Concepts in Performance: Taka Iimura

Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsCavaliere, Barbara
SourceSoho Weekly News, NYC, NY (1979)
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Taka Iimura's "I equals You equals He/She"
June 5-17, 1979
Performance June 9
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Av.

"I equals You equals He/She" is participation/performance through the medium of video. The participating performers include the audience (through the duration of the live video installation) and Taka Iimura himself (in his performance/demonstration-as-participant). The installation in which this live action takes place consists of three video camera/monitors, three audiotapes (heard through three sets of headphones) and a swivel chair on which the participant sits.

Part I: the live video installation. You bring the piece to life. You choose to participate. You decide on the order by organizing how you see and hear about self. You select which of the three monitors you face and for how long. While the monitors automatically shift from front to side to rear view of your transmitted self-image. You choose also from among the three sets of headphones, hearing a voice say repeatedly either "I am," "you are," or "he is, she is." Self is perceived simultaneously through the visible and the audible. Both points of view change continually, interpenetrating in various combinations, expanding consciousness of self through the timing and placement of the visual and verbal sequences created by your

Part II: Iimura's performance. He, like you, brings the piece to life. In the first portion of his two-part participation, Iimura works out a non-sequential rotation of front/side/rear views of self, projected live on the three monitors. At the same time, he is hearing (privately, as you did) the repeated intonations of either the first, second or third person of the state-of-being verb "to be" in the present tense. (It is interesting to note the multiple use of the highly symbolic number three in the piece.) Talking into a mike, Iimura interjects phrases such as "seeing myself from the front...hearing my voice...trying to see myself on the side...turning to camera number two...listening to your voice...doing a performance...raising your hand..."

In the second part of the performance, he shows a videotape from part one on one of the screens along with live images on the other two. The recorded audio segments (both the "I am, you are..." part and Iimura's just-recorded phrases) are played back for all to hear, while Iimura periodically adds live phrases and changes his position in relationship to the monitors. Past and present intermingle.

The chief origin for Iimura's approach is in the work of Allan Kaprow, founder and major theorizer of participation performance, whose Activities of the past decade have not received the attention due them. Directly related to Kaprow's example are Iimura's concepts of continuity, choice, grammatical structure such as "ing" to stress the continuing present, and doing/remembering as inter-related routes toward deeper scrutiny of self. (Kaprow also incorporates relations with others in his discourse.)
The East/West dialectic enters into both as well: for Kaprow from West to East and for Iimura from East to West, of course. The main difference in the two artists shows up as technology: Kaprow's work focuses on experience directly in the environment of the world, and Iimura's interest centers on experience literally recorded through the technology of video equipment, manipulated to act as audiovisual aid for exploration into self-identification.