Sunday, December 9, 2012

history: a short story of 1960s.

Postwar Japan was a place of precipitous urban growth. The most essential problem that emerged was how to distribute or enlarge territory for human settlements, which number increased from 3.5 million people in 1945 to 9.5 million in 1960. This is when Kenzo Tange propose his Plan for Tokyo, and when young architects coming from his lab at Tokyo University, who later transform into Metablists think of projects such as Marine City or City in the Air

Kenzo Tange presents Plan for Tokyo on TV in 1960
By the turn of the decade traditional mediums such as paintings, drawing and print were replaced by new tendencies and new generation of artists who emerged during Yomiuri Independent Exhibition (Yomiuri Anpan for short) - named after the newspaper company that sponsored it - held annually in Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from 1949 through 1963 and was admirably democratic in format.

The 10th edition of Anpan in 1958 featured core members of new generation - incuding Akasegawa Genpei, Arakawa Shusaku, Shinohara Ushio, Yoshimura Masunobu, Miki Tomio and Kudo Tetsumi. Many of these artist would be associated with the groups such as Neo-Dada and Hi Red Center, and were part of a larger tendency known as Anti-Art. Though they had few stylistic or formal commonalities, the works by these artist incorporated everyday objects, which soon became their signature feature and gained them the "junk anti-art" name.

Akasegawa Genpei, Sheets of Vagina (Second Present) 1961,
vacuum tube, car tire inner tube, hubcap, and wood,
courtesy MoMA
Kudo Tetsumi Philosophy of Impotence,
or Distribution Map of Impotence and
Rise of Protection Dome at the Saturation Point
1961-62, plastic bowls, paper, cotton, plastic, polyester, duct tape, light bulbs, string and magazine pages,
courtesy MoMA

Ushio Shinohara, Coca Cola Plan, 1964,
paint, glass, plaster, metal fittings, wood,
courtesy MoMA
Nakanishi Natsuyuki, Clothespins Assert Churinig Action,
1963, clothing and clothepins on canvas,
courtesy MoMA


The 1960s opened with massive demonstrations against the renewal of United States-Japan Security  Treaty known as ANPO. The highly controversial pack reinforced Japan's unequal partnership with its former enemy and prolong the stationing of US forces on the archipelago. In the following years, Japan had its share of student uprisings and anti-Vietnam War rallies. The street of Tokyo during this time were not only a site for political protests. Artists also made use of the city's public space as their own forum for radical actions and events.

In 1960s. art was distinctly anti-institutional. Ati-Art (Han-geijutsu) made concentrated effort to critique, subvert, and dismantle the art system, which echoed the politically turbulent atmosphere. Their anti-institutional radicalism went as far as to contribiting to the demise of the only stage for their works at the time - Yomiuri Anpan. In the aftermath of the Yomiuri Anpan's termination, avant-garde seek out alternative sites of operation. An urge for action inspired artists to wander into the streets as well as unconventional indoor venues, such as public bath.

Zero Jigen,
Bathing Ritual in Full Dress, 1964
For several years artists regularly gathered in Sogetsu Art Center headquarters of ikebana school led by Teshigahara Hiroshi to listen to jazz and to mingle with visitors from abroad. Between 1961 and 1964 John Cage, Merce Cunningham, David Tudor and Robert Rauschenberg all made intensely noticed appearances, joined by a handful of Asian artists — Yoko Ono, Nam Jun Paik and the composer Shiomi Mieko — who would become associated with Fluxus.

No one anticipated the visit of American triumvirate Cage-Cunningham-Rauschenberg with more eagerness than Shinohara Ushio, former member of Neo-Dada group. Known throughout art scene for his signature Mohawk haircut and declaration that imitating the works of other artists (in his case mostly American including Rauschenberg himself) was far more interesting, and even revolutionary than creating original works.

Although the Sogetsu Art Center existed until 1972, its character changed significantly after 1964.

