Takahiko Iimura Seeing/Hearing/Speaking, DVD, 2002 Co-produced with
Institute for Electronic Arts, Alfred Univeristy, New York, Eupohonic
Co. Ltd, Tokyo, and Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics. This project was
made possible in part with a grant from New York State Council on the
Takahiko Iimura is a Japanese video and film artist who has been
exceedingly active since the 1960's. His work and life have aligned him
with many movements, from Fluxus, Situationism, to 70s Minimalism.
Conceptually, his work walks a thin line between deconstructionist
theory and Zen Buddhism, and reviewers have been quick to align the
simplicity of Iimura's work with Buddhism. Iimura is inconsistant on
this matter -- in some cases, he eschews it as a negative influence in
Japanese culture, while at other times he comfortably sidles up to
other Zen influenced artists like John Cage and Yoko Ono. Getting a
clear read of Iimura's intentions can be difficult. This particular
work, 'Seeing/Hearing/Speaking' is a suite of videos that culminates
approximately 20 years of development.
The initial trilogy of videos begin with 'Seeing'. Visually, Iimura's
work is sparse. His face and torso fill the screen, forming a clear
black & white portrait. Minimal imagery serves to focus the viewer on
his facial gestures and his wordplay. He begins to recite a phrase
derived from Derrida, "I hear myself at the same time that I speak."
This is Iimura's mantra, and it will show up repeatedly throughout this
suite of pieces. He works to identify himself, then deconstruct
himself by using video post-production to periodically cut out the
video or the audio, as the piece continues. As the viewer moves on to
'Hearing/Speaking', the same process continues, only we now focus on
Iimura's ears and mouth. He appears to be breaking himself and his
linguistical analysis into granular amounts. There is a fundamental
similarity between deconstructionist theory and zen thought, in that
both are based on attachments of symbols to objects, of people to
concepts. Iimura concerns himself with dissecting himself, and then
again through video processing. In that way, there is a facinating
merger of ideas and productions at play.
In the earlier pieces included on the DVD, 'Talking to Myself' (1978),
'Talking in New York' (1981-2001), and 'Talking to Myself at PS1'
(1985), we find earlier permutations of these pieces. In 'Talking in
New York', Iimura wanders the streets of New York repeating his mantra.
He strives for his own identity on the streets of New York. Zen
thoughts express themselves through practice, so I took this as a cue
to try it for myself. The afternoon I spent muttering the phrase
'When I speak I hear myself' had a peculiar effect. The elliptical
self-referential nature of the statement served as a centering
mnemonic, making me more aware of how and when I communicated verbally.
New media artists interested in developing a deeper understanding
Iimura's work should not be repelled by the simplicity or
anti-aestheticism of his work.
Peter Lasell is an artist and designer
living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. www.bossanova.com/lasellwww.abattoir.com/~flint/index.htm
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