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Into Performance

Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York

Midori Yoshimoto
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Into Performance
    Book Description:

    The 1960s was a time of incredible freedom and exploration in the art world, particularly in New York City, which witnessed the explosion of New Music, Happenings, Fluxus, New Dance, pop art, and minimalist art. Also notable during this period, although often overlooked, is the inordinate amount of revolutionary art that was created by women.

    Into Performancefills a critical gap in both American and Japanese art history as it brings to light the historical significance of five women artists-Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi, and Shigeko Kubota. Unusually courageous and self-determined, they were among the first Japanese women to leave their country-and its male-dominated, conservative art world-to explore the artistic possibilities in New York. They not only benefited from the New York art scene, however, they played a major role in the development of international performance and intermedia art by bridging avant-garde movements in Tokyo and New York.

    This book traces the pioneering work of these five women artists and the socio-cultural issues that shaped their careers.Into Performancealso explores the transformation of these artists' lifestyle from traditionally confined Japanese women to internationally active artists. Yoshimoto demonstrates how their work paved the way for younger Japanese women artists who continue to seek opportunities in the West today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4105-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    This study is the first in-depth and comparative examination of the Japanese women artists Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi, and Shigeko Kubota. These artists made significant contributions to the development of international performance and intermedia art in the 1960s by bridging avant-garde art movements in Japan, the United States, and, to some extent, Europe. Unusually courageous and self-determined, they were among the first Japanese women to leave their country to explore their artistic possibilities in New York. While some other Japanese women artists left Japan around the same time, this thesis focuses on these five artists because...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Historical Background and Common Issues
    (pp. 9-44)

    In this chapter I will lay out some historical background in order to establish commonalities among the five artists—Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi, and Shigeko Kubota—under discussion. The first three sections will focus on Japanese background and the three others on American background. While the five women artists have been discussed mostly in the context of Western art, it is equally valid to situate them in the context of the Japanese art world in which they formed part of their artistic foundations. First, in the section “Particularities of the Japanese Art World,” I will introduce...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Performing the Self: Yayoi Kusama and Her Ever-Expanding Universe
    (pp. 45-78)

    Like Vincent van Gogh, Yayoi Kusama has been associated with a stereotype of a “mad artist” because of her long-term mental illness. Largely due to her oppressed childhood under the Japanese militarist campaign, her parents’ strict discipline, and traumatic experiences, Kusama started to have hallucinations at a young age. As a child, she would draw images of her hallucinatory visions, later these images were developed into various art forms. Her prolific and obsessive-compulsive style of artmaking was established early because it was necessitated by her desire to overcome the symptoms of her mental illness. She would continue the same intensive...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Message Is the Medium: The Communication Art of Yoko Ono
    (pp. 79-114)

    Shortly after turning twenty years old, Yoko Ono discovered art out of necessity. “Art is a means of survival,” Ono claims repeatedly today when reflecting back on the role of art in her life from early on.¹ Artmaking helped her overcome many hardships that she encountered throughout her life. During World War II, for example, she often played a game with her siblings to imagine foods that they could not obtain. Using one’s imagination to find hope in life became the point of departure for Ono’s art. One of her earliest artistic expressions,Lighting Piece(1955), took the form of...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Playful Spirit: The Interactive Art of Takako Saito
    (pp. 115-138)

    As she is, perhaps, the most elusive among the five artists of this study, Takako Saito’s art and life have been difficult for any scholar to study for a two obvious reasons. One is her nomadic lifestyle, which has naturally scattered records of her activities across different languages and places. The other is her lack of interest in writing or speaking about her work. Unlike the other artists in this volume, Saito has rarely employed language as a means of expression. She is not verbally expressive, and she intentionally keeps her ego transparent in terms of the presentation of her...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Music, Art, Poetry, and Beyond: The Intermedia Art of Mieko Shiomi
    (pp. 139-168)

    From early on, Mieko Shiomi has explored a way to integrate her art and life. Her intensive musical background and radical interest led her to cofound Group Ongaku, the avant-garde music ensemble based at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1960, and later to join Fluxus in New York in 1964. Although she returned to Japan after a year, she intensively participated in Fluxus concerts and other activities during this short period. Since 1964 Shiomi has associated herself with Fluxus, but, like many other Fluxus artists, she has had an independent professional career outside of the...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Self-Exploration in Multimedia: The Experiments of Shigeko Kubota
    (pp. 169-194)

    Since 1970, Shigeko Kubota has been best known as a pioneer in video art and as one of the first women to work in this relatively new artistic medium. While she continues to create and be known for her video projects, her career as a visual artist started earlier in Japan, in the 1960s.

    Kubota was a multimedia artist active in the Tokyo avant-garde art scene before she moved to New York City in 1964. Upon her arrival in New York, Kubota joined in Fluxus activities and started experimenting with a wider range of media, from text scores to performance....

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 195-200)

    The five Japanese women artists examined in this study have long remained outside the mainstream, both in Japan and the United States. Their pursuit of unconventional art forms has separated them from the majority of society and culture, and even sometimes from their own families. Until recently it was extremely difficult to be different and choose an unusual path in conformist Japanese society given the pressures on women to follow traditional lifestyles. These women’s relatively wealthy backgrounds, however, allowed them to receive a high-quality education and exposed them to new opportunities for women. Their education fostered in them the confidence...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 201-236)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 237-248)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-250)