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Jikken Kōbō and Takiguchi Shūzō: The New Deal Collectivism of 1950s Japan
Abstract

Abstract:

In post-1945 Japan, the government, guided by the occupation authority, reeducated the people with a democratic ideology. Belligerent nationalism was replaced by a national mission of enrichment of arts and culture. Takiguchi Shūzō (1903–79), a poet-critic and supporter of vanguard art since the prewar period, continued to cultivate the spirit of defiance against the establishment in the postwar art world. However, as a respected man of culture, he was also involved in a project of building the first national museum of modern art for the purpose of public enlightenment. This article explores how Takiguchi fostered independent art movements despite his conflicting engagement with the establishment.

In Takiguchi’s mind, artistic collectivism had to be rooted in the public domain so that art and society would inform each other. His utopian vision paralleled many objectives of the historical avant-gardes of the West, and it was transmitted to the postwar generation of artists, most notably, to the artists’ collective Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop; active 1951–57). This group exemplified the postwar Japanese reception of the Bauhausian philosophy of unified art, and Takiguchi played an important role in fostering Jikken Kōbō’s interest in the Bauhaus. By placing the transmission of utopianism from Takiguchi to Jikken Kōbō in a larger politicocultural context, this article analyzes the effect of the legacy of the US-led occupation on the idea of artistic collectivism in 1950s Japan.

The United States was already under the influence of the Bauhaus in the 1930s as evidenced in the establishments of Black Mountain College and the Chicago Bauhaus. The concept of progressive art education promoted by these schools eventually reached Japan through the postwar occupation, whose initial directive was fueled by New Deal liberalism. This article examines a work that revisited Bauhausian philosophy, Jikken Kōbō’s 1955 The Future Eve (Mirai no ivu), an experimental ballet theater based on a science fiction novel written in 1886 by the French novelist Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. The Future Eve revealed Jikken Kōbō’s affinity with the Bauhaus in its collective engagement with production of theater, its strong interest in merging art and technology, and ultimately, its belief in art’s relevance to social and public issues of the time.



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