Filmmaker and video artist Takahiko Iimura's 1960s and 1970s films pare down cinematic elements to their bare minimum in order to investigate the material basis of duration, anticipation, and resolution. In many ways, Iimura, who came to New York City from Tokyo in the 1960s, is a spiritual inheritor of that decade's flicker experiments. In his Timed 1, 2, 3 (1972), taken from his Models series (made between 1972 and 1980), Iimura shifts between ten-second spans of clear and dark leader, gradually adding more light frames than dark. For the first section of the film, he scratched a single horizontal line into the optical soundtrack for every second of the ten-minute, fifteen-second film, thus producing an electronic "bip." In the film's second section, the "bip" comes every ten seconds. In the final section, the bip is heard every one hundred seconds. While obviously interested in the material construction of cinema, Iimura's work is also an investigation into cinematic spectatorship. Absent any identifiable representation, viewers are left with alternating patterns of light and dark, and a sound that becomes harder to anticipate the longer the film goes on. In the light and dark, the spectator's only signpost is the routinely occurring audible demarcation of time. As the film progresses, however, the viewer/auditor cannot accurately count out the one hundred seconds between bips--one anticipates the sound but is surprised to find it happening earlier or later than expected.
Iimura's White Calligraphy (1967) relays the eighth-century myths of Kojiki, the oldest written story in Japan. Iimura scratched twelve thousand characters into black leader, one for every frame of the film. The characters are a mix of Chinese kanji and Japanese hiragana--the former indicate sounds rather than words and represent the original song-language of the Kojiki. Even withstanding the language barrier for non-Japanese viewers, the film is a story told many times, but told too fast to see or hear here. Iimura's inscriptions take on playful, dancing twists and turns as they rush by. Iimura has also performed White Calligraphy in various ways, reducing the 16mm original to an 8mm film played through a variable-speed projector. In these performances, Iimura projects the characters on himself, on the walls of the theater, or on audience members, at times slowing the projection down enough for characters to be read, at others speeding them up beyond comprehension.