Masao Adachi, “Artist of Fasting”: New work by radical filmmaker at Asian Arts Theatre in September

A new film by Masao Adachi, Artist of Fasting, will be screened at the Asian Arts Theatre from September 11-12th as part of the Opening Festival. Commissioned and co-produced by the Asian Arts Theatre, Adachi has turned to Kafka’s story Ein Hungerkünstler (A Hunger Artist) for inspiration and “the last remaining means of resistance: fasting”.

Adachi questions the very foundation of artistic action. Can the avant-garde still validate cinematic action in today’s cultural climate dominated by neoliberalism?

I heard about this earlier in April from a colleague but now official details have been announced online. That said, information is still currently scant, which is not surprising for a new work.

Political fasting is a subject of course brought back into the public eye by Hunger, the brutal film by Steve McQueen about the IRA hunger-strikers at the Maze Prison. As a form of protest in Japan it doesn’t have much record of success, though in other cultures, such as Irish political prisoners, it has been regularly used as a means of dissent.

masao adachi artist of fasting

After a career ranging from politicised “pink films” with Wakamatsu Productions and developing the fūkeiron (landscape theory) of filmmaking, to propaganda for the PFLP and then joining Fusako Shigenobu’s Japanese Red Army (a period referred to rather euphemistically by the Asian Arts Theatre blurb as “28-year-long activities in Lebanon devoted to the independence of Palestine”).

He was ultimately arrested in Lebanon and extradited to Japan in 2000, where he served a short sentence. Perhaps no one more than Adachi represents the conflict between being an activism and being an artist, and the attempt to reconcile the two.

He made Prisoner/Terrorist in 2007 about his old comrade-in-arms, Kōzō Okamoto. Recently Adachi has been collaborating with Eric Baudelaire, including The Ugly One, which was shown last year at the Yokohama Triennale.

The 2015-16 season for the Asian Arts Theatre also includes an untitled Tatsumi Hijikata Butoh project, as well as a dance piece by Takao Kawaguchi in the Opening Festival recreating the work of Kazuo Ohno (and Hijikata).

Set to open in September, the Asian Arts Theatre is part of the Asian Culture Center (ACC), a government-funded complex located in the heart of Gwangju City, South Korea. Programming has been handled by dramaturge Max-Philip Aschenbrenner. The AAT was announced in 2012 with much fanfare, with leading curator Frie Leysen as artistic director.

Appropriately for a venue hosting an Adachi work, Gwangju was also the site of a notorious student uprising in May 1980 in which 600 people were killed by the army. Adachi famously has no passport and cannot travel abroad anymore. While Gwangju is much closer than Lebanon, he still won’t be able to attend the screening in person.

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