Artist Profile

BASED IN Tokyo and New York ARTFORM Expanded Cinema and Video Semiology


The ‘I’ of the one who writes is not the same as the ‘I’ which is read by ‘thou’.—Roland Barthes

Armed with a forensic scalpel, Takahiko Iimura dissects video, removing organs one by one, systematically probing until he locates the vital twitching organ. There, he’s got it now, held between gloved fingers, unlatched from the secure lining of the onto-sphere, decoupled and placed on the tray for our inspection. The signifier-signified dyad. Coldly, methodically, he begins to rearrange the units. This way, that way. This and this, this but not that. A genetic recomposition of codes; accumulating permutations in search of the différance between word and image; space and movement; you, I, and me. Video language is semiological . . . semi-illogical.

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Takahiko Iimura is a pioneering film and video artist based in Tokyo and New York. In the 1960s, he was a crucial conduit between the Japanese and American avant-gardes. His work ranges from poetic fluxus-influenced pieces to rigorous formal and conceptual investigations. In the 1970s and 1980s, Iimura’s videos exposed and analysed screen spectatorship. He pared down video to its essential structural elements and revelled in the absurd feedback loops and infinite regresses—optical and semantic—that resulted. Foregrounding costruction alongside content, and pressuring language, Iimura’s video semiology paralleled the semiologies of Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Absurdly analytical, Iimura’s videos are also funny. In AIUEONN (1994), we see and hear him speak each Japanese vowel in turn. Then image and sound part company, as we see him pronounce one vowel but hear another, working through every possible permutation. The images of his face are also distorted, echoing the disjunction of sound and image. For OtherFilm Festival 2012, Iimura will perform AIUEONN with a live soundtrack. He will also reprise his 1963 expanded-cinema performance Screen Play, projecting his film Colours—a study of chemical reactions resulting from dropping paint into oil—onto a friend’s back.