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Retrospective: Terayama Shūji

13/04/19
Farewell to the Ark, by Terayama Shūji
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An important event of the 19th New Horizons festival will be Poland's first retrospective of works by Terayama Shūji (1935-1983), one of the most prominent avant-garde reformers of Japanese cinema and theater. 

It would be difficult to find another Japanese artist like Shūji Terayama. Despite the fact that he has been dead for over 30 years, my recollections of him become more and more alive every year, and his art continues to evoke such incredible emotions. Having begun his artistic career "restoring theater," Terayama went on to become one of the most important innovators in avant-garde cinema and theater in history. Remembered as an unsurpassed intellectual, a non-conformist and unyielding workaholic, not to mention a subversive who never shied away from scandal, an  enfant terrible who re-envisioned Japanese tradition in an emphatic way. Known internationally primarily as the founder of the alternative theater troupe Tenjō Sajiki, he gradually knocked down the barrier between stage and audience. You could love him or hate him: while one of Japan's most important theater critics, Akihiko Senda, praised his plays as an example of original meta-cinema and -theater, German writer Roland H. Wiegenstein complained that Japanese thugs and their powerful punches foiled his attempt to escape; he was blunt in his condemnation of Terayama, saying, "Hitler was better." Today, such stories are hard to believe. How can you explain the enigmatic disappearance of Hans Buruma, a spectator who "dissolved into the air" during a performance at the Mickery Theater? Just what did the actors do that saw them end up in court after their performances in Poland in 1973? Would it possible these days to put on a performance in the streets in which both spectators and non-spectators alike are packed into wooden boxes and then transported in trucks God knows where?

Nikodem Karolak on Terayama Shūji


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