- From Design to Environment"Art and Technology" in Two1966 Exhibitions at the Matsuya Department Store
In November 1966, when visitors standing on the busy thoroughfare of Ginza stepped into Matsuya Department Store, few of them probably remembered that the store had been commandeered by the Occupation Forces and served as the Tokyo Main PX (Post Exchange) for military and occupation personnel from 1946 to 1952. Those who ascended to Matsuya's eighth floor encountered two exhibitions side by side when they got off the escalator. One exhibition, to the left, Good Design, continued one of the store's signature cultural programs that dated back to the establishment of the "Good Design Corner" in 1955 (fig. 18.1). A place to showcase design objects that could be used in everyday home life, the corner featured a Good Design exhibition, organized almost annually, to promote and make accessible the idea of modern design. That year, the exhibition included such functional objects as plastic-made lighting devices and table calendars. The other exhibition, to the right, From Space to Environment (Kūkan kara kankyō e), was an art exhibition that promoted a different kind of modernity: the marriage of art and technology (fig. 18.2).1 Subtitled An Exhibition Synthesizing Painting + Sculpture + Photography + Design + Architecture + Music, the exhibit decisively advocated "intermedia," gesturing toward the productive collaboration among practitioners of various disciplines,2 and is considered a landmark in defining the course of 1960s art in Japan. Indeed, once inside, the visitors saw two-and three-dimensional objects that transcended the standard definitions of "painting" and "sculpture"—some hanging from the ceiling, some emitting light, and some others otherwise challenging the visitors' conventional idea of art. An ambitious goal of the organizers was to have the visitors experience an aggregate formation defined as an "environment" that encompassed the interior and exterior of buildings as well as the viewers.
Situated innocuously side by side, Good Design and From Space to Environment were different from each other—more so than they might first appear to the unsuspecting [End Page 275] eye—as will be demonstrated in this article. Key to this disjuncture between the two exhibits are two basic concepts, Design (dezain) and Environment (kankyō). While Design profoundly informed Good Design, it was deemed outdated in From Space to Environment, where instead, Environment engendered a radical experiment. (A note on terminology: In this essay, I have particularized the two terms Design and Environment by capitalizing them. Although both "design" and "environment" are commonly used nouns, they carry specific and local connotations crucial to understanding the history of art and technology in Japan.) My aim here is to critically examine these two concepts in their respective contexts of the two exhibitions held concurrently at Matsuya and demonstrate how these two ideas allowed practitioners of various disciplines to collaborate. To this end, I will also reexamine the larger concept of "art and technology," which involved both Design and Environment.
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Of the two exhibitions, From Space to Environment has recently received more scholarly attention.3 However, these studies tend to regard "art and technology" as medium and period—specific to 1960s art—and the combination of "art" and "technology" is predicated upon the incompatibility of the two categories. In contrast, I propose to conceptualize "art and technology" as an inseparable pair. When we look at historical studies of such diverse disciplines as architecture, craft, product design (industrial design), printmaking, graphic design, photography, films, and videos, it is evident that art and technology have always been associated in one way or another. Furthermore, "art and technology" thus understood is not solely a postwar concern, but extends further back in history. By expanding our attention beyond art history, I would like to prepare a scholarly platform for reexamining several postwar interdisciplinary movements against the context of rapid technological development and urbanization and thereby critically engage with the historical narrative of the so-called...