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Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo

Ay-O, a Japanese artist who had been part of Fluxus in New York, returned to Japan in 1966 after an eight-year absence. Having just represented Japan at the Venice Bienniale, he held a solo exhibition at Tokyo’s Minami Gallery. His homecoming gave momentum to what could be called “Tokyo Fluxus” activities.

One of these activities was the Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo, presented in this feature. Ay-O organized the piece in Tokyo on December 18, 1966, with the help of Shimizu Kusuo, the founder and director of Minami Gallery. Assistance was also provided by the artists Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Akiyama Kuniharu, who had visited New York and were interested in both Fluxus and Happenings. The performers included artist Mieko Shiomi, another participant in New York Fluxus; Tone Yasunao, a former member of Group Ongaku and future member of Fluxus in New York; and the art critic Tono Yoshiaki, who often promoted the emerging art of performance. Because the term “Happening” was more popular than “Event” in Japan, it was used in the title of the tour.

Around noon on that cold day, more than sixty participants boarded two rented buses near the Tokyo Station. In the manner of a commercial sightseeing tour, the buses made various stops across the city. At these stops, the performers realized more than fifteen works billed as Events and several others that were referred to as Happenings. While most of the pieces were by Fluxus artists, Ay-O included some by Happenings artists, including Allan Kaprow and Al Hansen, and also an Event by Yamaguchi. A review in Bijutsu Techo magazine (February 1967) explained that Happenings are “environmental play” and that staging them in the proper setting can be rather difficult, but concluded that the “participants seem to have enjoyed this prepared chance.”

Earlier on November 14, another Happening was held at the Sogetsu Art Center in conjunction with the exhibition Kukan kara kankyo e (From Space to Environment), where many of the same artists participated to promote the concept and practice of Fluxus in Japan. The Happening was recorded on film and in photographs taken by some of the participants. post presents the film and selected photographs by Nishiyama Teruo, who took part in the tour.

Details of the tour are provided in the photograph captions and are placed in the sequence in which they appear in the film.

Ay-O, Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo, film of event December 18, 1966 Film (transferred to DVD) Courtesy of Ay-O. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. © 2013 the artist

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Yoshimoto 2013portrait

Midori Yoshimoto

Associate Professor of Art History and Gallery Director New Jersey City University Midori Yoshimoto is associate professor of art history and gallery director at New Jersey City University with extensive curatorial background. While earning her Ph.D. at... Read more »
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Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo

Ay-O, a Japanese artist who had been part of Fluxus in New York, returned to Japan in 1966 after an eight-year absence. Having just represented Japan at the Venice Bienniale, he held a solo exhibition at Tokyo’s Minami Gallery. His homecoming gave momentum to what could be called “Tokyo Fluxus” activities.

One of these activities was the Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo, presented in this feature. Ay-O organized the piece in Tokyo on December 18, 1966, with the help of Shimizu Kusuo, the founder and director of Minami Gallery. Assistance was also provided by the artists Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Akiyama Kuniharu, who had visited New York and were interested in both Fluxus and Happenings. The performers included artist Mieko Shiomi, another participant in New York Fluxus; Tone Yasunao, a former member of Group Ongaku and future member of Fluxus in New York; and the art critic Tono Yoshiaki, who often promoted the emerging art of performance. Because the term “Happening” was more popular than “Event” in Japan, it was used in the title of the tour.

Around noon on that cold...

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Ay-O, a Japanese artist who had been part of Fluxus in New York, returned to Japan in 1966 after an eight-year absence. Having just represented Japan at the Venice Bienniale, he held a solo exhibition at Tokyo’s Minami Gallery. His homecoming gave momentum to what could be called “Tokyo Fluxus” activities.

One of these activities was the Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo, presented in this feature. Ay-O organized the piece in Tokyo on December 18, 1966, with the help of Shimizu Kusuo, the founder and director of Minami Gallery. Assistance was also provided by the artists Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Akiyama Kuniharu, who had visited New York and were interested in both Fluxus and Happenings. The performers included artist Mieko Shiomi, another participant in New York Fluxus; Tone Yasunao, a former member of Group Ongaku and future member of Fluxus in New York; and the art critic Tono Yoshiaki, who often promoted the emerging art of performance. Because the term “Happening” was more popular than “Event” in Japan, it was used in the title of the tour.

