The films of Kaneto Shindo, including the now tragically relevant Children of Hiroshima, tell stark tales of life at the margins of society. Zack Friedman considers the ways in which Shindo’s characters manage to survive.
Consider the two meanings of the phrase “live through”: to survive or endure and to experience vicariously. They seem almost mockingly far apart; one cannot really live through what someone else has really lived through. This distinction comes to mind while watching the films of Japanese director Kaneto Shindo, whose retrospective at BAM has been titled “The Urge for Survival.” ‘Survival’ is apt—his characters, notably people struggling to reassemble life a few years after the bombing of Hiroshima and destitute inhabitants of a remote island, are alive when they very well could not be. Yet survival does not seem to be something they desire, only something that happens to them, and we cannot quite understand how.
Children of Hiroshima (1952) begins with a pan through the rubble of the ruined city before jumping to an elementary school teacher supervising gymnastics on an idyllic island. Her name is Takako (Nobuko Otowa, Shindo’s wife), and she is returning to Hiroshima, her hometown, for the first time since the bombing. As she arrives a voiceover somewhat pedagogically states, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Hiroshima, where the world’s first A-bomb victims died on August 6th, 1945… The children of that day are now grown.”
BOMBlog’s Word Choice features original works of poetry, fiction, and art. This edition of Word Choice, selected by Peter Moysaenko, features fiction by Shane Jones and art by Mitch Dobrowner.
Through a series of stories that flash like omens, Shane Jones pushes his fiction past the precincts of poetry or prose, beyond the wilds of testament and fable, achieving a vision to outlast the view.
Hurricane with Neon-Colored Rocks
Daniel closed his eyes and imagined a hawk tearing apart the throat of a Hurricane, himself a giant who lifted up a leaf of sky to peek inside. He saw himself as a mongoose holding a rope in his teeth, running circles around the Hurricane, and, then, he was in a deep sleep with Iamso against him, dreaming of a group of men as tall and thin as trees. They threw neon-colored rocks into the ocean. When the rocks were gone, they found a large dial on the beach. They bent over and moved the dial to the right. The Hurricane buzzed, the clouds vibrated, and the wind slapped the ocean like a puddle into the sky. Everyone screamed, pointed at the sky. The tall men running through the forest, bumping their heads on tree branches, and Daniel could hear Helena behind him, whimpering, but when he turned he saw a little boy, his face scrunched up, wielding a green pipe over his head at the sea-sky ready to break.
This morning (April 22nd) a small private ceremony was held in Benghazi for journalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondos, killed while on assignment in Misurata, Libya. You can read CJ Chivers’ email account of the service here and Al Jazeera’s response to the tragedy here. Earlier this year, BOMB’s Montana Wojczuk sat down with Tim Hetherington and his directing partner, Sebastian Junger, on the occasion of their new documentary film, RESTREPO; we are re-posting the podcast below.
Sascha Braunig speaks with fellow artist Aaron Gilbert on transformative acts of the body, and the transformative act of painting.
Braunig’s paintings of hybrid figures exist in a shifting ground between portraiture and invention; painted in an ostensibly realist style, their fantastic coloration and augmented bodies suggest a parallel realm. These beings, though artificial, carry a unique personal and social charge.
Aaron Gilbert I fluctuate between seeing the subjects as being mutilated or as being adorned.
Sascha Braunig I have impulses towards doing both, and I think that they’re pretty related. I think that fashion and art have always mutilated the figure. I’m both attracted to and involved in that history, but also commenting on it.
AG You say mutilation and adornment are pretty related, could you expand on that?
SB Maybe I wouldn’t use the word mutilated. But adorning the body is fashion, and fashion often uses death-like imagery in its treatment of the body. And of course figurative art is very decorative, but it has treated the body, especially the female body, pretty badly over the years.
AG Any specific moment that stands out in your mind, in that regard?
SB In art, literature, and fashion the female body is perpetually abstracted, reduced, distorted, or compared with inanimate objects. From Baudelaire to Picasso, to Otto Dix, to any kind of fashion photo. I immediately think of Hans Bellmer as an artist who is almost pathologically or sadistically distorting the female body.
Kaveri Nair reviews Bologna Meissen, Dianna Molzan’s new solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum, and assesses the difference between painting and “painting.”
Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose works are now being shown at MoMA as part of a major retrospective, spent the 1920s developing many of the techniques of avant-garde cinema—in the belief that the new technology of film would help the working class transform reality.
A stand-out at Sundance and Berlin this year, Braden King’s film HERE deals with themes of exploration in life, cinema, and map-making. Alex Zafiris talks to the filmmaker on his return from Sundance 2011.
Friends of the High Line commissions artists to make site-specific works along the former railway. Tabitha Piseno speaks to curator Lauren Ross and artist Kim Beck about art and the urban environment.
Shifting Connections continues with writer and critic Kathleen MacQueen’s take on Joseph Kosuth’s new installation at Sean Kelly Gallery, on view through April 30th.
BOMB would like to alert you to the week ahead of you. Read on for the best arts and culture events New York has to offer, including Brooklyn poets, a Funeral for a Dog, a Kara Walker Thursday, Soviet avant-garde film, dance without discipline, and yes, more Brooklyn poets.