by Claudia Siefen

The films by independent filmmaker Goh Harada present both narrative and experimental cinema. They are equally accessible to audiences interested in practice and theory alike. Harada does not focus on people as privileged actors or performers, but rather on the emotional network of relationships between the elements “technology” and “physical living worlds”. Harada ‘s 16mm work captivates by its craftsmanship without neglecting the lyrical aspects. If, for example, he makes a black pigment image surface meet a white one, he brings the materials onto the transparent film, frame by frame, with his fingertips. And this film then shows 17,000 black and white images through the projector, generating  feverish movements. This kind of film, however, doesn’t contradict other films like the one in which Harada documents an afternoon in Tokyo in the 2000s: cooking a favourite soup, washing dishes, listening to the radio and strolling through the park. His current video works combine different images with non-affiliated sounds (at a first glance), but then synchronize a time lapse within their montage and their interplay.

Harada was born in Tokyo in 1963 and studied electrical engineering at the renowned Kei? University. 1993-1999 Studies (master class) at the State Academy of Fine Arts – Städelschule -, Frankfurt/M, film and cooking / master class Prof. Peter Kubelka. For the first time a selection of Harada’s 16mm works was presented by me during the JAPANNUAL 2018 in the city of Vienna, in cooperation with the “Austrian-Japanese Society”.

97/98 (1998)

24.12.1996 SCHWARZFILM MIT LICHTTON (1997): A Conversation between the filmmaker and his mother in its purest way; cleaning with a vacuum cleaner, talking about the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru, calling for a delivery of noodles for  lunch, with the delivery service closed. They start cooking udon noodles, talk about his stay in Germany etc. A telephone dial, a car ride, noodles cooked and people talking about Germany. The sound of the cooking appliances, the rattling and sizzling. And a pure focus on the conversation.

FRÜHSTÜCK (1996): They are not quite awake yet. She eats a little. He smokes. – A cinematic preziose!

96/97 (1997): is Harada ‘s first sound film in which he examines the connection between sound and image and the possibility of sound film. The pictures were taken without him looking through the viewfinder of the camera, so that he could remove (consciously and unconsciously) his mounted stencils in the picture. With this material then he composed the structure, scene by scene. Before the actual filming and of course before the actual film editing, he deliberately rejected a concrete draft of the film, because he wanted to feel what was created during the arrangement of the film. Pictures and sound in the film are from his private life: shopping, cooking, eating, washing up, walking.

97/98 (1998): is a sequel of Harada’s first sound film 96/97, in which he examined the possibility of colour expression and the possibility of sound film. But 97/98 is not only about his private life, it shows also how he thinks and works cinematically. The working method of this film is intentionally the same as in 96/97, so that Harada also could encounter the feeling when asking the question, what exactly is going to happen in 97/98?.


SCHWARZFILM (1995): Dark “Edding” pen was applied to the 16mm blank film and pressed directly onto the blank film and lubricated with the fingers. A few fingerprints can still be seen. Then  a dupe-negative of this blank film was produced in the film laboratory. No camera was used and the film was not reworked.

WEISSFILM (1996): Here the production method was similar to SCHWARZFILM, but white silicone (joint sealant) was applied to the 16mm blank film with the fingers instead. Again no camera was used and the film was not reworked.

NATURFILM (2007): In this film everything is in constant motion: the water, the light, waves and wind. The elements cross and confront each other here, and as this happens, the colours and sounds are first set in motion here. This project started as an idea for a “simple” film: frame, material and sound were designed as simply as possible.

BLAUFILM (2000): This film was made by hand with the following materials: 16mm blank film (100m), transparent silicon, and blue pigment (prussian-paris blue), without a camera. There are 14,000 continuous blue pictures in this film, without cuts. The reality of this work is the continuity of emotion and feeling in the colour blue, which is represented by the images. Harada shows the emotional significance of the colour “blue”, as blue seems to be a most spiritual colour. The deeper it is, he shows, the more it awakens a desire for the eternal. You can see it dotted poignantly in this film, sometimes as part of a far-off backdrop, and often as the outline of a mysterious mountain settlement.


LAMPENSCHWARZ (2003): Was created by using 16mm blank film and black pigment, which has been manually rubbed into a layer of transparent silicone. In projection, it becomes a rapid and infinitely complex hypnagogic vision. Frame by frame, this film shows 17,000 of these different black and white images through the rapid speed of the projector. Black surface meets white surface, fabricated by the projection lamp!

It is true that the avant-garde in cinema had succeeded in “detaching” itself from society. It proceeded to turn around and repudiate revolutionary as well as bourgeois politics. The revolution was left inside society, a part of that welter of ideological struggle which art and poetry find so unpropitious as soon as it begins to involve those “precious” axiomatic beliefs upon which culture thus far has had to rest.

Hence it developed that the true and most important function of the avant-garde was not to “experiment,” but to find a path along where it would be possible to keep culture melting in the midst of ideological confusion and violence. Retiring from public altogether, the avant-garde film sought to maintain the high level of art by both narrowing and raising it to the expression of an absolute in which all relativities and contradictions would be either resolved or beside the point. “Art for art’s sake” and “pure poetry” appear also with Harada and his work, and subject matter or intent becomes something to be avoided like a plague. For me Harada ‘s work has been in search of the absolute of avant-garde art but has arrived at: “abstract” or “nonobjective” art. And poetry.

— All images courtesy of Goh Harada
Thanks to Goh Harada, Ayumi Kondo, and Georg Schneider.