A Powell Street Festival and Blim Arts Society coproduction. At the Vancouver Japanese Language School on Thursday (June 21). No remaining performances
Conceptually, I-Spy: Voyeurism in Contemporary Japanese Culture was a mess. And I'm really glad I went.
Not because of Jung Hee Lee's animated shorts, and not because of Kozue Matsumoto's what-I-did-on-my-holidays slide show set to her own koto and singing. The first two-thirds of this three-part program, ostensibly but not very successfully designed to examine the role of voyeurism in Japanese culture, were both off-topic and unfocused. But Sachiyo Takahashi, who closed the evening, is a genius.
Using basic, low-tech resources–including a consumer-grade video camera, a tiny plastic sheep, some cloth, and a toy telephone–she's created one of the most uncanny film worlds you'll ever see. If, that is, you can suspend your disbelief long enough to enter her dream.
It's not just that her star is a plastic sheep. It's that she makes her movies in real time, manipulating sheep, cloth, and fortune-cookie-sized lines of text with a pair of tweezers, shaking her minuscule stage to simulate excitement, getting lost in the make-believe fog of a jar of feathers. And it's that her untitled, hourlong opus is a love story of sorts, albeit one that starts with a fingertip-sized quadruped and a thin red line of thread.
The thread leads to the sheep's true love. Perhaps. It does lead to a Barbie-like doll; we see our woolly protagonist embrace the doll's leg through a tiny window cut in a sheet of pink paper. (We're the voyeurs, I guess.) But the sheep moves on. The doll, a tiny line of text tells us, was a smoker.
And the thread leads to a rock star. Sheep falls asleep in the crook of the rock star's arm as the rock star croons Elvis Presley's "Blue Moon". The rock star, by the way, is a terry-cloth bunny, like something you'd give a newborn. That's not enough to tether the sheep, though, who awards the bunny-King his red thread and heads home, unencumbered by anything other than song.
I'm not making any of this up. And I'm not lying, either, when I say that during long stretches of this performance I wore an idiot grin, charmed and cheered by the absurdity of it all–and by the way Takahashi's singular imagination made an old story new.