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Matsumoto Toshio: Selected Works

Matsumoto Toshio has made approximately eighty film and video works ranging from avant-garde documentaries, features, and experimental films to multimedia installations. He has collaborated with artists such as Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop) and Yokoo Tadanori and musicians Takemitsu Toru and Yuasa Joji, and developed a style that expanded traditional approaches to filmmaking. This portfolio provides an overview of Matsumoto’s nine most important works, including his early avant-garde documentary film Nishijin (1961), multiprojection works Tsuburekakatta migime no tame ni (For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968) and Space Projection Ako (1970), as well as experimental films and videos made in the 1970s and 1980s. The presentation includes supplementary material such as program notes, sketches, and storyboards.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in aesthetics, Matsumoto began working at Shinriken Films, a documentary-film production company. His made his directorial debut with Ginrin (Bicycle in Dream, 1956), an experimental promotional film. Jikken Kobo members Yamaguchi Katsuro, Kitadai Shozo, and Takemitsu Toru were also involved in the production.

In the late 1950s, Matsumoto began making a new type of documentary that integrated avant-garde elements. The Weavers of Nishijin (1961) was awarded the San Marco Silver Lion and Haha-tachi (Mother, 1967) the San Marco Golden Lion (Grand Prix) at two different Venice International Documentary Film Festivals.

Matsumoto also wrote essays on film theory. In 1963, he published Eizo no hakken: Avangyarudo to dokyumentarii (The discovery of film: The avant-garde and documentary), which exerted a strong influence on the Japanese film movement.

In the late 1960s, he began to devote himself to experimental films and expanded cinema. For the Damaged Right Eye (1968), a multiprojection work in which images from three 16mm projectors are layered on a single screen in real time, conveys the complicated circumstances of contemporary Japanese society. It was screened as part of a Happening during the “Expose 1968” symposium at the Sogetsu Art Center. Matsumoto determined the structure of many of his works by making a series of graphs. He referred to these storyboards as “graph continuity.” In these diagrams, the A and B blocks on the upper layer represent the images on the left and right sides, and the fragmentary blocks on the lower layer represent the images in the center.

In 1969, he directed Bara no soretsu (Funeral Parade of Roses), a commercial narrative film depicting gay culture and the social turmoil of the era. In 1970, he served as general director of the Textile Pavilion at the Japan World Exposition in Osaka, where he presented Space Projection Ako, a huge multiprojection video work. Yokoo Tadanori was in charge of the pavilion’s design.

Matsumoto subsequently expanded his activities, producing countless cross-genre works including commercial narrative films such as Shura (1971) and Dogra magra (1988), experimental films such as Atman (1975) and Engram: Kioku konseki (Engram, 1987), and video works such as Metastasis: Shinchintaisha (Metastasis, 1971) and Shift danso (Shift, 1982). Matsumoto has played a vital role as a pioneering figure in Japanese experimental film. His most recent work, Toro (Praying Mantis), was released in 2012.

The following was are selected works and related archival materials presented by Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive. The digitization of these materials was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 24720048.

Translated into English by Christopher Stephens.

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Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive

The Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive is a nonprofit organization that preserves and presents postwar Japanese experimental cinema, video art, media art, documentaries,... Read more »
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Matsumoto Toshio

Filmmaker Matsumoto Toshio (born 1932) is a Japanese film director and video artist. After graduating from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in aesthetics, Matsumoto began... Read more »
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Matsumoto Toshio: Selected Works

Matsumoto Toshio has made approximately eighty film and video works ranging from avant-garde documentaries, features, and experimental films to multimedia installations. He has collaborated with artists such as Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop) and Yokoo Tadanori and musicians Takemitsu Toru and Yuasa Joji, and developed a style that expanded traditional approaches to filmmaking. This portfolio provides an overview of Matsumoto’s nine most important works, including his early avant-garde documentary film Nishijin (1961), multiprojection works Tsuburekakatta migime no tame ni (For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968) and Space Projection Ako (1970), as well as experimental films and videos made in the 1970s and 1980s. The presentation includes supplementary material such as program notes, sketches, and storyboards.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in aesthetics, Matsumoto began working at Shinriken Films, a documentary-film production company. His made his directorial debut with Ginrin (Bicycle in Dream, 1956), an experimental promotional film. Jikken Kobo...

