, so I eliminated all the decorative images. In that way I could start again, just by taking black film and clear film. Using the most fundamental materials in film, I can create a certain idea. So after that I made a kind of minimal cinema; minimal means using mostly black and clear leaders to express and mark a very basic yet most neglected film concept: that is, time in film. A series of film, such as Models Reel 1, 1 To 60 Seconds, 24 Frames Per Second, and Ma (Intervals) were made.
Iimura in front of the end result of his performance White Calligraphy at the
(S8) Mostra (Photo by María Meseguer).
Screening of the 8mm White Calligraphy during the performance at the
(S8) Mostra (projector by courtesy of Cris Lores).
But then you made a couple of films where you pay your respects to the US experimental filmmakers and actors, Filmmakers and Face.
Yeah, that’s right, yeah. That was kind of influenced by Andy Warhol too, also by using one of his actors, Mario Montez.
Mario Montez is heavily made up in Face. Was he in the middle of a shooting, in a film set?
Not exactly, not that I know. He would casually do that, the make up.
In that film you make a portrait of Jack Smith’s and Warhol’s actor Mario Montez and Brothers Kuchar’s actor Donna Kerness. Who is Linda, the third one?
This is a friend of mine, that never played in cinema, but I asked her to play for this film.
Were the 3 faces filmed in the same room? Were they together?
No, they were shot individually. They only meet in the film.
The title is in singular, but we have three different faces, only they are shot in extreme close up, in a way that it is difficult to distinguish between them. In a way, they form a single (cubist) face: three faces integrated into a single one, as in Ai the two bodies mixed into one. Was that your intention?
That’s right, somehow. Not three women, well, women, yeah, one is a transvestite.
There is a continuous laugh on the soundtrack. Who is laughing? Was it one of them?
No, it was my wife laughing. It was a loop of the same laugh.
And then in Filmmakers you make a portrait of Stan Brakhage, Stan Vanderbeek…
Yes, I went to visit all these filmmakers whom I liked somehow, and made two rolls of document, without any editing, five minutes each, except my own self-portrait. It was a very spontaneous reaction to the filmmakers.
Had you met them before? Or you just knocked on the door?
Well, I wrote a letter or called them, and they all accepted.
The absence of Warhol in the flesh is remarkable. You use his self-portraits and the filming of a screening of Chelsea Girls. Was he very difficult to approach, or you were not just interested in meeting him?
I was interested but as he said “All I am and I do is on the picture, I have nothing to hide behind the picture, all you see on the picture is myself.” So I followed what he said. Not to try to dig in, but accept the surface of his pictures. That’s why I didn’t ask him. But if I asked he might say OK.
Did you get to know him in the end?
Yeah, but not so personally. I met him in one of the parties.
While shooting Chelsea Girls you use some superimpositions. Is this section also edited in camera?
Instead of shooting himself I filmed his painting of himself, his self-portrait. I think I shot separately the painting and the film, and then I edited them together.
In the Stan Brakhage section you film a screen where you watch your own Ai and another, I presume Brakhage’s, film. Do you remember which film it was?
No, not the title. He showed me some of his films, but I don’t remember the titles.
In the Stan Vanderbeek section there is a long black section. As you were editing in camera, were you conscious of this while shooting?
Oh, yeah, I was shooting inside what he called the Moviedrome, and it was so dark that you can’t see no picture, but if you look at it very carefully, slightly you start seeing in the darkness, in the screen.
FILM STRIPS (1970)
Film Strips, In The River and Shutter are transitional films, in the sense that they still keep the photographed imagery, but at the same time announce your more conceptual or temporal films to come. How do you remember this transition from the film poems to the structural films?
