Élodie Royer & Yoann Gourmel

The Play

Mr. Technology walks on the moon. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
Mr. Student Radical causes a bloodshed again. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
Mr. Painting fills a white space. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
. . .
Mr. Expo stumbles. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
Mr. Zero does a body ritual. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
. . .
Mr. Image cans the sky. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
Mr. Play et al. prove the being. What will Mr. Play et al. do?
Mr. Play et al. make a voyage. What will Mr. Play et al. do?1

On July 20th, 1969, the day man walked on the Moon for the first time, the members of the Japanese group The Play set out on an altogether different journey. After assembling a 3.5 × 8 m arrow-shaped raft made out of Styrofoam blocs inscribed with the words “the PLAY” painted in red letters, they sailed for twelve hours down the Uji, Yodo and Dojima rivers, between Kyoto and Osaka. By drifting on a makeshift raft on the day of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing, the group displayed their rejection of scientific rationalism, of progress as a corollary to territorial expansion, as well as of the apathetic, individualistic way of life promoted by capitalism. Entitled Current of Contemporary Art, this action, whose destination was decided by the currents, also stressed a playful, nonchalant relation to art rooted in everyday life.


The Play, Current of Contemporary Art, 1969. © The Play, Keiichi Ikemizu

Staging most of their actions, “without particular reason,” in “natural outdoor spaces,” and admitting they “only like[d] the infinite time and space of open air,”2 The Play is a fluctuating art collective that is still active today, gathering many individuals with various personalities and skills. It was formed in 1967 in the Japanese Kansai region (which includes the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe). Beyond its critique of social and artistic institutions—a typical stance in the 1960s Japanese art scene—the group has constantly devised its own methods for collective actions and the ways for transmitting them, its members coming together to create the possibility of an event without any concern for its result. Implicitly rejecting the notion of the artwork as an end, The Play has always stressed its own particular dynamics, based on sharing and on “making-together,” in a physical as well as a spiritual sense, through the staging of ephemeral situations.


From the late nineteenth century to the Second World War, Japanese artistic creation was centered around the bijutsu dantai, the rigid, highly hierarchical academic circles developed in parallel to the introduction of the Western notion of “fine arts” and the founding of new infrastructures derived from the European model (museums, art schools, public exhibitions). While exchanges with the European avant-garde (especially Futurist, Dadaist, and Surrealist groups) were already taking place during the 1920s, the creation of independent exhibitions, devoid of juries and of competition, contrary to what was required until then, served as a catalyst for the development of artistic practices ignoring the weight of tradition as early as the end of the war. Held annually at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum between 1949 and 1963, the Yomiuri Independent Exhibition allowed emerging artists and free-form collectives to show their works without government supervision, for the sake of artistic open-mindedness, democratisation and experimentation.

In a context where virtually every artist joined collectives in order to better defend their positions, the Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop), active in Tokyo between 1951 and 1958,3 played a crucial part. Gathering artists, musicians, engineers, poets, and critics, the group was informed by Bauhaus’ interdisciplinary research, and aimed at developing a “total” practice of art, blending music, technology, and visual arts. Focusing on interdisciplinarity and collaborative work, the Jikken Kōbō generated new forms of artistic events, somewhere between ballet, vocal performances and on-stage exhibitions. Seeking new presentation formats and a “sensory” experience of art, the Workshop’s experiments called for “a collaborative fusion of different disciplines,”4 an attitude comparable to the experiments carried out at Black Mountain College during the same period.

Meanwhile, in the Kansai region, Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Concrete Art Association, better known as Gutai) was founded. The group’s open-air performances—close to Fluxus’ events and to what would come to be defined as “happenings” by Allan Kaprow—would prove to have a lasting influence on a new generation of artists.

As the best-known Japanese group in the world, Gutai was an artist collective led by charismatic leader Jirō Yoshihara, a renowned abstract painter and an influential personality in the art world at the time. Yoshihara acted as a patron, a theorist and a mentor for the much younger artists he gathered around him. In parallel to his theoretical texts and manifestoes calling for a clean break from the past through a wide array of instructions such as “Do not ever imitate others! Do something that has never existed!,” he organised numerous group exhibitions, including open-air or on-stage presentations between 1955 and 1958. Experimental Outdoor Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Mid-Summer Burning Sun was Gutai’s first exhibition, and gathered forty artists together in Ashiya Park in July 1955. Seeking to reach the utmost degree freedom of expression while merging with nature’s elemental forces, artists such as Tanaka Atsuko, Murakami Saburō or Shiraga Kazuo created performances that, despite being inscribed in pictorial research, heralded action art and in situ, ephemeral installations.

