Daggers thrown at Stars

Comi Comi, 7:
Daggers thrown at Stars

Fear drives a cold sweat. “Smallpox vaccination” (1934) & “Women Observing Stars” (1936) are paintings by Ōta Chōu. Seen alongside Toshio Matsumoto, his documentary The Weavers of Nishijin (1961) the Whole Earth Catalog and Apollo 11, they suggest a modern conundrum; who are these modern people? Us?

Obscured faces read like curiosity tethered to the ground. For the women in Ōta’s paintings, that curiosity is earthbound or under the skin. Staring at machines for what they do not what they are suggests an awareness of something happening in the background. They are tangible and immediate but still a mystery. Disembodied, the filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto weaved voices from a Kyoto factory with the image of children playing in the shadow of a silk house in the 1961 documentary The Weavers of Nishijin. At some point a voice is heard from out of nowhere describing the scene. “They do not understand the invisible forces at work, yet they can see them.”