Well, somehow I got into this kind of film, but I call them, instead of structural films, perceptional films, rather than visual films, which is somehow different. There are a lot of repetitions. I repeat what you saw before, then it comes back later and in a different way, within a limited visual material. In this way you see the structure, and that’s the way to examine or to see the film. I was interested in that direction, although it was before P. Adams Sitney’s definition of structural film. Before him, I had written a report on what was going on in American avant-garde cinema for a Japanese magazine, and I mentioned very similar filmmakers to the ones P. Adams Sitney mentioned as a new trend, you know. Especially I wrote of, he died already, George Landow and his Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particle, Etc . It’s a film I like very much. But I tried something different, in a way re-examining what is shot. Mostly I used a moviscope editor, using my hands; at that time I already had a moviscope…
No more chopsticks.
[Laughs.] No more chopsticks. So using my two hands, back and forth, just like any editor, you know, does this kind of job, and examining which footage or scene to pick up. So this is a kind of examining what you shot through the editor’s eye, as I shoot the moviscope screen with a camera. So there are double and triple exposures included. In this way what we call the postproduction process becomes the production process.
In Film Strip II you just chose an 80-frame scene of footage filmed directly off a TV screen breaking news about racial riots in Detroit. The complex structure of this minimal scenes reminds me of Kubelka’s metrical cinema. And even the images of Film Strip I have echoes of Adebar. Did you know his films?
Let me check my filmography. Yeah, at the time I had already seen his films. In that case I have used this material from the Detroit riots scene, which I filmed out of the TV news report, a frame by frame shooting. So the scene is jumping. Then I projected a loop of the same scene, and then I photographed the screen. The images are repeated, and in this way I could re-examine the scene of this Detroit news report. While it’s being projected it shows a bulb coming and going in the centre, so it has this flicker effect. That’s the way I made it. So it’s rather more mechanical than what Kubelka did, more crafted.
The music of these two films is credited to Suzuki 2009. Were the films originally silent?
That’s right. I made the sound only when I made the transfer to DVD.
IN THE RIVER (1969)
As in Film Strips, in In The River we have a minimal scene with a complex structure. A man bathing in a river. How did you get this dark aura around the image? By refilming? By opening and closing the shutter?
Yeah, by refilming off the screen of the moviscope, which has not a very strong light. I was controlling the speed manually.
There are at least three layers of superimpositions. Am I right?
Was it edited in camera? No laboratories involved for the superimpositions?
Yes. No laboratories.
These transition films had also a counterpart in the videos you were making, A Chair, Blinking or Time Tunnel, in which the image is reduced to a minimum as in In The River. Why did you start working with video and what were the differences between working with video and film at the time?
At that time, or even before that time, I got to know Nam June Paik, who was a good friend of mine, and his wife and my wife are mutual friends, so we used to get together. You know, video got in the market, and very few used it for art making. Only after this mobile camera made it into the market, it was easier to operate, and cheaper too. The format was half-inch tape. So I tried to use a video camera, I was in Tokyo after a few years in New York, and bought a video camera, and I worked at first with film material, and I tried to see what the difference was between film and video by using film flicker effects; it comes out something different, even though the original was filmed. And what I found is that video is more like a flow, and timewise is not so accurate, not so punctuating as film. Using this flicker effects in video was something new that nobody had ever tried; I used this film technique in video, flashing, and got a kind of strange effect. On video, when you have these flashing images, it’s quite different from film. Moreover, in video it’s easy to have a feedback, which never happened in film simultaneously as in video. So in video you create this image, which becomes another image of itself: it’s an image created between the camera and the monitor, back and forth. This is an interesting aspect which doesn’t exist in film. I found that this effect was not just a technique but a language of video on which video language could be built on. I made the series Observer / Observed, a trilogy in which video feed back was used in parallel to verbal language.
Were video cameras affordable at the time?
They were not too expensive. Before they had been expensive, but then they made them for personal use, they had cheaper versions available for us. Half inch cameras were made cheaper. Before that, they only had one inch cameras, only for professionals.
In Time Tunnel the voice, counting, makes mistakes. Why did you decide to keep them?
Yes, I kept them. I use film academy leader with counting, as well, ten to one, no, to two, as in the case of film which is used for the synchronization of picture and sound.
In 1998 you made remakes of Camera Monitor Frame, Observer / Observed / Observer and Observer / Observed. Does that mean that you reject now the original ones? Why that necessity of revising and remaking?
