Shūji Terayama

Emperor Tomato Ketchup, 1971, film

📍 Venue → GHMP

Emperor Tomato Ketchup, one of Japanese avant-garde protagonist Shūji Terayama’s important films, is a showcase of children-led violence inspired by the post-war agency of speculative content. More than fifty years since the work was first shown to the public, the short film exhibits the remnants of morality plays: a theater of ethical projections triggered by embarrassment, guilt, and shame. The child’s body is visualized and politicized at the center of this drama, yet its junkiness recedes into the frame of Terayama’s aesthetic program. Several types of embodiment are recreated with cinematic intervention until the collapse between language and body becomes palpable. These failed bodies that are performed in black-and-white vignettes recuperate from their pornographic charge only to reveal the contours of their flatness. By showing Emperor Tomato Ketchup today, childishness is regenerated outside the realm of adult imagination and parental guidance, on its  terms and conditions as original losers, those who have already lost kinship before they could participate in the joy and violence of world-making.