Delight in the tactile, poetic films of the late abstract experimental filmmaker and optical artist.
Stom Sogo’s life may have ended abruptly in 2012, but the cinematic legacy of the Japanese film-crafter truly lives on. A master of lo-tech, DIY filmmaking who was also a fiercely devoted experimentalist, Sogo’s oeuvres are both tactile and transcendent, sensuous and sublime. Referring to his films as “mental eye candy,” Sogo claimed they “taste sweet first, seizure second”—a fitting description for his viscerally-stimulating, physically-charged work. Dissonant and dizzying, Sogo’s cinematic juxtapositions create an undeniably dynamic duality, engaging viewers by jolting them with epileptic, strobed images, massaging them with psychedelic abstractions and splashes of light, color, texture, and sound, and inviting them into his inner-world through intimate, splintered glimpses of the people and places in his life. Sogo’s films display an incredible amount of imagination, investigation, ingenuity, and innovation; his original manipulations and re-recordings certainly evidence his novel approach to the craft of filmmaking, while his knack for renewing and recycling his own work endow them with a unique energy: Rejecting static stagnation, Sogo’s ever-evolving work was always undergoing metamorphic updates and upgrades. The Echo Park Film Center pays tribute to the late Sogo with a program that includes “Guided by Voices,” “Silver Play,” “Slow Death,” “Carrie at Still,” and a reel from Sogo’s 9-part Diary film series, “I Haven’t Done Anything Yet.”
Program: GUIDED BY VOICES (2000, 10:30 minutes, video); SILVER PLAY (2002 minutes, 16 minutes, video); SLOW DEATH (2000, 15:30 minutes, Super 8mm); CARRIE AT STILL (1998, 27 minutes, Super 8mm). Also included will be a reel from Sogo’s 9-part Diary film series I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING YET (dated 1995, likely shot sometime earlier).
A dynamo whose thunderous potential was cut short by his premature death, Japanese moving-image artist Stom Sogo (1975-2012) remains a romantic rebel if ever there was one. For over two decades he created a hair-raising body of aggressively beautiful films and videos. His distinctive, psychically charged work revels in optic and aural jolts just as much as it attempts a sincere connection with the viewer. While he mastered numerous approaches, his primary technique involved heavy amounts of re-photography, a process that allowed him to fashion multiple electrified layers of strobing imagery. Other pieces demonstrate his uncanny editing prowess in their startling juxtaposition of home movies with materials taken from an expansive array of unlikely sources.
Sogo was a standout in MoMA’s landmark 8mm BIG AS LIFE survey, the 2002 Whitney Biennial, multiple editions of the New York Underground Film Festival and many other exhibitions. Born and raised in Osaka, he came to the U.S. for high school and eventually landed in NYC where he started working at Anthology. Truly a catalyst in every sense of the word, Sogo’s inexhaustible energy and inspiration helped kick open the doors of this staid institution to a younger generation of artists and fellow travelers. He moved to San Francisco in the early 2000s before returning to Brooklyn, and eventually Japan where he remained until his death in July 2012.
A prolific creator and a devoted experimentalist, Sogo often began with Super-8 or mini-DV and constantly renewed his works with hybrid electronic remixes. With each step the material achieved a higher level of intensity, sometimes to the point of self-destruction. As overtly poetic and autobiographical as they are often fiercely abstract, Sogo’s works do not shy away from exploring visual and sonic extremes. From his speedy and spectacular early diaries to his painstakingly rendered late digital manipulations, this posthumous survey features a wide selection of works from his extensive personal archive which now resides at Anthology. The programs remain open to the inclusion of additional titles as new discoveries are still being made in the many boxes and hard drives that Sogo left behind for us to uncover.
“[A] movie’s reality should be as nasty and fucked up as possible, so we want to get fuck out of the theater and hope for something better in life…. I try not to have a message or even word in my movie. But I usually have some sick stories behind each of the movies. Those are just mental eye candy that it taste sweet first, seizure second.” –Stom Sogo