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Masanori Oe: Filming Ecstasy

A screening and talk by Ignacio Adriasola

Saturday, August 17
7pm
FREE

Dissatisfied with the increasingly restrictive political context and the cultural conformity of high economic growth-era Japan, filmmaker Masanori Oe (b.1942, lives and works in Nagano Prefecture) traveled to New York in the mid-1960s in search for an alternative. His journey took him to the counterculture: in New York he encountered civil rights and antiwar protests, and the idea of a “new consciousness” promoted by the hippie movement.

Oe became involved with the Lower East Side avant-garde film scene, and he collaborated with Marvin Fishman in the alternative media collective Newsreel. In films such as Head Game, Oe relied on a variety of avant-garde techniques in order to create an experimental form of documentary that defied mainstream representations of the Vietnam War and its contestation. Through wide-ranging formal experimentation, films like Between the Frames and Salome’s Child drew implicit parallels between altered states of consciousness and the ecstatic experience found in protest. These experiments culminated in Great Society, a massive work of expanded cinema, relying on six projectors, which Oe screened on his return to Japan as a protest against the massive, state-sponsored festival of Expo 70 in Osaka. Pursuing an aesthetics of ecstasy in his work, Oe probed film’s potential for collective mind-expansion and social transformation.

This program will feature a selection of Oe’s early Newsreel films. They will be introduced by Ignacio Adriasola, who will situate his work in the context of psychedelic culture in Japan, and probe its links to artist Yutaka Matsuzawa’s work and thought. The films are generously loaned from Collaborative Cataloging Japan in collaboration with Go Hirasawa.

Ignacio Adriasola is an art historian specializing in the experimental art and photography of 1960s Japan. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Please note that films will be projected on a single digital projector, and that they feature some (very tame) nudity, documentary footage of wartime carnage, as well as strobe-light effects.


Masanori Oe, Great Society (still), 1967 / 2017, 16mm film on six-channel projection (converted to digital projection), 17 min 12 sec