Consisting of nearly sixty members at its heyday, Gutai was an incubator for collective artistic experiments which the group publicised through a journal partially translated into English. Relinquishing—albeit provisionally—object production in favour of ephemeral artworks, Gutai anticipated practices that would become increasingly radical worldwide during the next decade. In fact, upon discovering Gutai’s works, Allan Kaprow acknowledged the group’s pioneering role in the field of performance art and happenings. Yet, while a number of these artists gained international recognition thanks to French critic, art dealer and art informel advocate Michel Tapié’s discovery of the group, they also gradually moved away from the field of performance art in favour of the material results it produced. Indeed, Tapié linked their work to gestural painting, and encouraged them to produce paintings and objects that were more in line with the international aesthetics of the time so that they could get more circulation on the art market. We may therefore circumscribe Gutai’s most innovative period to a four-year span, from 1954 to 1958, the latter date signalling the end of open-air exhibitions. However, by the time of Jirō Yoshihara’s death in 1972—which led to the group’s dissolution—Gutai, formerly seen as a provincial collective with little credibility as an avant-garde catalyst, had acquired an international reknown at the cost of its more experimental aspects.


In the mid-1960s, slightly more than ten years after the end of the American occupation, the war traumas were starting to wear off as economic prosperity and modern comforts were setting in—a change the whole world witnessed during, for instance, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics or the Osaka Expo 70. Japanese society was then subject to significant protest movements directed against institutions and the new credit-based way of life promoted by the United States. These criticisms were aimed at the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security (ANPO), signed by the two countries in 1960, that allowed a continued US troop presence in Japan, turning the country into a forward base for the US containment policy against communism in Asia. The massive protests against the Treaty would increase as the decade went on, with the rejection of the Vietnam War and the brutal repression hitting back at the student riots.

In 1963, faced with controversy stirred by the radicalism5 of the works displayed at the 15th Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, the event’s main sponsor, newspaper Yomiuri, was forced to cancel any future events, thereby depriving many artists of an exhibition space, and signalling the shift of these groups’ activities towards public spaces. Feeding on this wave of social protest, as well as on ideas of openness and of exchange with Western artistic avant-gardes, many artists got involved with generally ephemeral collectives as a vehicle for political, radical, resolutely provocative and often clandestine actions in the streets of major cities.

Thus Tokyo saw the birth of anti-art movements seeking to abolish the borders between art and everyday life, using found materials and detritus for their works and their actions. Groups such as Bikyoto (Artists Joint-Struggle Council), Neo-Dada Organizers or Hi-Red Center, founded in 1963 by Jirō Takamatsu, Genpei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi, attempted to knock down the concept of art by reflecting on the social function of creation. The name of the group comes from the English translation of the first character of each artist’s family name (Taka = high; Aka = red; Naka = center). They also created their own signature: an exclamation mark adorning the flags, hand-outs, and various objects they used. Influenced by Gutai, their performances were closer in spirit to Fluxus, and addressed the malfunctions of human and social interactions as well the authoritarian conventions ruling over Japanese society. An action carried out during the 1964 Olympics, Cleaning Event consisted, for instance, in cleaning one of Tokyo’s main streets, Nishi-Ginza. Another action suggested riding on a train with one’s face painted white, as a reference to butô, a form of Japanese dance born in the 1960s as a reaction to the traumas of the Second World War and as a rupture with traditional performing arts such as Noh and Kabuki.


Members of Hi-Red Center carrying out the action Cleaning Event in the streets of Ginza in Tokyo, 1964. © Minory Hirata

The inclination toward collectives spread far beyond Tokyo, as groups were assembled in various regions of the country, including Group “I” and The Play in Kansai, as well as Kyushu-ha (the Kyushu school) in Fukuoka, Zero Dimension in Nagoya, GUN (Group Ultra Niigata) in Niigata, and Genshoku (Tactile Hallucination) in Shizuoka.6

Most of these collectives aimed at getting out of the museum, at demystifying their space, as well as that of the work, through the bypassing of institutional rules, at taking part in the emergence of “direct,” political actions, at extending the notion of experimental research to other creative fields—from film to music (Group Ongaku, for instance, would develop strong ties with Fluxus in New York City) to dance. An advocate of this new current, art critic Atsushi Miyakawa described it as a “descent to everyday life.”7

In this climate of confrontational, artistic ebullience, and following their involvement in several independent exhibitions and curatorial projects, Keiichi Ikemizu and other fellow artists founded The Play.

THE FIRST PLAY EXHIBITION or, “What is a Happening? A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.”8

For three days in August 1967, thirteen artists, sharing a common distaste for the art of the past and focusing on performance art and on the dematerialisation of the art object, realised open-air actions in Kobe’s Higashi-Yuenchi park. Keiichi Ikemizu’s Sky Diving, for instance, invited the audience to jump from the top of a four-meter high wooden diving board and rise in the air before falling down on sponge mattresses, while other artists imagined games and rituals such as walking in line with one eye closed, setting a gigantic condom full of air in motion, rolling on the ground with a rubber tube in the mouth, measuring everything around them, using smoke bombs at the risk of burning themselves. Following this first open-air exhibition, the artists and friends forming the core of the group—Keiichi Ikemizu, Hajime Okamoto, Jun Mizugami, Nakata Kazunari, and Fukunaga Toyoko—decided to stop making actions on their own from then on, and to start making them as a group. The Play was born. For Keiichi Ikemizu, the only founding artist who has remained a member of the group and is now its main archivist, “It was not a matter of making paintings or sculptures. … It was not an exclusive matter of art anymore. The audience and everyone could participate. At the time, this was a completely new thing.”9