Akasegawa Genpei, 1.000- Yen-Note Trial, 1963
The year 1964 marked a critical turning point in society at large for Japan. It was, for one thing the year in which the nation hosted the summer Olympics, decisively announcing its place on the international arena. The same year brought the start of a radically changed relationship between arts and culture and politics. The shift was manifested most strikingly by so-called Model 1,000- Yen-Note Incident, which befell Akasegawa Genpei who made a body of works based on the image of the thousand-yen note. Soon after he was investigated for copying the bills, and his wrapped objects and other money based works were confiscated. The following year he was accused of counterfeit and after a long trial finally convicted in 1967.

The example made out of Akasegawa speaks to the metamorphosis of Japan and Japanese state during this period.

Adapted from Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde exhibition catalogue.

Friday, November 16, 2012

history: a short story of 1950s.

On the occasion of the exhibition Tokyo 1955-1970: A new Avant-Garde, which has just opened in MoMA, I enrolled for the Japanese Post-war Art course, bits and pieces of which I'll share in the following posts.

Kojima Nobuaki, Untitled, 1964/66, lacquer on polyester
Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers on August 15, 1945 after atomic booms were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However in anticipation of the Cold War, United States, hoping to have Japan as an ally, supported its recovery from the post-war chaos, which resulted in the remarkably swift reconstruction. In 1951, after signing San Francisco Peace Treaty and Security Treaty with U.S. (ANPO), Japan reappeared on the international scene, as well as in global art community participating for the first time in Venice Biennale. This participation however revealed that the pre-war system of art, which had been restablished after the war was anachronistic. The pre-war system consisted of the two co-existing genres: nihon-ga (Japanese style painting) and yoga (Western style painting) and each was represented by the selected artist based on seniority. In contrast other countries were promoting new promising talents with the clear-cut and creative ideas.

The art circles in Japan that succeeded the pre-war one were isolated not only from the global scene but also from reality of their own war devastated country except few artists who belonged to little-know genre called reportage painting represented in the exhibition by Ikeda Tatuso, Ishii Shigeo, Nakamura Hiroshii and Yamashita Kikuji. Reportage painting was an extension of Surrealism which thrived in Japan in 1930s.

Yamashita Kikuji, Totems, 1951, oil on canvas, courtesy MoMA

By mid-1950s. though paintings has shifted towards more abstract forms. As in Ay-O's Pastoral which shows torsos and limbs in yellow, as if giving form to the homogenization, dehumanizing force of standardization that turns individuals into army of workers, toiling for prosperity in the postwar brave new world.

AY-O, Pastoral, 1956, oil on panel, courtesy MoMA
Also in mid-1950s, the Japanese art world witnessed significant shift in generation.

The most notable phenomenon of those time was Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop), which consist of 14 young artists, musicians, writers as well as engineers who came together around an influential critic Takiguchi Shuzo. The group was highly interested in combining art and technology, in reflection of the increasing industrialization and modernization of post-war Japan. Works on view includes Matusmoto Toshio's short film Ginrin (Bicycle in the Dream), which I have already covered on this blog.
Murakami Saburo, Paper breaking, 1956
Another group of 17 young enterprising artists, mostly painters gather around Yoshihara Jiro, formed in 1954 Gutai Art Asscostiantion. Their first exhibition as a group was called Experimental Outdoor Modern Art Exhibition to Challenge the Midsummer Sun, was held in the pine forest in July of 1955. Although based in Western Kansai, the group self-organized its exhibitions and stage performances also in Tokyo. Gutai is best known for it's members actions, such as Shiraga Kazuo's Challanging Mud, Tanaka Atsuko Electric Dress or Murakami Saburo's Paper Breaking. The sporadically published Gutai journal - tightly edited and designed and generously filled with reproductions and writings by group members were distributed both in Japan and outside securing them much desired recognition in the international scene.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Yokai are monstrous creatures prevalent in Japanese folklore, mythology, and indigenous animism. They appear in many shaps, forms and identities, typically portrayed as grotesque ghouls. At times, some invisible phenomenon, which could be perhaps a fabrication of the awe-struck mind, encountering Nature. These enigmatic beings are unique and strange iconographic figures that span several epochs of Japanese history. They have been depicted in the picture scrolls as early as 12c. and seem to resurface during important periods in Japan's history.

