Off Museum! Performance Art That Turned the Street

Midori Yoshimoto


Performance art was an integral part of the urban fabric of Tokyo in the late 1960s. The so-called angura, the Japanese abbreviation for ‘underground’ culture or subculture, which mainly referred to film and theatre, was in full bloom. Most notably, Tenjô Sajiki Theatre, founded by the playwright and film director Terayama Shûji in 1967, and Red Tent, founded by Kara Jûrô also in 1967, ruled the underground world by presenting anti-authoritarian plays full of political commentaries and sexual perversions. The butoh dance, pioneered by Hijikata Tatsumi in the late 1950s, sometimes spilled out onto streets from dance halls. Students’ riots were ubiquitous as well, often inciting more physically violent responses from the state.

Full Text:



Akasegawa Genpei. Hangeijutsu Anpan (Anti-Art Independent Exhibitions) (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobô, 1994).

Clark, John. Reconstructions: Japanese Avant-Garde Art in Japan 1945–1965 (Oxford, U.K.: Museum of Modern Art, 1985).

Hariu Ichiro. ‘Zen’ei geijutsu ni tsukaremashita’ (I grew tired of avant-garde art), Geijutsu Shinchô 13, no. 8 (August 1962): 150.

Hirai Shôichi, ed.. Gutaitte nanda?/What’s Gutai? (Tokyo: Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, 2004).

Katô Yoshihiro. ‘Erosu no Banpaku hakai — Banpaku Hakai Kyôtô zenra gishiki—Futô taiho no jittai’ (Destruction in eros of the Expo ’70 — The nude ritual by the Anti-Expo Joint-Struggle group—The actual account of the arrest), Design Hihyô, no. 10 (October 1969), 113-21.

KuroDa laiJee. (a.k.a., Kuroda Raiji), ‘The Rituals of ‘Zero Jigen’ in Urban Space,’ Я [a:r], No. 2 (2003), 32-37.

Miyata Yûka. interview with Nakamura Hiroshi, September 6, 1999, in Miyata, ‘Naika datta, garô datta—futatabi—‘Naika garô—‘60nendai no zen’ei’ ten kaisai made’ (It was an office of internal medicine as well as a gallery—until the organization of the exhibition ‘Naiqua Gallery—Avant-Garde of the 1960s’), Aida no. 64 (April 20, 2001), 24-27.

Munroe, Alexandra. Japanese Art after 1945: Scream against the Sky (New York: Abrams in association with the Japan Foundation and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1994).

Munroe, Alexandra and Jon Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society in association with Harry N. Abrams).

Nagano Chiaki. telephone interview with the author, March 6, 2005.

Nakamura Hiroshi. telephone interview with the author, March 28, 2005.

Ono Yoko. Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, 1964).

Ono Yoko. ‘Waga ai, waga tousou’ (originally published in 1974) in Yoko Ono, Tada no Atashi/Just Me! (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1986).

Ono, Yoko. ‘“Notice” for Morning Piece’ (1964), reproduced in Alexandra Munroe and Jon Hendricks, Yes Yoko Ono (New York: Japan Society in association with Harry N. Abrams, 2000).

Osaki, Shin’ichirô. ‘Body and Place,’ in Paul Schimmel, ed., Out of Action: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-79 (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art/Thames and Hudson, 1998), 121–57.

Paik, Nam June. ‘To Catch Up or Not to Catch Up with the West: Hijikata and Hi Red Center,’ in Munroe, Japanese Art after 1945, 80–81.

Shinohara Ushio. interview with the author, October 29, 2004.

Shinohara Ushio. Zen’ei no michi (The Way of the Avant-Garde) (Tokyo: Bijutu Shuppan-sha, 1968).

Some Young People—from Nonfiction Theater: Transcript of Documentary Film Directed by Nagano Chiaki,’ transcribed, translated, and annotated by Midori Yoshimoto, in ‘1960s Japan: Art Outside the Box,’ guest-edited by Reiko Tomii, Review of Japanese Culture and Society 17 (December 2005) (Tokyo and Saitama: Jôsai University), 98-105.

Stiles, Kristine. ‘Uncorrupted Joy: International Art Actions,’ in Schimmel, ed., Out of Action between performance and the object, 1949-1979. (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art/Thames and Hudson, 1998), 227-329.

Tomii, Reiko. ‘Concerning the Institution of Art: Conceptualism in Japan,’ in Jane Farver, et al., Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s, (Queens, N.Y.: Queens Museum of Art, 1999), 20–22

Tomii, Reiko. ‘State vs. (Anti-)Art: Model 1,000-Yen Note Incident by Akasegawa Genpei and Company,’ Positions 10, no. 1 (2002): 141-72.

Tôno, Yoshiaki. ‘Neo-Dada et anti-art,’ in Japon des avant-gardes 1910–1970 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1986).

Yoshimoto Midori. Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York (New Brunswick, N.J. and London: Rutgers University Press, 2005).


  • There are currently no refbacks.