Sensual Life: The Films and Videos of Kyoko Michishita

June 24

 —  July 16

Self Assessment

Location: Le Labo, Suite 277, 401 Richmond St West, Toronto

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12PM - 6PM 

(Closed Friday, July 1st and Saturday, July 2nd)


COVID-19 Policy:

Images Festival is committed to providing an accessible festival and continues to work to reduce barriers to participation at our events. This year, we are implementing a COVID-19 policy to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for all, and to prioritize the participation of people who are disability-identified, immunocompromised, or part of an otherwise vulnerable group.


The following guidelines will be in place:


Masking: Masking is required when visiting the exhibition.

Self-Assessment: We ask that staff and participants screen themselves for COVID-19 before visiting the exhibition.




Borrowing its title from her 1980 essay collection, in which she reflected on the state of contemporary feminism in her home country of Japan, “Sensual Life: The Films and Videos of Kyoko Michishita” is the first North American exhibition dedicated to the artist, writer, and translator.


An early adopter of video in Japan—and member of the trailblazing collective Video Hiroba, alongside other luminaries like Fujiko Nakaya, Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, and Toshio Matsumoto—Michishita began her career with productions that wed her interest in formal experimentation and the technology’s potential for new forms of communication with her long-held investment in feminism.


At the core of Michishita’s practice is an investment in women’s expression and their place in society, as well as within the family unit. Grounded in a nuanced consideration of gender politics and power, the works in this exhibition also engage deeply with questions of place and environment, often intersecting with her own autobiography. Moving from Tokyo to the northern prefecture of Hokkaido, including the coastal town of Hamanaka, Michishita reflects on her personal and familial connections to the island of Sakhalin, a Japanese territory at the time of her birth before its Russian conquest in World War II.


Michishita is best known in Japan for her literary work; this exhibition places her rarely exhibited films and videos in dialogue with her writing. Michishita was credited with introducing key figures like Gloria Steinem, Georgia O’Keeffe and Gene Marine to the nation through her translations and articles—her 1975 translation of the latter’s pillar of second-wave feminism, A Male Guide To Women’s Liberation (1972), was particularly epoch-defining in its domestic advancement of the movement. Original copies of these texts are displayed alongside her own publications, including the autobiographical non-fiction of Farewell to Sakhalin (1995), and the novel The Blue Hour (2008).


Experimenting with video as a means to extend the aims and approaches of consciousness raising as employed by the women’s movement in North America, Women’s Liberation Is Human Liberation documents a presentation by Michishita on the topic of women’s rights in Japan to the all-male members of a local Rotary club, whose interest and conviction in the material at hand often appears forced at best.


A subtle portrayal of not just gender dynamics, but also larger questions of labour, sustenance, and the human relationship with nature, Being Women in Japan: Living with the Ocean alternates between footage of men and women fisherman harvesting kelp, and interviews with both about their lives and their work.


Rather than limit herself to the thrilling but raw and rudimentary consumer-grade video Michishita experimented with as part of Video Hiroba and beyond, the exhibition includes a selection of the artist’s impressionistic 16mm films. Set to the music of composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, Cherry Blossoms suggests something of O’Keeffe’s delicate yet bold representation of floral life, while the hushed In My Hometown trilogy captures the snowy landscape of Sapporo with a refined eye for its shadows and textures.


Jesse Cumming


Presented with the support of The Japan Foundation Toronto. This exhibition features new digital restorations courtesy of Vtape.


  • Kyoko Michishita is a Japanese artist, writer, and translator. Her video Being Women in Japan: Liberation within My Family (1973-74) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and her other films and videos have been screened at many festivals, galleries, and museums across Japan and internationally.


Co-presented with

  • Le Labo
  • The Japan Foundation

Images Festival

309-401 Richmond St West
Toronto ON 
M5V 3A8 Canada

Telephone +1 416 971 8405
Office Hours •  Tuesday–Friday • 10AM–6PM
Closed Mondays from May–January


  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Government of Canada
  • Ontario Arts Council
  • Telefilm Canada
  • Toronto Arts Council
  • Vtape
  • York University School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design
  • 0_TD
  • Digital Arts Ressource Centre
  • The Japan Foundation
  • The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film
  • CalArts
  • Art Museum

Images Festival would like to acknowledge

The land on which we gather and organize is the territory of the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is home to many Indigenous peoples.

A territorial acknowledgement can demonstrate a coming to awareness, and provoke thought and reflection, all of which are essential in beginning to establish reciprocal relations. This acknowledgement should not function as closure, resignation, or acceptance of the structural conditions of settler colonialism that remain in effect today. The Images Festival will continue to ask what it means for us to keep open a spirit of sustained inquiry into the complexities of our context.