Clouded Vision: The Films of Yo Ota on the Big Screen in New York

Yo Ota is a film maker from Tokyo who has produced a body of work consisting of short films that mix together the realism found in landscape films with some manipulation of time and movement and spatial awareness to create genre straddling works of experimentalism that ask the audience to question the way that films display things. Subjects and locations have been as diverse as Catholicism and the pilgrimage to Lourdes Cathedral and a woman dancing in slow motion and the movement of cars and pedestrians in Paris.

He is new to me and I had to do some quick research on this site where you can view some of his films. If, however, the Anthology Film Archives in New York are holding a presentation on May 21st at 19:30. These guys are an international centre “for the preservation, study, and exhibition of film and video, with a particular focus on independent, experimental, and avant-garde cinema.” It sounds as if Yo Ota fits right in. Here’s more information from the site itself:

CLOUDED VISION: THE FILMS OF YO OTA

Clouded Vision” is a program of short films by the Japanese filmmaker, Yo Ota. A former student of Peter Kubelka, Ota has been working in experimental film since the late 1970s. His films centre on the exploration of time and space, employing diverse technical effects to trouble the moving image’s presumed realism and create alternative spatio-temporal forms. Existing at the intersections of experimental documentary, the landscape film, and structural film, his work combines contemplative depictions of natural and manmade environments with complex – yet playful – examinations of filmic representation.

Clouded Vision” gathers together films that span four decades of Ota’s artistic career. The program foregrounds works in which Ota utilizes experimental techniques (varying frame rates, matte work, etc.) to reorganize the viewer’s perception of the world. It also features a number of films that respond creatively to the work of contemporary Japanese artists in other disciplines, such as sculpture, painting, and installation. Recurring at intervals throughout the program, Ota’s characteristic time-lapse footage of cloud formations situates his subjects within an expansive durational field uniquely visible to cinema.

Curated by Josh Guilford and Tomonari Nishikawa.

If you understood all of that and live in the area, then this may be the sort of thing for you. Here are two examples of what will be screened over approximately 85 minutes:

ULTRAMARINE (2014, 5 min, 16mm)
The ‘exhibition’ held by ‘artist’ Katsuhiro Fujimura in Tokyo during the very hot summer of 2013 was one that made viewers suffer. The ‘painting’ that stood leaning against the window had very faint colors and regular scratches that could not be seen very well because of the light streaming in from the outside. The light changed with the time of day, and the surface of the painting also shifted. The paint on the front of the panel can only be perceived as ‘color’ by reflecting light. The fact that if the light changes what is seen also changes is quite obvious, but because it is a ‘painting’ viewers find this hard to accept.”

NEBUKAWA (2012, 4.5 min, 16mm)
There was an art event at a closed school, Kataura Junior High School, in Nebukawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. If I did not participate in this event to show my films, I would never have got off at Nebukawa Station. I saw the sea from the school building. The installation by Tetsuya Iimuro was placed in a science room at the school, where one could see the ocean through the windows.”

The films stretch from the 1980s to more contemporary times and so they will act as an interesting time capsule in many ways. It’s definitely the sort of thing that I need to study and watch more because I mainly focus on narrative cinema rather than the more experimental end of film-making.

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