Kota Ezawa

German (Cologne, Germany, 1969)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

film installation | 16mm film projection, color, silent, 2:00 min.
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  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being

    Kota Ezawa, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 2005; 16mm film projection, color, silent, 2:00 min., dimensions variable; Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase in honor of Benjamin Weil, curator of media arts, 2000 to 2006; © Kota Ezawa

Drawing on iconic film and photographic imagery, Kota Ezawa creates vividly colored, stylized animations that speak to the role of mass media in shaping collective memory. The artist represents emotionally charged events through abstract renderings that are shown as light boxes, film, and video projections.

With The Unbearable Lightness of Being Ezawa investigates how film contributes to American mythologies surrounding celebrity and violence. The work depicts the assassinations of U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Ezawa recreated two film segments: the fictional account of Lincoln's assassination in Fords Theater, as portrayed in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915), and Abraham Zapruder's amateur 8mm reel of the Kennedy assassination. Both films have had a controversial history as contested accounts: one as a racist fictional reenactment, the other an evidentiary document.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is presented as a 16mm film projection, which emphasizes Ezawa's method of quoting from film sources. Silent, except for the evocative whirring of the projector, it plays as a continuous loop that alternates between each tragic episode.

Dimensions variable
Acquired 2006
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund purchase in honor of Benjamin Weil, curator of media arts, 2000 to 2006
© Kota Ezawa


mass media, assassinations, presidents, United States history, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, death, violence, animation

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