Around noon on that cold day, more than sixty participants boarded two rented buses near the Tokyo Station. In the manner of a commercial sightseeing tour, the buses made various stops across the city. At these stops, the performers realized more than fifteen works billed as Events and several others that were referred to as Happenings. While most of the pieces were by Fluxus artists, Ay-O included some by Happenings artists, including Allan Kaprow and Al Hansen, and also an Event by Yamaguchi. A review in Bijutsu Techo magazine (February 1967) explained that Happenings are “environmental play” and that staging them in the proper setting can be rather difficult, but concluded that the “participants seem to have enjoyed this prepared chance.”

Earlier on November 14, another Happening was held at the Sogetsu Art Center in conjunction with the exhibition Kukan kara kankyo e (From Space to Environment), where many of the same artists participated to promote the concept and practice of Fluxus in Japan. The Happening was recorded on film and in photographs taken by some of the participants. post presents the film and selected photographs by Nishiyama Teruo, who took part in the tour.

Details of the tour are provided in the photograph captions and are placed in the sequence in which they appear in the film.

Ay-O, Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo, film of event December 18, 1966 Film (transferred to DVD) Courtesy of Ay-O. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. © 2013 the artist
     

Fluxus Bus

Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo

Courtesy of Ay-O. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. © 2013 the artist
Fluxus bus 85090018

Departure

Akiyama (left) and Ay-O (right) aboard the bus after collecting participants’ tickets near the Marunouchi gate of Tokyo Station

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090020

Shinagawa Pier

Getting out of the bus at the Shinagawa Pier: Tone Yasunao (holding balloons in the center). Balloons were used later in Ay-O’s Kite Event, in which each participant was given a balloon to release into the wind

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090021

Shinagawa Pier

Walking out to the pier. Shiomi Mieko (wearing a white coat in the center)

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090024

Performing Shiomi’s Puddle Event

Tono (crouching in the center) and Akiyama (walking toward the center from right). Shiomi asked everyone to gather around a large puddle of water and “repeat alternate actions of squatting and standing up at arbitrary intervals” while drinking a cup of mineral water

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090027

Television Décollage

Setting up for Wolf Vostell’s Television Décollage performance, an unidentified person, Ay-O, Akiyama, and Yamaguchi (from left to right) carried a television and other equipment to Shinagawa pier

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090028

Television Décollage

Ay-O breaking eggs on the television in Television Décollage performance

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090029

Television Décollage

Tone (left) and Akiyama (right) digging a hole in the ground in Television Décollage performance

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090031

Television Décollage

Ay-O (left) and Akiyama (right) throwing a television into the ocean in Television Décollage performance

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090032

Toilet Paper Event

Participants connecting toilet paper to balloons and flying them in the wind in Ay-O’s Kite Event and Al Hansen’s Toilet Paper Event on the Shinagawa pier

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090040

Ample Food for Stupid Thought

At the Sengakuji temple stop, the art critic Tono Yoshiaki reads the instructions of Robert Filliou’s Ample Food for Stupid Thought

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090041

Ample Food for Stupid Thought

The art critic Tono Yoshiaki reading the instructions of Robert Filliou’s Ample Food for Stupid Thought; Tone and Shiomi, crouching, look on

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090044

String Event

At the Meiji Shrine stop, performers tie up participants with white string for Alison Knowles’s String Event. On the far left is Kubo Teijiro, art educator and the founder of Sozo bijutsu kai (creative art association) of which Ay-O was a member. Among the participants were many of Kubo’s female students

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090046

String Event

At the Meiji Shrine stop, performers tie up participants with white string for Alison Knowles’s String Event. Shiomi (second from left) and Tono (toward right, wearing sunglasses) are among the participants

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo
Fluxus bus 85090049

Piece to Shake Hands

The final stop: the Gokokuji temple, at dusk. Performers including Ay-O, Akiyama, and Tone (shown here), realize Dick Higgins’s Piece to Shake Hands. They circle clockwise around the veranda of the prayer hall, silently shaking hands with each participant

© 2013 Nishiyma Teruo, Courtesy Nishiyma Teruo

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Happening for Sightseeing Bus Trip in Tokyo

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This Curated Selection is part of: Between New York and Tokyo: Fluxus and Graphic Scores