I revised the film, because the first version is too long, with blank spacing which was reduced into a much shorter length. When the blank spacing is too long, the viewer loses his attention. The order of the editing remains same.
Shutter is an amazing film: no image, just light and darkness (like Arnulf Rainer, like The Flicker), but at the same time it is very visual, very plastic, because of that pulsating dark aura. It is like a mixture of plasticity and mathematics. How did you get this pulsating effect?
I filmed the light on the screen. I wanted to experiment with shutter speeds. I projected onto a screen, without any film, only light itself, and then I used two speeds, silent speed and normal speed, for the projector, and then the camera also shot at different speeds, switching from 8 to 16 to 24 to 36 frames per second. I had made a chart calculating all the possible combinations between camera speed and projector speed. But it could not be exact: when you set the machine to silent speed, it won’t always be exactly 16 frames per second. In contrast with Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer, which was based on a rhythmic sense, my Shutter was based on duration, in a way based on the Japanese ma sense.
Shutter also uses another feature common to other films of yours: the repetition of the same images inverted (negativized). In this case the sound helps us understand the structure. Do you use sound as a way of pointing out visual changes that otherwise would go unnoticed?
Yeah, that is a good point. The second half is exactly the same images of the first half inverted (negativized), yet the sound remains the same. While in the first half the black frames have sounds and the white frames have no sounds, in the second half the opposite is true.
As for the colours of Shutter, did you paint the film strip directly?
In 1 to 60 Seconds the bip also allows us to follow the film even if we are not watching the screen.
This film consists of numbers from 1 to 60 which are scratched in white on black leader counting the individual duration, so that number 1 comes after 24 frames, number 2 two seconds after 1, that’s to say 3 seconds from the start. It goes on like that. So that it takes 30 minutes 30 seconds to reach 60 “seconds”. In parallel to the numbers 1 to 60, it also shows the minutes and seconds of the passing time from the start. The rest are all in black.
The sound is synchronized with the numbers: I scratched a dot on the soundtrack, and every sound is one second longer than the previous one. The film aims to make us experience the duration individually whereas the clock time serves only conceptual time. What is unique about this film is that you can experience the concept and the realization simultaneously in time and space in the dark. Black film does not produce total darkness but just dark enough to feel the space where you are and by listening to the sound you can count the intervals if you wish.
It reminds me of Warhol: you can do other things while watching the films. Like Arnulf Rainer, some of your films can be experienced with one’s eyes closed.
That’s right. And also in my case you expect, when you count in 1 to 60 seconds, it takes half an hour, but you can count, you can expect after 22 you get 23. In Arnulf Rainer, you don’t know what comes next, but in my film your knowledge works with the visuals and you enjoy the difference, or différance as Derrida says, between them.
24 Frames per Second.
24 FRAMES PER SECOND (1975)
But sometimes it is not easy to follow the structure of sound, as in 24 Frames per Second. Does the sound follow the same visual pattern?
The easiest way to see how the structure was made is by looking at the graphic I made on paper. The experience of watching the film is not the easiest way of getting the structure. And the sound is exactly the same, it’s synchronised with the picture. “1/24” means one white frame among 23 black frames, and the reverse, one black frame among white. And this white (or black) frame among black (or white), repeating and progressing until these 24 frames, is repeated 24 times. “2/24” means you repeat… And the sound is synchronised with this one frame or two frames. In “1/24” you hear the bip sound, bip, during this tiny duration, only one frame, and then it gets longer, two frames, three frames, and when it reaches “12/24” it last for half a second, you see. But after twelve, there comes “13/24”, and you will get the shorter time; instead of “13/24” [13 white frames] you get 11/24 [the remaining 11 black frames], because it is easier to count the shorter lengths. When I say “23/24”, it means a 23-frame length, but what the ear can hear is 1/24 for sound. At the end, “24/24”, one second, the positive becomes the negative and vice-versa. After finishing the piece, I found exactly the same structure in the yin and yang symbol, a circle where the black half contains a small white circle and the white half contains a small black circle, all within a big circle: a double structure. What I did was to transfer yin and yang into motion, switching yin to yang and vice-versa. I call this “Chinese Dialectics.”
