Friday, August 28, 2009

A trip to the dark side with artist and animator Daisuke Ichiba

by Chris MaGee

One of the most fun things about last week's Shinsedai Cinema Festival was in fact an event that the fest co-presented on August 18th in conjunction with Film Fort called "Seconds Under The Sun". (Check out our original announcement here). Not that Shinsedai wasn't fun, but you perceive an event differently when you're organizing it as opposed to just being a guest. That and the fun of seeing films that someone else has brought together.

On a hot, humid summer night the back space of Function 13 Gallery here in Toronto's Kensington Market was packed with both animation connesours and just the culturally curious to take in a programme curated by local artist and musician Naomi Hocura. Naomi and her husband, Brandon, recently made it back to Toronto after 5 years living in Tokyo and it was there that she discovered the majority of filmmakers higlighted in the programme. From the stately stop motion puppet animation of Kihachiro Kawamoto to the manga inspired work of Akino Kondoh, who was in attendance to present her second animated film "Ladybug Requiem", Naomi managed to give a startling cross section of some of the best contemporary animation from Japan today in just 90 minutes. The crowd loved every second of it, even when the films made you scratch your head like the work of K+ME and Shintaro Kago. Of all the filmmakers whose work tread around the margins of comprehensibility, and sometimes good taste, the one that shocked, disturbed and frightened the audience (specifically a small boy who came with his mother who I assumed thought there would "cartoons" screened) was a short film by artist and animator Daisuke Ichiba.

Born in 1963 Ichiba didn't start publicly displaying and publishing his drawing and paintings until 1990 when at the age of 37 her self-published a book titled, appropriately enough, "37
Year Old Bastard". That book brought him to the attention of mangaka Takashi Nemoto whose avant-garde works graced the pages of underground comics like "Garo", as well as to the curators of the Le Dernier Cri Outsider Art Gallery in Marseille, France. Since that time Ichiba has released almost a book a year with titles like "Fingers and Tongues", "no way out for Daisuke Ichiba", and "METHYLETHYLKETONEPEROXIDE". You can find out at least a little more about Ichiba at his website, but even there this artist remains a bit of an enigma. If you're not faint of heart you can also check out the very same film that screened at "Seconds Under the Sun", titled "Animation for Les Religions Sauvages by Le Dernier Cri" below and see if it either has you clicking on the pause button or sitting in the kind of dumbstruck awe that I found myself at Function 13. A word of warning though - while there isn't nudity per se the film does feature a hell of a lot of depiction of women's genitalia and is generally a pretty disturbing two and a half minutes, so you may want to think twice about checking it out if you're at work.

If you are as taken with Ichiba's nightmarish and fascinating world as I am then you'll be happy to know that Naomi Hocura and Film Fort are trying to pull together a full retrospective of his work here in Toronto, but the exact date and venue have not been decided yet.

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