However for many people, word yokai calls up images of the rampaging creatures in scroll paintings and woodblock prints of the Edo Period, this fantastic realm is not merely a relict of the past. Even now they continue to be extremely popular characters in Japanese pop culture, showing up in literature, manga and animation. My first encounter with yokai was through the collection of Yumoto Koichi, a yokai researcher who over a period of 30 years mount a collection of 3,000 items, which a small portion was presented at Yokohama Triennale last year and ever since have been haunting my imagination.

All the images are coming from the Yokai Manga published by Seigensha. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

cool Japan

I arrived to New York to witness Yayoi Kusama selling bags! First it was Murakami, a guy behind Superflat who turned image of Japan into a cartoon inhabited by cute schoolgirls and super-nerds, now it's Kusama. I thought that Cool Japan domination over Japanese contemporary art has been washed away by tsunami and I would never expect that it will reappear under Kusama label. An avant-garde artist, central figure in the New York scene in the 1960s who worked in variety of media including experimental film best known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets, as well as large-scale environments now in the age of 83 created collection of merchandise being sold in the shop covered in her signature dots.

Monday, October 15, 2012

art in public space: discovering Columbus

photo: Jesse Hamerman
Living room six stories up in the air wrapped around a historic statue of Christopher Columbus in the middle of one of Manhattan’s busiest intersections. Tatsu Nishi has done this sort of things before. Berlin-based Japanese artist encloses public monuments in temporary rooms that serve as hotels, cafés and studio apartments offering the viewers a new perspective on places and experiences that normally go unnoticed. This time however his installation not only riled some Italian Americans but renewed debate over Columbus’s legacy. Noble explorer or greedy colonizer?
Nothing in Nishi’s work is expected to address that issue. His focus is on visual surprise and creation of surreal experience for visitors, who will be able to commune face to face in homey comfort with the 120-year old and 13-foot tall explorer sculpture as it perches on the table surrounded by couches, a bookcase and TV with the grand views of central park from the windows. 
Nishi's interest in collapsing the wall between private and public spaces goes back to his teens day when he saw Shuji Terayama film Pastoral: To Die in the Country in which a set of a taditional Japanese house suddenly collapses, revealing that the interior space had been built on the bustling street of Shinjuku, Tokyo's entertainment and shopping district.
photo: Robert Caplin

Born Tatsuro Nishino in 1960, he graduated from the painting department of Musashino Art University in 1984 and left to Germany in 1987, where he worked in the shushi restaurant in Düsseldorf until he joined Academy of Fine Arts in Münster to study sculpture. In the interview for ArtAsia Pacific (September&October issue) he tells Hanae Ko that he became interested in studying art in Germany after befriending Japanese student from Düsseldorf Art Academy who introduced him to its liberal education system different from Japan's conservative and technique-based. Lacking founds, he used sushi restaurant's storage room as a makeshift studio, where he created installations incorporating garbage from the kitchen to build his portfolio. Though his application was rejected the first year, the following year, in 1989, he was accepted at Academy of Fine Arts Münster (AFAM).

During my final year as a student in AFAM, I began to produce works that captured familiar objects in a different light from how they are normally seen. By not making any changes to the object but instead changing the environment in which it is viewed, I was trying to show the unexpected characteristics of an object that often go undiscovered
. Around that time, Nishi also changed his stance as to how artworks should be exhibited. I had a show at the gallery in Cologne, but because there were few visitors, I become skeptical of the gallery's role and effectiveness as an exhibition space. It was then that I sought a more accessible outdoor venue where I could show my works to the general public. Nishi first installation in the public space was a square room that encased Der Tauzieher, a large stone sculpture of a man sitting atop a mooring post which stands in the former commercial area in Cologne.