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Matsumoto Toshio has made approximately eighty film and video works ranging from avant-garde documentaries, features, and experimental films to multimedia installations. He has collaborated with artists such as Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop) and Yokoo Tadanori and musicians Takemitsu Toru and Yuasa Joji, and developed a style that expanded traditional approaches to filmmaking. This portfolio provides an overview of Matsumoto’s nine most important works, including his early avant-garde documentary film Nishijin (1961), multiprojection works Tsuburekakatta migime no tame ni (For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968) and Space Projection Ako (1970), as well as experimental films and videos made in the 1970s and 1980s. The presentation includes supplementary material such as program notes, sketches, and storyboards.

After graduating from the University of Tokyo, where he majored in aesthetics, Matsumoto began working at Shinriken Films, a documentary-film production company. His made his directorial debut with Ginrin (Bicycle in Dream, 1956), an experimental promotional film. Jikken Kobo members Yamaguchi Katsuro, Kitadai Shozo, and Takemitsu Toru were also involved in the production.

In the late 1950s, Matsumoto began making a new type of documentary that integrated avant-garde elements. The Weavers of Nishijin (1961) was awarded the San Marco Silver Lion and Haha-tachi (Mother, 1967) the San Marco Golden Lion (Grand Prix) at two different Venice International Documentary Film Festivals.

Matsumoto also wrote essays on film theory. In 1963, he published Eizo no hakken: Avangyarudo to dokyumentarii (The discovery of film: The avant-garde and documentary), which exerted a strong influence on the Japanese film movement.

In the late 1960s, he began to devote himself to experimental films and expanded cinema. For the Damaged Right Eye (1968), a multiprojection work in which images from three 16mm projectors are layered on a single screen in real time, conveys the complicated circumstances of contemporary Japanese society. It was screened as part of a Happening during the “Expose 1968” symposium at the Sogetsu Art Center. Matsumoto determined the structure of many of his works by making a series of graphs. He referred to these storyboards as “graph continuity.” In these diagrams, the A and B blocks on the upper layer represent the images on the left and right sides, and the fragmentary blocks on the lower layer represent the images in the center.

In 1969, he directed Bara no soretsu (Funeral Parade of Roses), a commercial narrative film depicting gay culture and the social turmoil of the era. In 1970, he served as general director of the Textile Pavilion at the Japan World Exposition in Osaka, where he presented Space Projection Ako, a huge multiprojection video work. Yokoo Tadanori was in charge of the pavilion’s design.

Matsumoto subsequently expanded his activities, producing countless cross-genre works including commercial narrative films such as Shura (1971) and Dogra magra (1988), experimental films such as Atman (1975) and Engram: Kioku konseki (Engram, 1987), and video works such as Metastasis: Shinchintaisha (Metastasis, 1971) and Shift danso (Shift, 1982). Matsumoto has played a vital role as a pioneering figure in Japanese experimental film. His most recent work, Toro (Praying Mantis), was released in 2012.

The following was are selected works and related archival materials presented by Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive. The digitization of these materials was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 24720048.

Translated into English by Christopher Stephens.

     
Matsumoto nishijin image

Nishijin

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Matsumoto migime image

For the Damaged Right Eye

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 1)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
2%e3%81%a4%e3%81%b5%e3%82%99%e3%82%8c%e3%81%8b%e3%81%8b%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e5%8f%b3%e7%9c%bc%e3%81%ae%e3%81%9f%e3%82%81%e3%81%ab page 2

Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 2)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 3)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
2%e3%81%a4%e3%81%b5%e3%82%99%e3%82%8c%e3%81%8b%e3%81%8b%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e5%8f%b3%e7%9c%bc%e3%81%ae%e3%81%9f%e3%82%81%e3%81%ab page 4

Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 4)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Matsumoto space

Space Projection Ako

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Space Projection Ako

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Screen shot 2012 11 03 at 7.37.01 am

Metastasis

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Program notes of Metastasis

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Screen shot 2012 11 03 at 7.37.59 am

Mona Lisa

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Mona Lisa

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Matsumoto everything

Everything Visible Is Empty

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Everything Visible Is Empty

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Screen shot 2012 11 03 at 7.38.38 am

Atman

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Atman

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Screen shot 2012 11 03 at 7.39.06 am

Shift

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Screen shot 2012 11 03 at 7.40.02 am

Engram

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japanese Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Nishijin

35mm film transferred to video (black and white, sound), 26 min.

