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Primary Documents from 1960s Japan

Drawn primarily from the SAC journal published at the Sogetsu Art Center, this growing list presents original source documents in Japanese along with English translations. They offer insight into the issues and debates that circulated among artists and critics involved in experimental art, film, and music in 1960s Japan. You can continue to develop this list by adding your own links, readings, and annotations in the Discussion section.

Author

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Primary Documents from 1960s Japan

Drawn primarily from the SAC journal published at the Sogetsu Art Center, this growing list presents original source documents in Japanese along with English translations. They offer insight into the issues and debates that circulated among artists and critics involved in experimental art, film, and music in 1960s Japan. You can continue to develop this list by adding your own links, readings, and annotations in the Discussion section.

Show More

Drawn primarily from the SAC journal published at the Sogetsu Art Center, this growing list presents original source documents in Japanese along with English translations. They offer insight into the issues and debates that circulated among artists and critics involved in experimental art, film, and music in 1960s Japan. You can continue to develop this list by adding your own links, readings, and annotations in the Discussion section.

Source contents

Contemporary Music and Performance

Today’s performance world is in imminent danger of spiritual collapse. This is a global trend that stems from the beginning of the twentieth century, when the reproductive arts began to lose their way. By now, they have lost their meaning. Music, too, has been reduced to a ghost of its former self. The flamboyant manner in which so many concerts are currently performed leaves me with a sense of...

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The Three-Person Animation Manifesto: Toward the Creation of New Images

How often do we see someone who boldly sets out to do something completely new succeed in making only superficial changes because they are unable to break free of established thought patterns and methods? It is because of our enslavement to old ways of thinking that we live in fear of the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb.

New processes and technologies must go hand in hand with new modes of...

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Three Animators

anima [æ'nimə] n. ([Latin—life, breath]) Soul, spirit.
animal [æ'niməl] n. An organism of the kingdom Animalia; generally has motility and must ingest other living things to survive. animate [æ'nimeit] vt. To give life or vitality to something; to encourage or inspire.
animation [œniméiʃən] n. Vigor, vitality. animato [à:nimá:tou] a. ([It]) [music] Lively. animator [æ'nimeitə] n. A person or...

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On Improvised Music as Automatism

In May of 1960, our group chanced upon an absolutely new experiment in music. It was an improvisational piece of musique concrète, executed collectively.

Just before discovering this approach, we had been preparing materials for a tape recording of musique concrète. A variety of sound sources stood before us, including oil drums, washtubs, water pitchers, brooms, plates, coat hangers, metal and...

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The Current Status of John Cage

John Cage is recognized as the most uniquely talented American avant-garde musician. Last year, during Cage’s concert (?) [sic] tour of Europe, I attended a performance at Galerie 22, an avant-garde gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany, of a strange dissonant work using his trademark technique of inserting pieces of wood between the piano strings.

One Sunday in New York, I also heard a piano...

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Community of Image: An Examination of Environments in Art

Media and Identity

In the summer of 1967, the hippie filmmaker Ray Wisniewski asked me to shoot some footage. When I asked what it was he wanted shot, he told me just to bring my camera and we’d take it from there. Puzzled, I brought along my camera on the appointed day, and he gave me some film and told me to go out and film people in the vicinity in any manner I pleased. This was in...

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Special Report!: Seismic Rumbles from the Underground

Iimura Takahiko reports from the United States that the rumbles in underground art are growing in intensity in a manner that nobody could have predicted. The expansion of media—so-called intermedia—has led to a radical transformation of the movie theater, and Stan VanDerBeek has established a theater named Tabernacle in a former church.1 The time for cinematic revolution has come!

Iimura...

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Encounter with Unusual Films / Naiqua Cinematheque: Screening of 8mm Films, Iimura Takahiko Solo Cinema Showcase

Alight on the platform of Shinbashi Station in Tokyo, and the sizable banner of Naiqua Gallery comes into view. Much talked about for its bizarre name (“Naiqua” is a transliteration of the Japanese word for “internal medicine”) and ambitious experimentalism, the gallery is described by its head, Miyata Kunio, as “a test tube into which anything can be placed, which anyone can occupy . ....