In his long experience with official monuments in the cities around the world, Nishi believes that these objects often suffer an unfortunate fate. When the monuments are first unveiled, they attract attention to be soon forgotten and melt into the local scenery. For me what is interesting about these monuments is not their history or design, but the fact that, despite being very visibly displayed in public, they fail to register in people's minds.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

art in action

Hi Red Center Dropping Event performance at the rooftop of Ikenobo Flower School Headquarters in Tokyo, 1964

While in Poland I visit Raster Gallery which in collaboration with Taka Ishii Gallery form Tokyo presents Japanese performance art in a nutshell. The exhibition takes its cue from an intense period of artistic and political activity at the end of the 1950s, a breakthrough moment for the history of avant-garde art in Japan and the time when entirely new forms and art strategies appeared. In that period The Gutai group develops their world-first performances based on Pollock's action painting and French Informel shifting the painterly images from canvas into actions and thus liberating art from traditional formats. Spring of 1960 in Tokyo was marked with protests against the ratification of a treaty between Japan and the U.S., lasting several weeks and resulting in the death of one of the demonstrators. For artists, who took part in the them, those events were an impetus to develop increasingly radical activities in the public space going beyond Gutai's ideas of formal experiments in favour of real action - actions of a deliberate, provocative nature, based in socio-political contexts.  Those actions took on the character of both intricately planned street interventions, as with the Hi Red Center group, and ritual performances in galleries and in the public space realised by such groups as Zero Dimension (Zerojigen).

Collective Kumo, A Happening on the Street, 1970

All those time and movements were trailed by Minoru Hirata, a photojournalist who not only documented the performances given by groups but also took part in them. In a highly suggestive way these photographs document one of the most unusual and original episodes in the history of avant-garde Japanese art, which retains its inspirational power to this day.

 Nakanishi Natuyuki, Clothespins Assert Churning Action, street performance for Hi Red Center event, 6th Mixer Plan, Tokyo, May 28, 1963

Few decades later young generation of Japanese artists is taking up the idea of blending art and reality through performative actions and projects in the public space. In the works of Ei Arakawa, Yuki Okumura and Koki Tanaka there is a discernible echo of the avant-garde actions which are proof of the intensive efforts of young artists to rebuild this scattered artistic tradition. Presented side by side, the photographs of Minoru Hirata and the situations, films and documentation of Arakawa, Okmura and Tanaka serve as an intriguing and inspiring point of reference for a debate on the subject of the temporality and efficacy of performance strategies, various forms of activity with regard to the physical and political urban space, as well as with regard to the history of art.

 Ei Arakawa, Peaceboat Revisiting MRTA, 2009, DVD, 3'26"

A reenactment of selected scenes from his earlier performances. Arakawa invited a group of friends and acquaintances he’d met on a 1996 sailing trip around the world to participate in actions in and around the gallery space. The group acted out a series of staged tableaus that were filmed and presented as “live stills” at the exhibition, along with photographs that were blown up to large format black-and-white Xeroxed reproductions. Arakawa’s playful approach to video documentation is indicative of his conviction of the singular, temporal nature of performance art and the relationship it generates between the artist, performers and the public. In this project he touches upon the issue of repetition, documentation and ephemeral acts of performance through a subversive perspective, establishing a distinctive form of retrospective - one that takes on a new, independent life of its own. The title of the film references his 1996 voyage across the ocean, as well as the MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) occupation of the Japanese Embassy in Lima, two events that took place at the same time.

Yuki Okamura, Synchronized Sneezing, street performance, 2012

How many sneezes occur in perfect synch everyday at different locations on Earth? is a site specific manifestation of Okamura's ongoing series Synchronized Sneezing. The present work was created in Warsaw and is a kind of absurd demonstrations that takes performance to the the next level - action which is realized in the imagination of the viewer.

Koki Tanaka, Simple Gesture and Temporary Sculpture, 2008/2012, HDV Video, 3’26”

The video is one of a series of works by Tanaka that serve as a record of filmed actions enacted by the artist. The action is set in the street and within interiors both public and private. Japan's representation at the 2013 Venice Biennale, explores the private and public space, arranging and documenting brief, straightforward situations. Basic gestures and objects set up by the artist in an inverted or somewhat absurd order that breaks up the logical scheme of things. "Reality is made up of abstract things and moments", sums up the artist in one of his texts, leading the public onto an alternative reading of the world around us.