Why did you decide to shorten 24 Frames per Second in 1978 [from 24 to 12 minutes]?
That was half length. At the beginning it was 24 minutes long. The first version is repeated, positive version, negative version, one after the other. The first 12 minutes were only the positive version. The negative version was the reverse of that. I restructured the film so that “1/24” is immediately followed by “1/24” in the negative version, and it gets shorter altogether than repeating the whole film, so it’s about half of the length. Because in this way, I feel, everything happens within one second.
Did you not decide to shorten it because you might feel that the audiences were not ready to watch the film for so long?
I wasn’t thinking about my audience, but thinking of positive followed immediately by negative. It’s more interesting this way, sound- and picture-wise.
How did you decide the length of your abstract films, like Shutter?
Well, I made a kind of diagram, and according to the diagram I followed a certain progression and equations. When I tried all I wanted in this progression or variations, naturally and mathematically the film ends. I decide the structure and the rest comes with that.
Why did you decide to obliterate the photographed imagery altogether in films like 24 Frames per Second?
I had made a lot of photographed films in my early years in the 1960s, then moved at the same time towards Structural film with selected images, through the process of the post production, from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. I also got involved in video in the period. Then came the non-photographed conceptual films. One reason was that I was tired of the worship of the image I mentioned earlier, and wanted to make more intellectual films. That is, concept oriented films that used the very basic materials of film. A kind of minimal cinema.
These films consist of black and white only, like Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer. But although they look visually alike, the counting in 24 Frames per Second lets your intelligence and your eyes work in parallel, more perceptually than visually. My idea was based on a positive and negative concept of language as well as of film, yet it is also common to the Chinese yin and yang graphic concept, where you have a white dot inside black and a black dot inside white. So you have this double structure, which is similar to my film, where you have a white frame(s) among black footage and a black frame(s) among white footage. The structure switches from positive to negative and negative to positive. It’s different from western dialectics, where you have positive and negative, and then you have a synthesis. But here this positive and negative work along, in parallel, and positive becomes negative and negative positive. They are not opposed, but suggest two probabilities that can be switchable.
But there is also a Japanese tradition of using black and white, especially in zen paintings, where they use very minimal colour, only mostly black for drawing and for writing the characters. And there is also this concept, ma, which is the space in between, both in time and in space. We have such moments also in nô theatre and in the traditional waterdrawings in which they leave many undrawn white spaces, where there’s no exact distinction between river and mountain in a landscape. Those are the spaces you can fill in with whatever you are thinking about.
In 2 Minutes 46 Seconds 16 Frames (100 Feet) we have the basic elements of your conceptual cameraless cinema: black and white leader, sound and silence, and the measure of time by numbers. And at the same time, the concept of ma (time as interval or distance) is already present here.
Yes, that’s right. My film Ma (Intervals) was made in 1977, and Ma: Space / Time in the Garden of Ryoan-ji was made in 1989, there is a ten-year difference.
SYNC SOUND (1977)
In Sync Sound you continue your investigations on duration, this time with a game of substitutions that reminds me of Hollis Frampton’s Zorns Lemma. Did you know him and his films?
But I did the substitutions with the sound, unlike Hollis Frampton. I got to know him, I don’t remember when. But for me the sound and picture are not parallel, they go [physically] parallel in film, but the relationship between them, our perception, is somewhat different. So, as I said, in this film I substitute picture with a sound, something new for me and also nobody else had ever done this, they didn’t consider sound as important as picture. And sound always follows picture, in experimental cinema it’s a kind of tradition. I don’t like this tradition of the superiority of the picture, so I wanted to change that.
ONE FRAME DURATION (1977)
In your film One Frame Duration you insert flashes of colour. Are they a surprising little gift for patient spectators?
[Laughs] Colour means something else. I’m dealing with time, but also when you deal with colour, how colour can be present as a time interval, that was my passion as well. I wanted to get into a new area, by using colour; you know, the impression of red colour can be quite different from black.
