Performance Art in Japan


It is a well-known fact that Japanese art faced a major turning point from the latter half of the 1950s onwards, and that this change gave the impetus for many avant-garde artist groups to be formed by young artists in various cities around the country. One of the foundations from which these artists emerged was the “Yomiuri Indépendants2,” an exhibition that granted artists with the democracy of participation and freedom of expression (at least it was initially based on such philosophy!). It was through this exhibition, which gave unknown artists outside of Tokyo the opportunity to be unearthed by art critics and to be catapulted to the pages of national newspapers, that the “anti-art” trends that had radicalized from around 1960 until its demise, had developed into multifarious experiments of the art of that decade.

However, it seems that ample discussion has not been made in Japanese post-war art history as to where the young artists who had lost their outlet for expression when the Yomiuri Indépendants ended in 1963, directed anew their rambunctious energy. The Jishu Indépendant, which was self-managed by artists and critics, was only partially or temporarily able to replace the role of the Yomuri Indépendants. For example, even in the work3 by Chiba Shigeo, which is considered an epochmaking elaboration of Japanese post-war art history, or in the exhibition and exhibition catalog by Alexander Munroe4, the post-Yomiuri Indépendants movements have been connected to the Hi Red Center, Pop Art trends, Nihon Gainen-Ha (Japanese Conceptual Group), Mono-Ha, or to Hijikata Tatsumi’s Butoh, with a certain kind of logical leap. I for one, however, believe that it was the individuals and artist groups in the performance field who inherited in a more direct way the lawlessness that was inherent in the Yomiuri Indépendants. (

Artist and Performance Art Groups

  • Groups
  • Dumb Type
  • Neo Dada Organizers
  • Hi-Red Center
  • Yomiuri Indépendant
  • Zero Jigen

Bibliography and Organizations


Hirasawa, Go (2002), Underground Film Archives (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo).

Hirata, Minoru (2006), Zero Jigen: Kato Yoshihiro to 60nen-dai (Zero Dimension: Kato Yoshihiro and the 1960s) (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo).

Institute of Asian Performance Art

Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

Kato, Yoshihiro (1968), ‘Zerojigen Gishiki Seiron Monogatari 5’ (The Sound Argument and Story of Zerojigen Rituals), Eiga Hyoron, Nov., 82.

KAJIYA Kenji: Japanese Art Projects in History

Maria Kruglyak : Post-war performance art: from Japan to New York

KuroDalaiJee or Kuroda Raiji: Video Screening of Performance Art in the 1960s Japan

KuroDalaiJee (2003), ‘The Ritual of Zero Jigen in Urban Space’ in R, 2: 32-37.

Also available to download as pdf: 

KuroDalaiJee (2010), Nikutai Anarchism: 1960nen-dai Nihon Bijutsu ni okeru Performance no Chika Suimyaku (Anarchy of the Body: Undercurrents of Performance Art in 1960s Japan) (Tokyo: grambooks).

Why a Japanese performance art celebrates weakness PBS show on butoh

Provoke No.3 – series of books

Shortlist | The Defiant Fringed Pink: Feminist Art in Japan

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