Friday, July 20, 2012

video: silver wheel

Jinkken Kobo, Ginrin (Silver Wheeel), 1953

Founded in 1951, with the nuclear shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still looming and the Aliied occupation and its attandant austerity measures just winding to a close Jikken Kobo )or the Experimental Workshop) ushered in a new era of the Japanese culural lanscape. Jikken Kobo has been compared to Black Mountain College and the Independent Group as one of the three most influential collaborative groups of the 20th century. But, exactly 60 years after their first concert, Jikken Kobo’s activities remain largely unknown. The group consisted of 14 core members whose specialities were particularly wide-ranging, encompassing choreography, musical composition, lighting design, various fine art practices, poetry, engineering and criticism.  Although they were known for their experimental and collaborative approaches, the members of Jikken Kobo divided themselves into roughly two camps, both of which mixed Western influences with Japanese perspective: the art section (which comprised Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, Shozo Kitadai, Hideka Fukushima, Hideo Yamazaki, Naoji Imai, Kiyoji Ohtsuji, and Tetsuro Komai) and the muscis section (which comprised Kuniharu Akiyama, Toru Takemitsu, Hiroyoshi Suzuki, Kazuo Fukushima, Joji Yuasa, Takahiro Sonoda, and Keijiro Sato).  Like the artists of the Bauhaus and groups like Experiments in Art and technology (E.A.T) subsequently, the members of Jikken Kobo were interested in integrating new industrial technologies into their elaborate trans-disciplinary performances and events. For example, they experimented with new forms of electronic music and produced the world's first synchronized audio slideshow (with the help of technicians who would eventually incorporated under the name SONY). In 1955, a number of Jikken Kobo members participated in the production of the film Ginrin (Silver Wheel) as promotional material for Japanese bicycle industry. Ginrin's hypnotically spinning, disembodied bicycle wheels echo Marcel Duchamp's ready made Bicycle Wheel (1913). Both advertisement and reverie, the film embodies the technological and cultura optimism that accompanied the rapid expansion of the Japanese economy following the hardships of the second World war and postwar occupation. The film is now on show as a part of Ghost in the machine exhibition in New Museum N.Y.

Related articles: frieze, spoon&tamago

Monday, June 25, 2012

project room: Shinro Ohtake

Located in Kassel's Karlsaue park Shinro Ohtake's installation for dOCUMENTA (13) Mon Cheri: A Self Portrait as a Scrapped Shed takes its title from an out-of-business snack bar in Uwajima, whose neon sign Ohtake found 10 years ago. Artist attached it to the prefabricated shed filled with objects and materials accumulated in different countries. At the core of the shed are huge scrapbook representing artist life's work and series of sound collected over the course of year that are activated by the movement of audience. The shed operates like as a living self-portrait accumulating and shedding different materials in the same way that we preserve and jettison memories and therefore it reflects the conditions of humanity in the 21st century.

As we read in official guidebook to dOCUMENTA (13) Shinro Ohtake has developed new visual language in Japanese contemporary art that responds to mass-media imagery, underground music culture, and the urban environment. His divers activities include writing, noise music, and several architectural projects. Recycling everyday materials like neon signs, poster, photos and images from various publications, products, countries and eras, as well as other discarded items, he organizes them into assemblages that address the intense physical and temporal processes that affect how things are perceived, understood, and remembered. The approachh is rooted in his Scrapbooks, a series begun in 1977 that now comprises 67 books filled with cutouts from vintage comics, packaging, and other ephemeral that he edits together with maps, ticket stubs, flyers, CDs, newspaper clippings, and photographs. He subsequently integrates these with drawings and paintings, transforming the books into sculptural objects. Ohtake had his first solo exhibition in Tokyo i early 80s. and in 1985 was the first Japanese artist to show at ICA in London. He has since presented major retrospectives in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima. In 2009, Ohtake created a functioning bathhouse for Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, an architectural project that expands his practice of combing found materials, painting, and drawing in multilayered, engrossing composition into an experience of a whole environment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

