Contemporary Art and 1959-1960



Yasumasa Morimura (b. 1951) is a photographer who carefully reproduces iconic photographs of the 20th century using himself and other Japanese actors to recreate the scenes. From a recent catalogue there are two reproductions of photographs from 1960: an image of Che Guevara taken originally at the La Coubre memorial service by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960; The assassination of Inejiro Asanuma (1898-1960), Chair of the Japanese Socialist Party and Member of the House of representatives, assassinated by 17-year old extreme rightist Otoya Yamaguchi at a televised rally for the upcoming lower-house elections on Oct.12, 1960. From the catalogue:
  • "He theatrically stages the strain of confronting a world which cannot be disregarded and with which contact has been decidedly violent, as well as inevitable." (Vettese, 18)
  • "The era of single cultures has finished and a culture of hybrids has begun. For everyone, Morimura repeats how much this mutation process, which he and his people were the first in the world to face in a radical way, can be disorienting and destructive. His whole oeuvre is focused on the ruptures on the veil of identity, but also, in his last production, on the dangers of a new dictatorship." (Vettese, 19)

As with all listings in this section, the repetition of 1959-1960 in the present moment offers a fascinating recurrence, perhaps an eternal return or a repetition with a difference. CB



The exhibition "Sights/Sites of Spectacle" that was curated in conjunction with this year's AHVA graduate symposium included two works that referenced the years 1959-1960.
  • The first is a reproduction of a Las Vegas casino sign. "Starburst" by Kristi Malakoff. Malakoff recreated the famed signage using a children's craft technique of gluing brightly coloured tissue paper to a surface using the end of a pencil. The effect is a fragile, playful, textural surface that stands in contrast to the original sign's use of electricity and neon.
  • The sign is described on wikipedia: "The famed Stardust sign became a symbol of Las Vegas. Young Electric Sign Company was hired to fabricate the sign. .. The Stardust sign gave visitors a panoramic view of the solar system. At the sign's center sat a 16-foot (4.9 m) diameter plastic model of the Earth, taken from the Sputnik. Cosmic rays of neon and electric light bulbs beamed from behind the model earth in all direction. Three-dimensional acrylic glass planets spun alongside 20 scintillating neon starbursts. Across the universe was a jagged galaxy of electric lettering spelling out "Stardust". The sign utilized 7,100 ft (2,200 m) of neon tubing with over 11,000 bulbs along its 216 ft (66 m) front. The "S" alone contained 975 lamps. At night the neon constellation was reportedly visible 60 miles (97 km) away. The roadside sign was freestanding with a circle constraining an amorphous cloud of cosmic dust circled by an orbit ring and covered in dancing stars. The hotel's name was nestled in a galactic cloud."
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  • The second work from the "Sights/Sites" exhibition is a video installation by Claire Hodge entitled "Decoupage." The multi-channel work uses repetition and editing of scenes from Francois Truffaud's film "Tirez Sur Le Pianiste" (1960). ("Tirez Sur le Pianiste" is ranked alongside Godard's "A Bout de Souffle" in the history of the New Wave.)