Your metrical films are very demanding, and also conceptually very beautiful, simple and intense.
The projection of my metrical films is a rather normal projection, but the content is very minimal, black and white, and sometimes I use also numbers, very simple materials. By using these materials you not only have to think visually, but you also need some kind of imagination [to fill the space] between black and white, between timing. I have found that time is very important in film, but it has not been experimented upon very much. It was always visuals what cinema was concerned about. But time is an important factor in film as well. How can I present time, if time is invisible? It’s not easy, yet there are some ways to do that. These three pieces, where I use series of numbers, Timed 1,2,3, 24 Frames per Second and One Frame Duration, all deal with time in film. In order to experience real time, to have a real time, real sense, if you see too much visuals, you are absorbed into the visuals, if you have nothing or almost nothing, you can feel what’s going on, you feel a sense of time. They usually say that if you feel time it’s a bad film. If you are excited, you forget about time, and that’s a good film. But I wanted to get a sense of time. This is supposed to be bad, but bad is good in order to experience time as your time, as yourself. If you make the films boring, that’s the way of feeling time, that’s the way it works.
Ma (Intervals) shares its title with Ma: Space / Time, but is a very different film: only white and black screen, vertical line and two sounds and silence. But again, you add colour, but so faint I’m not sure whether I’m imagining it.
Yes, I use very cool colours, blue and yellow, perhaps, and a few reds too.
TALKING IN NEW YORK (1980), TALKING PICTURE (THE STRUCTURE OF FILM VIEWING) (1981)
In these two films you start your “Video Semiology”, although on film. You were already making works on video. Did you think that video was more appropriate for this semiological studies than film?
Yes, because these videos have a feedback: you can see what you see on screen and what you see in the camera at the same time. This presence makes it easier to express this, especially when I’m discussing the structure of cinema, the way to see the film, my own presence in the cinema and the screen in front of me. The film happened and at the same time I can discuss its structure.
AYERS ROCK (1984)
Then you went to Australia to film Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock was reedited, and much shortened, and the soundtrack changed, in A Rock In The Light. You left out much footage (mainly details of the rock), and divisions of the screen. Why this “remake” so many years later? Were you not satisfied with the first version? Was the original music imposed to you by the producers?
Not really. I was satisfied. I distribute both versions. But I tried to do different experiments with the landscape. I shot from the sunrise to the sunset, the cycle of the day, there in the middle of the desert; so natural timing is somewhat different from artificial timing, using the clock. When the sun comes out it makes a certain shadow, so I’m dealing with light. I positioned myself in the south and north and the east, and from the three positions watched how the light affected the rock.
What’s the difference between this last film and the Excerpts From “Ayers Rock”, where you still keep Richie Beirach music?
No, it’s basically the same, maybe a different composition, in a way.
How long were you filming in Uluru rock?
I went there maybe a couple of times, and I filmed from morning till evening.
You can feel the human presence in Ayers Rock (cars, aeroplane). Were they there by chance, or was it something you were looking for?
They were there by chance.
Moments At The Rock is a making of. Was it born as an afterthought, or did you have somebody filming you?
No, everything was made by myself. There was not help whatsoever. And it was only after making the official version that I saw that maybe I could work something else, and that’s the way I made the making of this last film and also an animated film from the original version.
Ma: Space / Time in the Garden of Ryoan-Ji.
MA: SPACE / TIME IN THE GARDEN OF RYOAN-JI (1989)
This was your last film on celluloid after almost a decade. Why did you decide to abandon film?
[Laughs] No, I haven’t abandoned film. I still make films for installations or performances, not as films (from beginning to end) but as material for exhibitions and performances.
What was the role of architect Arata Isozaki in the film?