exhibition: the transfinite

In 'The Transfinite', Japanese artist and composer Ryoji Ikeda utilizes the digital building block of binary codes to display human’s captivation and bewilderment with technology. Filling the massive 55,000-square-foot exhibition hall with his video and sound installations, Ikeda created an immersive audio-visual environment at the Park Avenue Armory in New York’s Upper East Side. As one walks into the hall they encounter a 45-foot-tall, 60-foot-wide vertical screen, where Ikeda has projected barcode-like black-and-white lines, which pulse to an audio component that is being dictated by binary codes (programmed by the artist). The other side, also a screen, displays the inner workings of the installation, showing digital renderings of both the binary codes and the programming used to create the light projections on the opposite screen. Many viewers were awestricken by the work, approaching and examining the hypnotizing light and sound patterns, as though encountering something from a foreign universe. continue reading.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

history: voices of mono-ha

Nobuo Sekine, Phase-Mother Earth, 1968
Mono-ha refers to a group of artists who were active from the late 60s. to early 70.s using both natural and man-made materials in their works. The aim of Mono-ha artists was simply to bring mono-things in an unaltered state, which had previously been nothing more than components of artworks to the attention of the viewers. Usually translated rather awkwardly as school of things, which is misleading since Mono-ha works were as much about the space and the interdependent relationships between things and space surrounding them. The name Mono-ha is actually more of a label applied to the fairly loose group of artists. Ideologies were not necessarily shared by all members of Mono-ha, so it was not a coordinated movement as such. Roughly speaking, Mono-ha is thought of as centring around Nobuo Sekine, Lee Ufan, Katsuro Yoshida, Susumu Koshimizu, Koji Enokura, Kishio Suga, Noboru Takayama and Katsuhiko Narita. The emergence of Mono-ha has its roots in many social, political and cultural factors of the 60s. and to trace its origins in detail is a complicated matter. However, the moment that is most often viewed as Mono-ha’s starting point came in October 1968 with Sekine’s creation of the work Phase – Mother Earth in Kobe’s Sumarikyu Park for the First Open Air Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition. The work consisted of a hole dug into the ground, 2.7 metres deep and 2.2 metres in diameter, with the excavated earth compacted into a cylinder of exactly the same dimensions. continue reading.  

Kishio Suga, Limitless Situation (Window), 1970, installation view at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.
Although it marked a major turning point in Japanese postwar art history, the work of the Mono-ha artists remains surprisingly unknown. The exhibition Reconsidering Mono-ha held at the National Museum of Art, Osaka (2005) and What is Mono-ha, held at Beijing Tokyo Art Projects in 2007 were the last efforts to address Mono-ha’s role in the history of Japanese contemporary art. Recently Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo has been trying to revive it presenting works of its prominent member, Kishio Suga. The exhibition is composed of photographs of archival outdoor installations and more recent works and it has been accompanied by the river-long interview with the artist. Outside Japan Hirshhorn Museum organized Requiem for the Sun: The art of Mono-ha, exhibition at Blum & Poe gallery in L.A. which follows Lee Ufan, probably the artist the most associated with the group and group retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum last summer. So it looks like Mono-ha is regaining its place in world art history next to American Minimalism and Italian Arte Povera.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

open secret

2011, August 28th. A worker points a finger at a monitoring live camera in Fukushima nuclear plant

Last August an unidentified worker at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant appeared on a live-to-air webcam pointing an accusatory finger directly at the camera. The video was then placed in internet and caused a lot of consternations as to the identity of a radiation-suite clad man and his message? Even Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary Yasuhiro Sonoda was drawn into the speculations. Recently the controversial video has been included in the first solo show of Kota Takeuchi hosted by XYZ collective in Setagaya, Tokyo triggering the assumptions that the finger pointing worker might have been the artist himself. There are few evidences behind, the 29-year-old Takeuchi appears to be about the same height and build as the suspect and he happened to work at the same nuclear plant at the same time as the video was shot. But he refuses to acknowledge it was he who did the pointing. Whether or not you write that it was me is your decision, and one for which you will be responsible, he said during an interview for Japan Times. Why would he want to do it? Granted he was not happy with the working conditions under which workers laboured in the power plant what he express in his daily blog from Fukushima but was it enough of a reason? Or was it something different? An homage to Vito Acconci’s Centers (1971) or was he interested in the way visual imagery in the public domain can sway communal consciousness?

