[ISEA2011] Panel: Rie Saito (moderator) – Body Image to/from Media: Rethinking Japanese Avant-Garde Art

Panel Statement

Chair Per­son: Rie Saito
Presenters: Miyuki Endo & Machiko Kusa­hara

What was the crit­i­cal point of Japan­ese post­war avant-garde art when re-look­ing today’s art scene?  How have they in­flu­enced con­tem­po­rary art, cul­ture, and so­ci­ety until pre­sent?

Through these pre­sen­ta­tions, the im­por­tance of Japan­ese post­war avant-garde art will be clar­i­fied and how they af­fected the cur­rent art will be dis­cussed in de­tail. Three top­ics will be pre­sented to re­con­sider the body image in con­tem­po­rary arts, es­pe­cially from the view of media and the art as a per­for­mance. The work of At­suko Tanaka from GUTAI, Kat­suhiro Ya­m­aguchi and the work of Kenji Yanobe will be ex­am­ined.

The first pre­sen­ta­tion will mainly focus on the work of At­suko Tanaka (1932-2005), one of the main artists of GUTAI move­ment that oc­curred in west­ern re­gion of Japan in 1950’s.  By an­a­lyz­ing her works from cul­tural and so­ci­o­log­i­cal con­text, flu­id­ity and am­bi­gu­ity in gen­der and the body within the con­text of cur­rent media art will be ex­am­ined.  Re-think­ing early emer­gence of Japan­ese post­war art and fo­cus­ing on the ge­neal­ogy of con­tem­po­rary avant-garde art will bring a new mean­ing in a pre­sent new media art. More­over, Japan­ese mul­ti­me­dia art per­for­mance group called “Dumb Type” will be dis­cussed from the cur­rent media con­text to clar­ify the am­bigu­ous body image in Japan­ese con­tem­po­rary art.

The sec­ond pre­sen­ta­tion will focus on Japan­ese artist Kenji Yanobe (1965) and his work. Great East Japan Earth­quake in 2011, 03, 11 caused se­ri­ous dam­age and shocked all over the world. Be­sides ra­di­a­tion leak from nu­clear power plant re­minds us the in­ci­dent of Cher­nobyl in 1986, and also the ra­dioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion to neigh­bor­ing area is ter­ri­bly se­ri­ous in Japan. More­over from atomic bomb in 1945 and ther­monu­clear test of Bikini Atoll in 1954, to nu­clear-power dis­as­ter in this time, it is dif­fi­cult to talk about Japan­ese coun­try and cul­ture with­out prob­lem of nu­clear power. In this pre­sen­ta­tion, Kenji Yanobe, who con­sid­ers sur­viv­ing in the world con­t­a­m­i­nated by ra­di­a­tion and tries to ex­press his idea in his work, will be in­tro­duced. Many artists made ac­tion to ex­press anti-atomic power after 1950s in Japan. Re­fer­ring to the his­tory of them, this pre­sen­ta­tion dis­cusses body image in his per­for­mance and in­stal­la­tion.

The third pre­sen­ta­tion will focus on Kat­suhiro Ya­m­aguchi, who is in­ter­na­tion­ally known as a video artist, has played a major role in Japan­ese media art his­tory. Al­ready in 1950s he was a cen­tral fig­ure in Jikken Kobo (Ex­per­i­men­tal Work­shop) along with Toru Takemitsu and oth­ers ex­per­i­ment­ing the lat­est tech­nol­ogy of the time in their own per­for­mances and ex­hi­bi­tions as well as for ex­per­i­men­tal bal­let the­aters. After de­sign­ing a most in­no­v­a­tive pavil­ion at the 1970 Osaka World Ex­po­si­tion he co-founded Video Hi­roba that in­vited peo­ple to use video to ex­press their own voices. This pre­sen­ta­tion dis­cusses in­ten­tional ab­sence of his own body in Ya­m­aguchi’s works in con­trast to the demon­stra­tion of body-ness among his con­tem­po­rary avant-garde artists such as buto dancers. Cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment (a “gar­den”) for the view­ers/par­tic­i­pants to be ex­plored using their own bod­ies was his con­cept, which led to the emer­gence of in­ter­ac­tive art in Japan.

  • Miyuki Endo is en­rolled in mas­ter’s course of the grad­u­ate school of Let­ters, Arts and Sci­ence, in Waseda Uni­ver­sity, Japan. Her re­search area is mov­ing and still image in con­tem­po­rary art, and also the re­la­tion­ship be­tween arts and so­ci­ety.
  • Machiko Kusa­hara is Pro­fes­sor at the School of Cul­ture, Media and So­ci­ety, Waseda Uni­ver­sity, and Vis­it­ing Scholar at the Art | Sci Cen­ter, UCLA. Her re­search fo­cuses on the in­ter­play be­tween media cul­ture, tech­nol­ogy, and so­ci­ety. Since mid 1980s she cu­rated and wrote in­ter­na­tion­ally in the field of dig­i­tal art, and served as a jury for Ars Elec­tron­ica, SIG­GRAPH, ISEA, among many oth­ers. She has writ­ten about both early vi­sual media and con­tem­po­rary media art. Her writ­ings have been pub­lished in­ter­na­tion­ally. Prof. Kusa­hara holds Ph.D from Uni­ver­sity of Tokyo.