The sound of weaving quietly suffuses the town of Nishijin. The film presents scenes of the simple townscape and shows the artisans as they weave wordlessly in closed and cramped spaces. In a stage sequence, Kanze Hideo performs the Noh play Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider). Winner of the San Marco Silver Lion at the Venice International Documentary Film Festival, 1961.
“The Old Left documentary film movement that flourished in the 1950s quickly deteriorated after it was linked to the political movement that emerged in the wake of failed efforts to oppose the 1960 Anpo treaty. You might say that while exposing the shortcomings of the film movement, which was short-circuited by politics, this also exposed the limitations of material-based documentaries that relied solely on a specific incident.
“Though the political situation might have calmed down, the social contradictions of course persisted. Oppression was internalized on an everyday level in the same way that cancer erodes the internal organs. Isn’t there some way to manifest an invisible disease of this sort, which is hard to identify? This is the problem I tried to deal with in Nishijin.” (Matsumoto Toshio, D Jitsu)

Produced by Asai Eiichi; screenplay by Sekine Hiroshi and Matsumoto Toshio; directed by Matsumoto Toshio; cinematography by Miyajima Yoshio; lighting by Fujiki Shikigi; music by Miyoshi Akira; recorded by Katayama Miko and Katto Isamu; edited by Miyamori Miyuri and Shuzui Fusako; narrated by Kusaka Takeshi.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

For the Damaged Right Eye

16mm transferred to video (color, sound, three-panel multiscreen), 13 min.

Having set out to document the events of 1968, Matsumoto began to sense the limitations of the linearity of film. He developed a technique that made use of a system employing three projectors. The film was screened in April 1968 at “Nanika ittekure, imasagsu” (“Say Something, I’m Trying”), an avant-garde symposium held at Sogetsu Hall.

Cinematography by Suzuki Tatsuo; music by Akiyama Kuniharu.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 1)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
2%e3%81%a4%e3%81%b5%e3%82%99%e3%82%8c%e3%81%8b%e3%81%8b%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e5%8f%b3%e7%9c%bc%e3%81%ae%e3%81%9f%e3%82%81%e3%81%ab page 2

Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 2)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
2%e3%81%a4%e3%81%b5%e3%82%99%e3%82%8c%e3%81%8b%e3%81%8b%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e5%8f%b3%e7%9c%bc%e3%81%ae%e3%81%9f%e3%82%81%e3%81%ab page 3

Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 3)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
2%e3%81%a4%e3%81%b5%e3%82%99%e3%82%8c%e3%81%8b%e3%81%8b%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e5%8f%b3%e7%9c%bc%e3%81%ae%e3%81%9f%e3%82%81%e3%81%ab page 4

Storyboard of For the Damaged Right Eye. (Page 4)

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Space Projection Ako

35mm transferred to video (color, sound), 15 min.

This multiprojection work was installed in a film dome in the Textile Pavilion at the Osaka Expo. Using ten 35mm projectors and eight slide projectors, Matsumoto attempted to create an environmental space that would envelop the viewer. The image of a young girl was projected from every direction onto a huge statue of a female figure that was affixed to the wall of the dome. The music, “Music for Space Projection” by Yuasa Joji, shifted through the space by means of a multiple speaker system. The lighting was designed by Imai Naoji.

Produced by Japan Textile Pavilion Cooperative.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Space Projection Ako

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Metastasis

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 8 min.

This film focuses on the Western-style toilet. A wide range of variations in light, shade, and color seems to bring to life the toilet’s static image. The film was produced with a data color system, which makes use of an electronic measuring device (RGB format) to convert black-and-white images to color.

Production, screenplay, direction, and technical management by Matsumoto Toshio; cinematography by Sugiyama Akichika; cusic by Ichiyanagi Toshi; edited by Iwasa Ujitoshi.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Program notes of Metastasis

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Mona Lisa

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 3 min.

This work was produced with the Scanimate video synthesizer, which was invented by Toyo Laboratory. For the main image, Matsumoto scanned Leonardo da Vinci’s painting and processed it in a variety of ways, making consummate use of the functions of the Scanimate analogue computer. The work was introduced at the world’s first video art symposium, which was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1974.

