Gendaishicho-sha Bigakko : undercurrents in Japanese art and politics from 1960-1975

Shimada, Yoshiko (2015) Gendaishicho-sha Bigakko : undercurrents in Japanese art and politics from 1960-1975. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis investigates the explicit interconnection of radical art and politics in Japan in the 1960s and early 1970s through an in-depth study of the alternative art school Gendaishicho-sha Bigakko (1969-75). Founded in 1969 in Tokyo in the aftermath of the student movement by the radical publishing company Gendaishicho¬sha, Bígakko was the brainchild of the director Ishii Kyoji, the editor Kawani Hiroshi, and art critic Imaizumi Yoshihiko. Although some of the most important Japanese artists of the 1960s such as Nakanishi Natsuyuki and Akasegawa Genpei (of Hi Red Center), the painters Nakamura Hiroshi and Kikuhata Mokuma (of Kyushu-ha), and Matsuzawa Yutaka - who is regarded as a forerunner of Japanese Conceptualism - were among the teachers there, this is the first detailed study of Bigakko. Based upon extensive primary research, including interviews with the founders, administrators, teachers and students, and the recovery of significant original material from several personal archives, I establish and assess both the school's significance in the history of Japanese art and the part it played in the country' s socio-political history, which have hitherto been largely ignored. As part of the re-construction of Bigakko's history and teaching methods, the PhD includes practice based components: a visual chronology of Gendaishicho-sha Bigakko as a supplement to the thesis ; the documentation of my-re-enactments of Nakanishi Natsuyuki's drawing class exercises at Kyoto Art Center in 2010, at Bigakkö in 2011, and in London in 2012, and documentation of two exhibitions I curated and installed : the Bigakko section of the 'Anti-Academy' exhibition (realized between Novomber 2013 and January 2014 at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, UK) and 'World Uprising'(April 2014 at Bunpodo Gallery, Tokyo), an exhibition of mail art originally conceived and realized by Matsuzawa Yutaka and his Final Art Thoughts workshop at Bigakko in 1971- 1973. This includes the documentation of Matsuzawa's 'Psy Room' at Suwa, Nagano. Through this body of PhD research, I argue that the various experiments conducted by the artists/teachers at Bigakko - with their emphasis on the revival of handwork and communal, physical experience - had the potential to bring about the new artistic language for communication and changes. Although the Bigakko experiment was prematurely terminated in 1975, I propose that the fundamental questions it raised are still relevant today, and their notion of embracing contradictions presents an important agency in confronting the stagnation that Japanese society faces today.

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