Norio Imai – Action on Film

2019.4.12 [fri] - 6.15 [sat] 11:00am - 7:00pm (Saturdays: 11:00am - 5:00pm) Closed on Sundays, Mondays, holidays, & Apr 28 - May 6

It is with great pleasure that ARTCOURT Gallery presents Norio Imai – Action on Film.

In the mid-’60s, the emergence of video expanded the expressive potential of many artists around the world. Imai Norio witnessed this turning point in visual media, and in 1967, he created his first moving-image work, En (Circle). This exhibition focuses on approximately ten of the artist’s films and videos, beginning with this initial effort and continuing into the mid-’80s.

Recognized as one of Japan’s pioneering video artists, Imai has shown these works at various exhibitions and film festivals in Japan and abroad from the time that they were first made to the present.

After joining the Gutai Art Association in 1965 at the age of 19, Imai garnered attention for white reliefs in which he made protrusions and bored holes in the surface of the canvas. At the time, Imai was interested in lighting and animation[*1], and he created works with industrial materials. These included Tankuro, a series of fiber-reinforced plastic globes, and White Event[*2] (both from 1965), in which the surface of a rubber sheet, equipped with a motor, swells up repeatedly. In his works, Imai explored themes such as the inside and outside of a frame, and the relationship between the image and the screen.

Imai has described his first moving-image work, En (Circle) (1967) – made by punching a hole in each frame of a 16mm film – as animation designed to explore the relationship between seeing and hearing. At the rate of 24 frames per second, a circle vibrates on the screen due to the accidental errors created by the handmade punches. Accompanied by silence, white noise, and pop music, the work was described by the art critic Ming Tiampo in the following way: “It foregrounded the materiality of the film medium as constituted through light, shadow and the passage of time.”[*3]

After the dissolution of Gutai in March 1972, Imai created a succession of works that incorporated visual media. Among these were Jointed Film (1972), made by randomly spliced together pieces of discarded footage from a TV station, and Braun Tube (1974), Imai’s first video work. The artist also developed a series of performances in which he combined photographs and video – a technique that Imai continued to use until the mid-’80s. Video Performances 1978-1983, a compilation of five such works was screened at a major retrospective of Japanese video art.[*4] These works, centering on common gestures performed in everyday spaces, are imprinted with traces of invisible time. In addition, by focusing on the simultaneity of video, which makes it possible to playback images that have been captured in real time, and intervening in his performances using visual media such as instant photographs, Imai attempted to make time lag and overlap, and expose the latent physicality of media.

In this exhibition, En (Circle) will be projected on an entire wall (roughly six meters wide) of the gallery to create an installation in which the room itself seems to sway back and forth. Along with this audio-visual experiment, viewers can enjoy Imai’s other film and video works, which elucidate certain aspects of his thinking. These were produced in the ’60s as TV was becoming prevalent, and in the ’70s and ’80s, a time when moving images inundated our lives in the form of information consumed on a daily basis.

1. “Faces: Norio Imai – Winner of the Shell Art Award” (interview with Sadao Yamane), Nihon dokusho shimbun (October 17, 1966).

2. For the From Space to Environment exhibition, held in 1966, White Event was buried inside a wall as part of an installation that included slide projections by Shomei Tomatsu and other photographers.

3. Ming Tiampo, The Medium Is the Message: Norio Imai, 2014, p. 27.

4. In addition to Radical Communication: Japanese Video Art 1968-1988 (held at the Getty Center in Los Angeles in 2007), Imai’s work was shown in Vital Signals: Japanese and American Video Art from the 1960s and ’70s (held at the Japan Society in New York in 2009 before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Museum of Art, Osaka, etc., the following year).

Related events

  • 4.12 [fri] 18:00 - 19:30 *This event has passed.
    Artist Talk:
    Kinichi Obinata x Norio Imai

    Kinichi Obinata [Researcher in photography and film / Lecturer, Faculty of Art and Design, Kyushu Sangyo University / Visiting researcher, Musashino Art University Research Center for Art and Design. ]
    *RSVP required for the Artist Talk (Email call +81-6-6354-5444)
    *Free admission
  • 4.12 [fri] 19:30 - 20:30 *This event has passed.


Norio Imai