Whether the mystery finger-pointer is the artist himself or not is still arguable. One thing is sure, the person in the video did a great job hiding his identity and that is what became a theme of the exhibition. Kota Takeuchi graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, Department of Intermedia Art in 2008 and ever since he participated in few shows including 'Social Dive' in 3331 Arts Chiyoda and BANKART Studio NYK in Yokohama.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

who can say that we should not live like dogs?

Shuji Terayama, Butterfly, 1974

courtesy the Terayama Museum

Questions were an important methodology for Shūji Terayama (1935–1983), whose striking creative work exists in a liminal space between fact and imagination. Terayama's career recalls an eerie tale of Japanese folklore in which a face shifts to become a different face. An acclaimed filmmaker, poet, radio and stage dramatist, essayist, photographer and horseracing tipster (with no less than eight volumes of commentary to his name) Terayama was, in the words of theatre critic Akihiko Senda, 'the eternal avant-garde'.

In an era when Japan's underground was reaching a fever pitch, Terayama was a crucial player in a complex network of creative expression, encompassing such countercultural legends as singer Akihiro Miwa, photographer Daido Moriyama and graphic artist Tadanori Yokoo. The show at Tate is a tribute to this 'many-headed' artist and centres both on his astonishing film and video work and his trailblazing shifts through varied media and performance. It also includes a symposium on Terayama's transmedia work and a live cinema performance in the Turbine Hall. Terayama always made work that was interrelated, often producing visionary and unexpected outcomes in whatever his chosen form.

Complete programme details on

Thursday, February 9, 2012

exhibition: electrifying art

Atsuko Tanaka was one of the most important avant-garde artist in Japan. A member of Gutai group which against the historical backdrop of WWII, anticipated in a very radical way the most significant concepts of Western Art in the 50s. Gutai art in general, and Tanaka in particular, expended and redefined the relation between the body, artistic material and objects as well as space by introducing a performative dimension. Of Tanakas prolific body of work, it is Electric Dress that is most frequently mentioned and that has most captured the public's attention including myself. I saw it first at Documenta 12 and only now learnt the story behind it. The idea came to Tanaka while she was waiting at the Osaka station, sitting on the bench on the platform surrounded by neon signs advertising medicines. It occurred to her to transfer and adapt this new industrial technology to clothing. And so she fused the traditional kimono with the latest technology interrelating the body with a whole system of wires and connections.

For Tanaka the most interesting part of this project was the process of switching the lights on and off. At the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition held at the Ohara Kaikan in Tokyo in 1956 she entered the work as it was suspended from the ceiling by a rope. Electric Clothes were presented also the following year at the Gutai Art on Stage. During the performance there was a preceding part in which Tanaka changed clothes in front of the audience in quick succession so that as she undressed she stayed dressed. She would unfurled her consumes from hem of a dress or pair of gloves, changing from a green knee length one-piece dress to a light red evening dress and then to a gown that was half yellow and half pink. To some degree, though totally unaware of it, Atsuko Tanaka was a pioneer of the feminism turning herself into image and through that raising questions about how fashion, gender, and ideas about femininity transform and imprison women.

all photos come from the catalogue of Atsuko Tanaka. The Art of Connecting show running currently at MOT.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

beauty 'n the beast

Japanese culture has become too clean. Our five senses are too blunt, says artist Fuyuko Matsui in a recent interview at the Yokohama Museum of Art. I think Japan needs some fear to stimulate the sense of pain. continue reading
Fuyuko Matsui, Keeping up the Pureness, 2004
Matsui's works, undoubtedly deliver a sense of pain and horror to the viewer. An artist highly skilled in nihonga (Japanese painting) techniques, she sets herself apart from others in the genre with her unsettling subject matter.