Japanese Red Army makes reappearance thanks to Eric Baudelaire at Gasworks

By Mark Sheerin | 10 May 2012
Black and white photo of a Japanese woman on a balcony
Eric Baudelaire, Detail from Fusako Shigenobu Family Album, 27 photographs (2012)© Eric Baudelaire, all rights reserved
Exhibition: The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images, Gasworks, London, May 11 – July 22 2012

While the infamous Ulrike Meinhof gave up journalism for a fugative life of radical politics, the lesser known May Shigenobu gave up a fugitive life in radical politics for a career in television journalism.

Shigenobu is one of two characters in a film by Eric Baudelaire. The other is Masao Adachi, a film director who joined the Japanese Red Army in the early 70s and traded his camera for a rifle.

A third presence in the show is May's mother, Fusako Shigenobu, the founder of the the group. Jailed in 2006, she makes an appearance via documents, photographs and prison drawings, and works on paper.

Armed struggle against the state is not what it used to be. Today's terrorists are more likely to be Jihadi rather than revolutionary. So the notion of a leftist Japanese militia operating out of the Middle East appears a surreal quirk of ancient history.

So Baudelaire has done well to excavate the story of the JRA and piece together interviews with Adachi and Shigenobu junior. Super8 footage of Tokyo provides the backdrop to their testimonies. Perhaps the critical subject here is image making and storytelling, rather than terrorism.

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