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By Antliff, Allan | Anarchist Studies, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

About This Issue's Cover


Antliff, Allan, Anarchist Studies


Kinoshita Shûichirô's mixed media art work, Psychological Portrait of an Anarchist of Decisive Action (1925), marks an interesting juncture in the history of anarchism in art. In the wake of World War 1, a small collective of Japanese artists asserted their independence from Japan's rigidly hierarchical social order by combining the provocative strategies of European Dadaists with the Russian Constructivists' expansive approach to artistic materials, creating assemblages from the throw-away detritus of everyday life while staging performances and exhibitions calculated to outrage the cultural establishment. In 1923 they formed a loose-knit art movement called MAVO. The word itself was meaningless, and in their founding manifesto the artists announced that the organization was merely a 'negative entity', not a unifying creed. MAVO was dedicated to advancing the freedom of its participants, which was synonymous with revolution: 'We are not bound', they wrote. 'We are radical. We revolutionize/make revolution. We advance. We create. We ceaselessly affirm and negate. We live in all the meaning of words. Nothing can be compared with us.'

In 1924 the group founded a journal, MAVO, with its own 'terrorist' faction of anarchist poets, and the next year it convened a short-lived exhibiting society, Sanka, to showcase work by artists who shared MAVO's outlook. Sanka's second exhibition, which was held in a working-class district of Tokyo in early September 1925, was staged to coincide with the annual opening of officially-sanctioned shows, and constituted a deliberate affront to the Japanese establishment. …

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