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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007
By C.B. LIDDELL
Museum of Modern Art, Saitama
Hiroshi Teshigahara, who died in 2001, is chiefly remembered as the avant-garde film director who gave celluloid form to author Kobo Abe's surreal, Kafkaesque novel, "The Woman in the Dunes" (1964). One of the things that made the movie so impressive was the life that Teshigahara gave to the sand. At times it seems to have a will of its own as the protagonist finds himself trapped with a mysterious woman.
This quality was no accident — it was intimately related to other aspects of Teshigahara's creativity, as a retrospective of his work at MOMA Saitama (www.momas.jp) makes clear. In addition to his film work, Teshigahara was also a painter, calligrapher, potter and, most significantly, a member of an important ikebana (flower arrangement) dynasty. When Teshigahara's father — Sofu Teshigahara, the founder of the Sogetsu School of ikebana — died in 1979, his filmmaker son succeeded him.
While ikebana often has a rather prissy, rulebound image, Sogetsu holds that upon learning the rules, practitioners have the freedom to break them. Giving life to not just plants but also to rocks, scrap metal and other inanimate objects is the essence of the movement. A favorite material for Teshigahara was bamboo, with several impressive installations on site, including a lengthy bamboo tunnel by which visitors enter the exhibition. There are also fine examples of his pottery and photographs of some of his excellent past creations. In short, this exhibition shows why Teshigahara was the ideal director for Abe's great novel.