4Proto-Media Art: Revisiting Japanese Postwar Avant-garde Art

Machiko Kusahara

The history of Japanese media art goes back to the postwar avant-garde art of the 1950s and 1960s, both in terms of attitudes toward media technology and the artists themselves, who later played crucial roles in launching institutions for media art including educational programs and art centers. Soon after World War II, a sense of freedom brought an explosive energy to visual art. New forms of art emerged within a few years after the war, when major cities were still making an effort to recover from the ashes. With the recovery of freedom of speech and expression, innumerable cultural activities took place all over the country and many art groups were formed. Theoretical leaders such as Shuzo Takiguchi, Jiro Yoshihara, and Taro Okamoto led the art scene and inspired young artists to carry out highly experimental activities in the early 1950s—activities original and powerful even by today’s standards.

Among the many groups that were active from 1950 to 1970, Jikken Kobo and the Gutai Art Association are of particular interest when seen from the point of view of today’s media art. As the country started to rebuild international relationships, Japanese artists became involved in art movements such as art informal, abstract expressionism, Neo-Dada and Fluxus.1 The aim of this chapter is to provide not an in-depth introduction to their works and projects but a snapshot of what was happening in art in connection ...

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