Object into action: group Ongaku and Fluxus

Kawamura, Sally (2009) Object into action: group Ongaku and Fluxus. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2694779


This study focuses on the relation of three Japanese artists to Fluxus: Takehisa Kosugi, Mieko Shiomi, and Yasunao Tone. In the early 1960s, these three were part of a free improvisational music group in Tokyo called ‘Group Ongaku’ (Music Group). In Group Ongaku, partly through concerns with l’objet sonore, they moved from focussing on sound only, to a concern with performing action as music. From 1961 onwards, they came into contact with Fluxus ‘leader’ George Maciunas via the experimental composers Toshi Ichiyanagi and Nam Jun Paik, and artist Yoko Ono.

Kosugi, Shiomi, and Tone all participated in Fluxus activities in New York. Although their contributions have been mentioned in Fluxus publications, the relation between their early work in Group Ongaku and their later work in Fluxus has not been discussed thoroughly. This study aims to show why their work appealed to Maciunas, and bore similarities to the work of other Fluxus artists, resulting in a mutual appreciation. I wish to demonstrate that this was not just a simple matter of the Japanese artists having been influenced by Fluxus or John Cage, but that the beginnings of their experimentation and the development of their work was rooted in their own context in Japan. A view of Fluxus as an international group where specific, local concerns were also relevant to the artists that participated in it will be supported. Shared influences between some members of Fluxus, and Group Ongaku, such as Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and ethnomusicology ensured concerns with action, chance, the unconscious and re-evaluation of familiar environments and objects. This, for Group Ongaku, was set against the social and political tension of 1960s Tokyo, where World War II was still fresh in the memory of many citizens. Millions of protesters were taking to the streets fearing another war if America were allowed to continue with military bases in Japan, and the superficial happiness of middle-class workers wishing to make a good standard of living from the economic boom was being critiqued by artists.

Close readings of each individual’s work bearing relevance to Fluxus are presented in the final part. This will be the first study to present chapter-length, in-depth readings of Group Ongaku members’ work together in the context of Fluxus. As close readings of the work of these three artists are scarce, this will contribute to the understanding of them. Japanese artists in Fluxus are numerous, yet under-studied as individuals in Fluxus contexts, and it is hoped that this study will add to Fluxus studies another perspective on the relation between Fluxus and Japan. Additionally, this will provide the first PhD-length study in English or Japanese on Group Ongaku’s relationship to Fluxus.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Group Ongaku, Fluxus, Japanese Fluxus, Fluxus Events, Japanese art, Japanese music, Takehisa Kosugi, Mieko Shiomi, Yasunao Tone, Improvisation, Performance Art, Action Music, John Cage, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Yoko Ono, Nam Jun Paik
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Hopkins, Professor David
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr Sally Kawamura
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1249
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2009
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2016 16:10
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1249

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