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Installed in a now-defunct junior high school in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, "Cinema Kamigo" was Antioch alumnus John Wells' contribution to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale art festival. (Photo by Keizo Kioku)

Antioch alumnus debuts Little Art-inspired work at Japanese art festival

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Antioch alumnus John Wells, aka Can Tamura, has brought a little of Yellow Springs to Japan.

Now a filmmaker, Wells was a student at Antioch from 1988 to 1993 and a longtime projectionist at the Little Art Theatre and has been living in Japan since 1993.

Last year, Wells took part in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Niigata Prefecture, Japan — one of the world’s largest art festivals, held every three years since 2000. His contribution to the festival was an art installation that included the construction of a miniature movie theater called “Cinema Kamigo” — and its design was heavily influenced by the Little Art.

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As Wells wrote to the News this week: “I recreated the Little Art’s side brick walls with wood, and stained the wood with traditional bengala red iron oxide and kakishibu persimmon tannin stain to look similar to the brick color of the Little Art. The marquee was made with a black frame and small lights around the bottom, just like the Little Art. I wrote the name of the theater on the front … and put the film titles in red on the sides, just like the Little Art’s marquee.”

Though the seating inside “Cinema Kamigo” was miniature, its screen was large enough for visitors to the installation to view a series of 24 short films, edited into one piece, created by Wells. The films showed every season of Echigo-Tsumari, filmed over a period of one year. Each of the 24 short films corresponded to a solar term, which are part of the traditional Japanese calendar and represent a significant natural phenomenon or astronomical event.

“Cinema Kamigo” was installed in what was once the principal’s office of a now-defunct junior high school. Because Japan’s population is both aging and declining, many now-unused school buildings around the country have been repurposed, including for use as art-related spaces.

Wells wrote that part of the reason he made “Cinema Kamigo” in the style of the Little Art was  “to make a connection to the memory of my life in Yellow Springs, Antioch and the Little Art Theatre — and the particular kind of creativity and influences I felt during that time.”

To view the short films that were screened inside “Cinema Kamigo,” go to For more information on Wells and his work, go to

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