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Primary Documents from 1960s Japan

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Part 1 of 2?

Posted on 22 Sep

Is there a second part of this essay? Has it been translated and put on this site, too, and I missed it? Thanks!

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Is there a second part of this essay? Has it been translated and put on this site, too, and I missed it? Thanks!

Show more »

On Mannerism

Posted on 26 Sep

This passage in Ichiyanagi Toshi’s 1963 piece “Contemporary Music and Performance” struck me as particularly interesting: “In contrast to performance conventions of the past, which allowed for emotion and sensitivity, the new music demanded performances founded on rigid logic. But, content with the style of the past, performers did not actively attempt to make this new music their own. They approached it with the reproductive spirit that was rooted in retrogressive classical and romantic music. Thus, performance succumbed to mannerism.” I am particularly fascinated by Ichiyanagi’s pejorative invocation of the term “mannerism” here. This word seems to crop up with increasing frequency in Japanese artistic discourse throughout the 1960s, used in a much broader way than its original art-history denotation would allow. Here, Ichiyanagi uses the term to describe the gap between compositional style and performance style: whereas today’s compositions “demanded performances founded on rigid logic,” performers were still functioning within the framework of an outmoded tradition of Romantic “reproductive music.” What results, according to Ichiyanagi, is little more than trivial ornament. And what is instead desired, he argues, is a “new type of performance” in which “performers are liberated from their subsidiary role of the past.”

Ichiyanagi thus places the blame squarely on the performers—not the composers—and finds fault with the tendency toward “mannerism” that the performers’ adherence to obsolescent performance styles effects. In other words, he is calling for greater unity between composer and performer, and for a heightened veracity in the performance itself—performance not merely as “reproduction” according to a script, but performance as a time and space for the performer to experiment and create on his or her own terms. This line of thought, and the ideology behind it that privileges authenticity and spontaneity over artifice, is interesting when seen through the lens of other artistic trends that would arise slightly later in the 1960s—namely a renewed interest in Mannerism and Rococo excess, in all manner of Grotesques and Arabesques, as it were, that culminated, I think, in a sort of “new 1960s Gothic” by the end of the decade. Shibusawa Tatsuhiko is a central figure here, but other literary figures like Kurahashi Yumiko, the critic Tanemura Suehiro, and even Mishima Yukio played a part in the cultivation of this pro-Mannerism aesthetic. Ōbayashi Nobuhiko’s film Emotion, in terms of both theme and compositional form, could be seen as fitting into this larger trend as well.

This leaves me with some questions: how do we reconcile these two aspects of 1960s artistic expression? Was the “rediscovery” of Mannerism by Shibusawa and others largely unrelated to experiments happening in avant-garde artistic circles, or was it a more direct response to the sort of aesthetic that Ichiyanagi and others affiliated with Sōgetsu worked to create?

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This passage in Ichiyanagi Toshi’s 1963 piece “Contemporary Music and Performance” struck me as particularly interesting: “In contrast to performance conventions of the past, which allowed for emotion and sensitivity, the new music demanded...

Show more »
Screen shot 2012 10 22 at 12.00.46 pm

Reply to Tina R

Posted on 27 Sep

Hello Tina. If you are speaking about Iimura Takahiko's "Community of Image" article, we are hoping to commission the translation of the second part soon. Julian Ross, the editor of the Iimura contents have been working with the artist directly, so I believe there are no existing translations, but do let us know if you know of an existing translation. Thank you for pointing this out!

Show less »

Hello Tina. If you are speaking about Iimura Takahiko's "Community of Image" article, we are hoping to commission the translation of the second part soon. Julian Ross, the editor of the Iimura contents have been working with the artist directly,...

Show more »
This Source is part of: Sogetsu Art Center