|Tomatsu Shomei, Untitled from the series Protest, Tokyo, 1969|
Performance art along with the students' riots was an integral part of the urban fabric in the late 1960s. The so called angura (short for underground) presenting plays full of politics and sexual perversions was in full bloom. It was ruled by Tenjo Sajiki Theatre founded by Terayama Shuji and Red Tent, founded by Kara Juro. Sometimes the butoh dance, pioneered by Hijikata Tatsumi in 1959, spilled out onto the streets from the dance halls.
|Hosoe Eiko, Kamaitachi sakuhin, no.5, 1968|
This emergence of performance art as the primary means of expression for the avant garde artists had been documented by Nagano Chiaki in his recently unearthed film Some Young People. Produced right before 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the film shows a typical work day in Tokyo at different times of the day with the background music of the popular song, Shiawase nara te o tatakou (If you're happy and you know it clap your hands). Though it may seem that the film depicts peaceful and happy times brought by Japan's remarkable postwar economic boost, it is filled with ant-institutional subversive messages conveyed by young artists, who detested the shallow everyday happiness and attempted to disrupt it with their guerilla performances. The film features some forgotten performances by Ono, Neo Dada, Zero Jingen and Sightseeing Art Research Institute (Nakamura Hiroshi and Tateishi Koichi) which were organized as a series of outdoor and indoor exhibitions titled Off Museum. Continue reading
|Zero Jigen, Crawling Ritual, still form Nagano Chiaki Some Young People, 1964|
An exploration of 'outside' the museum continued on either collective or individual basis. A series of memorable projects were produced by The Play, an Osaka-based collective led by Ikemizu Keiichi, whose annual summer projects included Voyage: Happening in the Egg in 1968 (throwing a gigantic fibre glass into the Pacific Ocean hoping it reaches American coast), Current of Contemporary Art in 1969 (travelling downstream from Kyoto to Osaka on a Styrofoam raft), Sheep in 1970 (walking with the heard of sheep from Kyoto to Osaka), Ie: Play have a house (1972) and Thunder that began in 1977, the same year Walter de Maria created his Lighting Field.
|The Play, Voyage: Happening in the egg, 1968|
|The Play, Current of Contemporary Art, 1969, photo by Higuchi Shigeru, Courtesy of Ikemizu Keiichi|
Somewhere in the middle of the decade, the object-based works of Anti-Art, which emerged in Japan in late 1950s. and thrived in early 1960s., was replaced now by Non-Art, which lasted throughout the decade and whose credo was: not making. That new tendency was typically pursued by the artists of conceptualism, Mono-ha and Bikyoto.
Significant artistic, cultural and social events seemed to culminate in 1970. During two weeks in May of 1970, visitors to Tokyo Biennale titled Between Man and Matter held in Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum encountered an unexpected view, there was not much to look at even though the exhibition presented works of forty artists from America, Europe and Japan. And it was not that nothing was on view, although two rooms were actually empty, one of which titled My Own Death by the pioneering Japanese conceptual artist Matsuzawa Yutaka, but that art had changed significantly.
|Matsuzawa Yutaka, My own death, 1970|
|Kawara On, Today, Jan.1st-Mar.31, 1970|
|Katsuhiko Narita, Sumi 7-22, 1970|
|Horikawa Michio, The Nakanomata River Plan-13, 1970|
In the same year Osaka, second largest city after Tokyo, hosted Expo'70, which drew Metabolist architects and numerous artists on international stage. At the same time Japan witnessed yet again a flare of anti-govermental protests, incited by second renewal of ANPO treaty, as evocatively captured by late photographer Tomatsu Shomei in his series Protests, Tokyo. On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of his private militia entered the headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces trying to persuade them to restore military imperialism and when his plan failed he committed seppuku concluding the turbulent 1960s. with a spectacular death.