Shozo Shimamoto

About the exhibition

The film with the Emperor takes part in.

In 1957 we decided to do an event using the stage. We had no intention of doing theatre or a concert; we just wanted to express the art of using the stage.

A picture is by nature a static thing, whereas with the event that we had in mind, the work itself becomes the protagonist so that it changes like a story. In this way, the idea emerged that in order to express an art form that changes from moment to moment, it would be better to use a stage. First of all, it was an experiment that had never been done before, and we were very excited, so we thought about and planned the idea. Since then I have often exhibited art using the stage; once I did a work on film. It was an avant-garde film. But I did not have a cine-camera or the money to shoot in 35mm. I had a friend who worked in the theatre, and when I was talking to him, he proposed recycling a 35 mm film, washing it in vinegar and painting over it. At that time there were no marker pens, so after mixing the colour with paint, we painted the images onto each frame. However, it was nothing like making a cartoon today, it was rather more like random scribbles.

As an experiment I took two projectors together and thus duplicated the image on the screen. For the music too, I bought a tape recorder, which was a novelty at the time. So I recorded the sound of the short wave radio and used it as avant-garde music together with the images. In the Mainichi newspaper of 23rd November 1955, the local Hanshin section reported ‘the noise of a chair being dragged or the rattling of a kettle, or the sound of running water have been recorded ...’. These noises are now in the Pompidou Centre.

That film is now ruined, but I kept it and restored it in 16 mm. Only a few years ago, I loaned it to an avant-garde film magazine, This is Film. One of the editors, Kenichi Harada, told me that you could see the Emperor Hirohito in the movie. I was amazed. The Gutai art movement eliminated all political and literary ideas from their work and focused only on the material. So what was all this about the Emperor? Looking carefully at the films I remembered that when I had washed them with vinegar, I’d done it quite roughly, so we were left with some news coverage regarding the Emperor.

As I was using the double projectors at that time, I hadn’t noticed. Nobody at the Sankei Hall, including myself, who had seen the screening in 1957 had noticed anything.

Giuseppe Morra, Shozo Shimamoto Association

Material destruction, 1957, Gutai art on the stage, Osaka © Fondazione Morra

Mail art, 80s, © Fondazione Morra