Magazine article Artforum International

"Jikken Kobo-Experimental Workshop": The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama

Magazine article Artforum International

"Jikken Kobo-Experimental Workshop": The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama

Article excerpt

Jikken Kobo or Experimental Workshop, was a renowned Japanese art-and-performance collective of exceptional diversity. The group consisted of five visual artists, five composers (some of whom, including Toru Takemitsu, would later achieve international fame), a pianist, a lighting designer, an engineer, and a music critic/poet--all of whom gathered around the well-known art critic Shuzo Takiguchi, who gave the group its name. From 1951 until their disbanding in 1957, they produced and presented experimental stage performances and concerts of avant-garde music, playing pieces composed by the members and also presenting works by Bela Bartok, Norman Dello Joio, and Oliver Messiaen, among others, for the first time in Japan. Experimental Workshop also created sound-synched automatic slide shows combining abstract images, concrete-music pieces, and poetic texts in annual performance events, in addition to making abstract paintings, sculpture, photographs, and films. Curated by Harumi Nishizawa and Yuka Asaki, the exhibition (which will travel to four museums in Japan through January 2014) is the first major retrospective of this remarkable movement. Supported by expert scholarship and with a substantial body of 450 items, including original and reconstructed works and photographic and journalistic documentation of others, the exhibition (and catalogue) gave an organic overview of the group's multifaceted activities.

Although the absence of film documentation of stage performances and We destruction of mane collaborative works posed a challenge, the group's passion for intermedia expression was effectively captured by the fragmented materials for four automatic slide shows created in 1953, together with a reenactment of Joji Yuasa's concrete-music piece Lespugue, also 1953, in which a flute and piano performance was taped and played backward. The photographed images for the 1953 slide shows, with such titles as Another World and Making Foam, were highly reminiscent of a science-fiction him, showing geometrical models of future cities (anticipating the image of space colonies that prevailed in the enormously popular Japanese sci-fi films of the 1960s), strange bionic figures, and visions of an explosion and accumulation of particles. …

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