Posts tagged ‘Performance & Activism in Contemporary Japan’

February 5, 2012

Japanese Avant-Garde | Tatsumi Hijikata

The inspiration for my Rethink & Vietnam projects includes the Butoh dance of Tatsumi HijikataKazuo Ohno and the political times of 60s/70s Japan as captured by the Provoke group of photographers.

In November 1968, Takuma Nakahira and Koji Taki published the first volume of a magazine-style photobook call Provoke (intended for a restricted market with a common subset of interests, as opposed to general readers).  Provoke is the magazine most often associated with the generation of photographers working in the 60s & 70s Japan – even those that did not actually publish in the magazine. It is an example of a small, short-lived, but legendary publications, whose influence is still felt. Early editions had print runs of just 1,000. Investigating the relation between photography and text, the magazine was an artistic and philosophical manifesto, responding to the upheavals of the late sixties; inspired by free writing, Butoh dance of Tatsumi Hijikata, the experimental theatre of Shuji Terayama and underground cinema particularly the new wave films of Nagisa Oshima.

Participating photographers including Domon Ken, Eikoh Hosoe, Masahisa Fukase, and Daido Moriyama searched for a radical photographic language all hugely inspired by the raw, visceral style of William Klein’s New York (1956).  The aim of the magazine was to abolish the idea that photography is a document – ‘separating the photography from its socially prescribed function as a record”.  In doing so these photographers eliminated information, record especially narrative from their work to create ‘pure’ images’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009).  The images were often grainy and blurred (referred to as are-bure-boke; shortened to bure-boke) an aesthetic that implies a willingness to discard information.  ‘This drew attention to the photographic nature of a photograph, thereby liberating the image from illusion that it presented a reality beyond the physicality of the photograph’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009) thus challenging the commonly accepted idea of photography and to ‘provoke thought’.   ‘Photography here is not a source of information but rather a font of questions in pursuit of truth’ (Kaneko & Vartanian 2009).

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see Tatsumi Hijikata (1967); and the first UK screening of Tatsumi Hijikata Summer Storm (2010) at the Pump House Gallery as part of Art, Performance & Activism in Contemporary JapanThis YouTube clip gives a sense of period I refer to.