I was suggested from the beginning to have a kind of expert together with the filmmaker. It was a project originally from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, they suggested to have an art film, but not necessarily an art instructional film, but an art film as itself, kind of something new. And they had experts go with the filmmaker. They had a series of this kind of project, and this film is one of them. I chose this famous garden in Kyoto called Ryoan-ji, which is a typical zen garden built in the 16th century where there is mostly sand spread out and then a group of rocks, and nothing else. And you see the space among them. I shot it with a tracking shot, mostly. I repeated it, from left to right, and also zooming. Then Isozaki wrote the poems. The subject is ma, which means in Japanese temporal and spacial inbetween at the same time, both space and time interval. So, to realize that kind of concept I used this Ryoan-ji garden, and I asked the composer to go along with this idea, along with the film and with the text, trying to illustrate the concept of ma.
So it was you who chose the garden as a subject, not the architect.
Yes, right. But he agreed, you know.
Is there a Japanese version of Ma: Space / Time In The Garden Of Ryoan-Ji, with the poems written in Japanese?
No, only in English, though the poem was written in Japanese, first.
How long did the shooting take?
Shooting itself only took one day, a few hours. We were allowed to shoot in the early morning, before people came. It was in summer, around 6 to 8 o’clock, when we had to finish.
Are you allowed to walk in the garden?
Not now. According to historical drawings, there’s a 100-year-old drawing showing people inside, among the rocks, but not any more.
MA: THE STONES HAVE MOVED (2003)
Ma: The Stones Have Moved is a computer film, like your A I U E O NN: Six Features, which in its simplicity goes back to the white line in a black background of Ma (Intervals). The frame in this case jumps to the front and becomes the most important element in the film: while in Ma: Space / Time we “know” that the camera moves and the rocks are still, once the photographic image disappears we don’t see the camera moving (there is no camera) but it is the silhouette of the rock which moves inside the fix frame. Was that the objective, made explicit by the title?
Yes, in a way.
Why and how did you decide to work with computers?
Originally, the first version of A I U E O NN: Six Features was not computerized. It was a video of my face, changing the sound to picture relation, desynchronizing it, so I could manipulate the difference between picture and sound. When I say “AAA” what you hear is “III”, which is only possible in film, but not for real, you cannot have an “aaa” mouth with an “iii” sound, you see. You have these basic vowels in Japanese phonetics, and based on these vowels you have first A I U E O and then you go into K and you have KA KI KU KE KO and so forth. And after making this work I realized I could use it that way and make the distribution and changing the matching between sound and picture. Well, the picture and sound this time is matched in fact, but you have the distorted picture of my face, so in a way I’m kind of caricaturized, people get more attention. Six features means using rotating, using this character, and I have made another version. The most recent version, you have not seen it yet, but it’s a kind of artificial reality, it’s called AR (Augmented Reality Performance), it’s a computerized 3 dimensional piece. We made cards, on each card you have 6 pictures, with hiragana, which is the Japanese phonetic alphabet, and then also the Roman alphabet, and you can mix up all three kinds and all comes up to three dimensional, like a cube-shape. In a cube you have a top side view and a bottom view, which is the same view yet comes one picture on one side. That’s my newest version. I‘ve tried to linguistically see the difference between signifier and signified, which I have discussed above, but with this 3 dimensional the signifier and signified come together, no differentiation, as a cube, what they call artificial reality, not artificial, augmented reality, they call it.
You talk about video as a “system”: camera, monitor. What do you think of current HD video, which has substituted film (screen, projector, dark room) and has left behind this “furniture” aspect of traditional video? Do you think it has the same semiotics as film, nowadays? Or do you see it as a new language/system, independent of Monitor video and Film?
Compared to film, the media is maybe different, but then what we see in the screen is still an extension of what we have done, you know.
In 1978 you wrote that you would like to make a Japanese version of Observer / Observed. Have you made it?
No, not yet. It’s difficult.
And that leads me to another question. You talk about author and audience, subject and object. Most of your films have English titles, and some have a US setting (Face, Filmmakers, Film Strips). As your video work is concerned with the audience as part of the video system, aren’t you afraid of becoming estranged from Japanese audiences? How is the reception of your films in Japan?
