Performance in print: Channeling Tōmatsu Shōmei’s NO.541

Performance in print: Channeling Tōmatsu Shōmei’s NO.541
Author: Stojkovic, Jelena (2019)


At 1 p.m. on 6 February 1971, eight “actors,” a reporter, and a cameraman entered a space at an undisclosed location with the intention of spending 24 hours together. They did not belong to a single artistic group and some of them had never met before. Tōmatsu Shōmei’s photographic record of this event appeared in the spring 1971 issue of the magazine Kikan shashin eizō accompanied by sections from a transcript of the tape recording. The images and the text – jointly titled NO.541 – offer fragmented glimpses into the situations and conversations unfolding in the room and also function with and against each other, as in a dialogue.

The jointly written text continues this dialogue in the writing up of major themes contextualizing the performing and recording of this work: the space, the magazine page, and the body. We imagine ourselves in NO.541 and enact this intermingling of space-times by reproducing not only some of Tōmatsu’s photographs but also parts of the transcript in translation. Joining the conversation, we adopt some of the main strategies of the image-text, such as fragmentation, improvisation, and refusal of any singularity. Woman C and Man G take on the role of mediums, channeling, for instance, a possible future re-enactment instead of producing a conclusive account of the event.

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