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Rebellion in Asia: Performance Art in 1960s to 70s


Rebellion in Asia: Performance Art in 1960s to 70s
Hi-Red Center, Jiro Takamatsu's performance with a tire in The 6th Mixer Plan, 1963. Courtesy of the Estate of Jiro Takamatsu and Yumiko Chiba Assocaites, Tokyo, Fergus McCaffrey, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Performance art, a medium embedded with experimental and impermanent nature, with dynamic body movement in a public sphere, holds special social and political significance when considered in the East Asian context. In the 1960s and 70s, artists in countries like Japan and Korea were influenced by the precarious conditions in their own countries, and used the radical expression as performance art to challenge conventional understanding of art and rebel against the authority.

The 11th edition of Dvid Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) Curator’s Series sees the Institute of Asian Performance Art (IAPA) launched by guest curator Victor Wang, a series of programmes aimed at deepening awareness of early performance art in Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. The Curator’s Series is an initiative by DRAF, an independent, non-profit organisation for contemporary art, to invite independent curators for commissioned special research-based exhibitions. This year Institute of Asian Performance Art (IAPA), culminating in an exhibition, various talks, seminars and performances, reveals the transnational connections in the East Asian region, mapping the interconnected individuals and collectives in the historical context.

Minoru Hirata, Nakanishi Natsuyuki's ‘Clothespins Assert Churning Action’ for Hi Red Center’s ‘6th Mixer Plan’, 1963. Image courtesy of the artist and Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film.

The exhibition features works from the most influential artists and collectives in 1960s and 70s Japan and Korea. From sculptures and works on paper by Jiro Takamatsu, documentation of performances by Hi Red Center at the 1962 Yamanote Line Festival by photographer Muri Tokuji, to 24 works by renowned photographer Minoru Hirata, and the re-staging of Kim Ku Lim’s 1974 work Wiping Cloth, alongside archival material and documentation from his early performance works, the exhibition brings together highly renowned works that had profound impacts on each country and cross-examine their significance under a transnational perspective.

Minoru Hirata, Hi Red Center’s ‘Dropping Event’, at Ikenobō Kaikan, 1964. Courtesy of the artist and Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film.

Works from Jiro Takamatsu and Hi Red Center, a collective co-founded by him, were heavily influenced by the postwar urban climate in Japan. Jiro Takamatsu was one of the most influential artists in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s. He skilfully moved between media such as photography, sculpture, painting, drawing and performance to investigate the philosophical and material foundations of art. A key figure of the Mono-Ha movement (School of Things, 1967–79), he drew inspirations from Dada, Surrealism, and Minimalism to engage the world through gesture, action, process, and experimentation, rather than formal studio-art methods or finished artworks.

Hi Red Center (1963-64) was founded by Jiro Takamatsu, Genpei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi. In the span of one year, the collective performed actions in Tokyo to call attention to issues of centralised rule and the role of individual in society. Their anti-establishment and anti-commercial work challenged the boundaries between art and life (a “descent into the everyday”) through use of daily objects and performance in the public sphere.

Jiro Takamatsu, "Temporary Enclosure of Carioca Building Construction Site", 1971. Coourtesy of Kuramata Design Office / The Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo, Fergus McCaffrey, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo Yasuo Sadayama.

A response to the political regime of Park Chung Hee and the repressive government control over social sphere, Ku-lim Kim’s work emphasizes process and explores notions of destruction and creation. Incorporating ready-made objects into his creative process, Kim pushes the boundary of painting with works such as Death of Sun I, where a burnt vinyl on a wooden panel hides behind layers of black oil paint. The performative action of him burning the vinyl highlights the theme of destruction and likens the organic circular shape, the burnt surface and texture to an exploration of formal language.

Kim Ku Lim, "Zen", 1970. Courtesy of the Artist and DRAF. 

Drawing connections to the local historical events and connections within the Asian region, this conversation on performance art breaks from a conventional Western-centric art historical narrative, and contributes to a shifting paradigm of viewing artistic practices in Asia in its own right.


Click here for more information regarding the programme.


28 Sept — 28 Oct 2018
Opening Reception & Performance by Kim Ku Lim: Thurs 27 Sept 
111 Great Titchfield St, London W1 
Wed – Sat: 12:00–18:00



Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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