Well, I sometimes use Japanese language, as I did yesterday in my performance, As I see you see me [5-06-2014, (S8) 5ª Mostra de Cinema Periférico, A Corunha]. I haven’t abandoned Japanese, it’s my natural language, so sometimes I use it, but then it’s not all that common for international audiences, so I have to use English as well, but yet I use Japanese sometimes as well.
You have recognized that in Japan they had problems understanding English, and that in the USA they had also problems because of the strong Japanese “accented English” you use. You decide to place yourself in a No-Man’s land, nor Japanese nor American?
Somehow I feel in between, back and forth. I know I’m not always completely understandable, yet I can still communicate, and that’s fine too. That’s my background, so I can’t erase my background, it comes out naturally, I’m not hesitant to use that.
So do you think that the reception of your films is more intense in the US than in Japan?
Sometimes, even when I use Japanese, Japanese audiences don’t always understand what I do, only maybe a few if ever. They don’t have the habit of seeing my kind of films, they are not used to my way of seeing. You can’t change it easily. And if you are to dig into this kind of experimental cinema, sometimes it’s hard for anybody, in Japan or in the USA or elsewhere. You need a certain education to appreciate these film, but yet I’m not giving up to show them, and eventually they would maybe be understood. In fact, it already happened among young people. Lately I got to know a few young Japanese researchers, sometimes they know more about my films than I do.
But in this festival we are seeing that there are a lot of young experimental filmmakers in Japan. Were you aware of this?
I have started to talk to them, but I don’t know their films yet. So maybe they are not so easily understandable, or they have a different opinion. So I’m even afraid to show them and discuss my films.
Iimura during his performance at the (S8) Mostra (Photo by María Meseguer).
AS I SEE YOU SEE ME (1990-2014)
Your performance As I See You See Me is a further step in your study of the video semiotics, and at the same time highlights this “furniture” aspect of early video.
There are two versions of this performance and installation, with two or just one “YOU”, but this version [at the (S8)] has only one. I found it very interesting because I was interested in this feedback in video: you aim your camera to the monitor, and the monitor feedbacks you so this is a kind of eternal tunnel. And here I show myself as object as well as subject, walking between two channels, back and forth, and saying the same sentence: “As I see you see me”. So this “you” is also “me”, “you” as an object as well as a subject, comes together at the same time, it’s a kind of round trip. So that’s my performance-installation. At the end of the performance I have this sound feedback: I put the microphone into one of the monitors, and I get a kind of physical feedback, which is very hard to have, sometimes impossible. You get a kind of sound violence. That’s what I’m trying to do.
In video or in cinema you use materials, and so there is always a contradiction involved. I enjoy though using this kind of contradiction. Even in As I See You See Me, I put “I” and “YOU” [on the monitors] and yet I video in the monitor, “I see You”, and you video “I see me”. So this “I” and “YOU” come back and forth. It’s a feed back. And “As I SEE you See Me” is a bubble equivalent to what the feedback does, so you can’t avoid this duality, and yet I try to figure out what’s going on, like everybody else, and this duality is like a tunnel vision, I try to catch myself in the tunnel of me and “I” is always going into the feedback, into the tunnel, into the centre, and then suddenly you come in there, and I confuse myself, like everybody else. That’s why I [handle] this piece.
Iimura during his performance at the (S8) Mostra (Photo by María Meseguer).
Many of your films have installation/performance versions. Or some performances have become films. Where do you feel more comfortable? As a filmmaker or videomaker, or as a performer? Where do you think you can transmit your ideas more deeply?
The most interesting part is when we show the film, not when we make it. That’s the way I see the people and their reaction to what they see, that’s the most important part of the process. Film theory mostly discusses production and editing, but not exhibition or screening. They think of the screening as a mechanical aspect of film. But I don’t agree. Where you show it, it’s where you do the performance. In front of an audience you have to talk to them, or answer their questions, that is my point of view, and we can do that because my films always have a small audience. If you deal with a big audience, that’s impossible. But my films are tiny, and you can go and show them and talk, so we do the performance with the film. You have a direct response and communication.