Everything Is Illuminated: Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver’s Immersive Cinema
From discos to eBay, a curator and a conservator talk about reconstructing a work first seen in a ’60s Tokyo nightclub.
Sophie Cavoulacos, Peter Oleksik
Feb 17, 2021
Mitch Leitschuh and Chris Brown installing and aligning the projector images in the Marie Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, July 2020
You’re transported to a different world outside of the Museum.
PO: As a conservator, we try to be as neutral as possible and privilege the voice of the artist and the decisions of the curators, so that we’re not directly involved in saying, “Oh, it should be this or that.” Working with Gulliver I had to get more comfortable with his style. He’s very collaborative and would turn to us and say, “What do you think?” And we’d say, “It doesn’t matter what we think. What do you think?” But then we had to relax and say, “Okay, we’re going to collaborate on this.”
And it’s my job to then document all of those decisions, and document who made those decisions and why so that future generations can see how it all came together.
Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver. Cinematic Illumination. 1968–69
SC: And I feel the same way as a curator. Of course, curators make decisions about exhibitions, but here it feels a bit different. Gulliver’s a very special artist to work with, and he would say things like, “The one who makes the work knows the least about it.” Having rigor but not preciousness, and specificity and passion but not nostalgia—I feel like that’s a special cocktail for taking care of these works that have no history in the US.
PO: A lot of works like Cinematic Illumination now live and are really informed by all different institutions, and people, and they are constantly feeding back into the work and just enriching its life and the understanding of the work through processes of research and exhibition. It’s the only way to do it. It’s really just sharing and making sure we can have these conversations, and build this body of knowledge collectively. I’d say media conservation is all about collaboration.
Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver’s Cinematic Illumination, organized by Sophie Cavoulacos, is on view at MoMA through April 18, 2021.
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