The proliferation of performance art is an important characteristic of the radicalism of 1960s art in Japan. Although these performative practices were time-based and thus ephemeral, researchers today benefit from the voluminous photographic documentation left by several devoted photographers. Among them, Mitsutoshi Hanaga (1933-1999) was arguably the most dedicated, capturing decisive moments of landmark works such as Hi Red Center’s Closing Event (1964) and Zero Dimension’s notorious “street rituals.” However, Hanaga’s interest went beyond visual art: he also followed Butoh dancers, student and political activists, and social scenes. In this talk, art historian Reiko Tomii and historian Tom Looser discussed Hanaga’s work with the late photographer’s son, Tarō Hanaga, who has been committed to digitizing and making his father’s photographic archive accessible for research.
Born in 1970, Tarō Hanaga is the only child of photographer Mitsutoshi Hanaga (1933-1999). As a child, he assisted with his father’s projects on performance art and Butoh, but never took up the camera as a profession. In 2013, he established Mitsutoshi Hanaga Project Committee to digitize and research the archives of more than 100,000 negatives left by his late father. After presenting a curated section on the photographer’s work at the Tokyo Art Fair in 2014, the committee presented selections of his photographs on avant-garde art, Butoh, and social scenes of the 1960s and 1970s in exhibitions both in Japan and abroad. In 2017, the committee published Mitsutoshi Hanaga 1000 from 1000Bunko.
Tom Looser is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at NYU. His areas of research include cultural anthropology and Japanese studies; art, architecture and urban form; new media studies and animation; and critical theory. The author of Visioning Eternity: Aesthetics, Politics, and History in the Early Modern Noh Theater (Cornell University Press, 2008), he has widely published in a variety of venues including Boundary 2, Japan Forum, Mechademia, Shingenjitsu, Journal of Pacific Asia, and Cultural Anthropology. He is a senior editor for the journal Mechademia, an editor for Digital Asia, and on the editorial advisory board of ADVA.
Reiko Tomii is an independent art historian and curator and co-director of PoNJA-GenKon, a listserv group of specialists interested in contemporary Japanese art. Her early works include her contribution to Global Conceptualism (Queens Museum of Art, 1999) and Century City (Tate Modern, 2001). Her recent publication Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan (MIT Press, 2016) received the 2017 Robert Motherwell Book Award, and was turned into an exhibition Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s at Japan Society in New York (March-June 2019).
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.