Production, screenplay, direction, and music by Matsumoto Toshio; material photography by Suzuki Tatsuo and Sugiyama Akichika; technical production by Toyo Laboratory (now Imagica); music by Ohno Matsuo.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Mona Lisa

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Everything Visible Is Empty

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 8 min.

The Heart Sutra is a scripture consisting of 266 written characters. The entire text is shown five times in the film, and the color and shape of the characters change each time they are repeated until they eventually lose their form and turn into light.

“This film expresses the emotional impact that occurs when one’s eyes are opened to the profound meaning of the Heart Sutra. In the film, the 262 characters [the text is sometimes said to consist of 266 characters] of this sutra are repeated five times. The first iteration shows the text in its original form; the second the realm of the five senses, the third the realm of color (=phenomena) as a subject of the five senses, the fourth the meditative realm in which one searches for a true cosmological principle after understanding the essence of the realm of color, and the fifth the realm of emptiness that emerges as a result. Through this process, the characters in the text are gradually replaced by images while their essential meaning remains.” (Matsumoto Toshio, 1975)

Production, screenplay, and direction by Matsumoto Toshio; cinematography by Tsuji Yoshiyuki and Kurita Toyomichi; music by Ichiyanagi Toshi; recorded by Ohno Matsuo and Katto Isamu; edited by Iwasa Ujitoshi.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
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Storyboard for Everything Visible Is Empty

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Atman

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 11 min.

Focusing on a figure clad in a Hannya mask, the camera moves around the perimeter as the size of the images and colors changes. Shot from approximately five hundred camera positions and using five types of film with different color tones, the work was produced using an animation process in which approximately 15,000 frames were created by reshooting each of the original frames. “‘Atman’ is an ancient Indian word meaning ‘self.’ A person wearing a Hannya mask appears in the center of the frame throughout the film. Revolving continually around the figure, the camera also moves constantly toward and and then away from it. Although these movements exert an almost maddening power, embracing them is said to result in a state approaching a trance. In this spiritually exalted state, one loses one’s sense of self and shines with an overwhelming amount of energy that brings on nothing short of a kind of convulsive ecstasy. Incidentally, the etymology of the word ‘ecstasy’ is apparently ‘rapture’ or insanity,’ which has clear parallels to what I have just said about trances and ecstasy.” (Matsumoto Toshio, D Jitsu)

Production, screenplay, and direction by Matsumoto Toshio; cinematography by Yamazaki Hiroshi and Takama Kenji; music by Ichiyanagi Toshi; recorded by Ohno Matsuo.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)
Atman

Storyboard for Atman

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Shift

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 10 min.

The images in this film show buildings at the Kyushu Institute of Design, where Matsumoto was working at the time. Using pans and zooms and dividing the images horizontally, he creates a partial temporal discrepancy. Gradually, this extends beyond time and causes spatial distortions. Awarded special mention at the Asian American International Film Festival, 1982.

“In a sense, by recombining the structural elements of time and space in an image, I was searching for a kind of ‘image anagram’ that would produce a new time and space.
“In my mind, this work was somehow connected to the study of anagrams of poetic language that Saussure devoted himself to in his later years. It was also closely linked to the principle of ‘twisting the truth’ by ‘evading context’ as seen in my narrative film Dogra magra, which I took a renewed interest in during this period in Fukuoka.” (Matsumoto Toshio, D Jitsu)

Production, screenplay, and direction by Matsumoto Toshio; cinematography by Matsumoto Toshio and Ina Shinsuke; synthesis by Okuyama Junosuke; music by Inagaki Yosuke (Takashi).

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japan Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

Engram

16mm transferred to video (color, sound), 15 min.

With Polaroid photographs, Matsumoto relativized the images in the film to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and transcend time. Every attempt by the viewer to detect meaning in the images plays into the hands of the director and is ultimately frustrated. The work questions the formation of a narrative system.

Production, screenplay, direction, and cinematography by Matsumoto Toshio; music by Inagaki Takashi ; cast: Matsumoto Toshio, Terashima Mari, and others.

© Matsumoto Toshio. Courtesy the artist and Postwar Japanese Moving Image Archive (PJMIA)

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This Artist Practice is part of: Sogetsu Art Center