The First Play Exhibition, 1967, group photo. © The Play, Keiichi Ikemizu


Keiichi Ikemizu, Sky Diving, 1967. © Keiichi Ikemizu

It was also during this exhibition that the artists used the term “happening” for the first time. The word would subsequently regularly appear in the posters and tracts they made for advertising and defining their common activities. “Back then, we would only use this word orally, but I believe it was the first time it was printed and used that way. I was hesitant because I didn’t know whether I could use it like that.”10 Yet, the way The Play conceived its activities indeed comes close to Allan Kaprow’s definition of a “happening” as an action performed “according to a plan but without rehearsal, audience, or repetition. It is art that seems closer to life.”11

Typical of a relation to art that prefers the play to the game, the latter being the set of rules imposed by institutions, then by the market, the purpose of The Play’s actions is erased in favour of the processes implemented by the group. This economy of collaborative projects that are not circumscribed by genre or specialty, and whose result has little importance, is also related to a definition of art given by Robert Filliou: that of a “respectable hobby,” a “way of organising leisure.”

Following this first event in Kobe, the group organised two exhibitions, taking place on stage in August 1968, and in an abandoned hospital in 1969. Again, each artist sets his/her own actions. 1968’s Voyage: A Happening in an Egg was the group’s first significant collective action. Initiated by Keiichi Ikemizu, it consisted in lowering a 150-kilogram resin and glass-fibre egg into the sea in the hope it would follow the Pacific Ocean’s marine currents and reach the America’s western shores. To do so, the seven participants were assisted by local fishermen for logistics, and by an oceanography professor establishing the project’s scientific interest, so that the group would obtain the necessary permissions. On August 1st, 1968, the egg was lowered as planned, about thirty kilometres from the Japanese coast. To the journalists that attended the action, Keiichi Ikemizu explained, “the egg carries an image of liberation from all mental and material restrictions imposed on us in our contemporary era.”12 One month after the lowering, a telegram announced that the egg had been spotted off the coast. This is at least what a short statement, included in the photographic documentation of the action, indicated:


The Play, Voyage: Happening in an Egg, 1968. © The Play, Keiichi Ikemizu

August 1st, 1968, we have launched an egg on the “Japan Current” at 33°05' North longitude and 134°41' East latitude. The egg is 2.2 meters high and 3.3 meters wide. There was a hope for success in reaching the west coast of America, across the Japan Current and the California Current. About a month later we received a telegram sent by a ship telling us they had found it. After that, nobody knows where the egg is now.13


Contrary to contemporary anti-art collectives working on urban space, The Play did not make any pretence of changing the social structure or broadening the categories of art. Following a logic in which the projects lead to unforeseeable results, the group rather attempted to recover fundamental relations uniting mankind and nature by turning away from urban civilisation and technology. As the group stated, “In the feeling of reform or change that controlled the ‘sixties,’ it was ‘THE PLAY’ that went outside of the system and was the synonym to outdoor art. The importance is to continue daily experimentations like an agriculturist. ‘THE PLAY’ action is a return to the eternal human life and it will be called ‘art,’ meaning: cultivating around its existence.”14

Seeking to create a form of temporary and ever-moving community inspired by counter-culture, the group members were interested in the construction processes of situations “between a person and another person, a thing and another thing, and a person and a thing.” Thus, their projects oscillated between meticulously prepared constructions demanding a considerable temporal and physical involvement, and actions relying on the mere movements of its members.

They carried out a great number of actions, just like one sets out on a journey, setting off for collective excursions on which detours were more important than the final destination. Following Current of Contemporary Art,15 the journey from Kyoto to Osaka was reiterated in 1970, on the ground, with a herd of sheep, for an eight-day and seven-night walk during which the members slept by the side of the road.


The Play, Sheep, 1970.

Sheep: we travelled on foot with twelve sheeps along the river from Kyoto to Osaka for a week. A shepherd's voyage is the one that searches for the inner part of the human being.16

In August 1972, about twenty members built a floating house with a surface equivalent to six tatamis (four metres by three), allowing eight of them to drift on the water for six days.


The Play, IE: The Play Have a House, 1972. © The Play, Keiichi Ikemizu

At first we made a house and we launched the house on the river. We lived for a week in the house descending Mt. Kasagi in Kyoto, along the rivers Kizu and Yodo in the direction of Osaka Bay.17

The way the group persisted in carrying out actions “like farmers” became obvious with Thunder:


The Play, Thunder, 1977-1986. © The Play, Keiichi Ikemizu

For ten years from 1977 to 1986, we waited for lightning to strike the “DORAISHIN,” a lightning rod we constructed on top of a wooden tower made of trigonal pyramids on Mt. Shubu and Mt. Ohmine alternately. We were, however, unable to observe the phenomenon. The “THUNDER” will never be built again. Conclusion: about fifty people participated in the construction of this tower. About five hundred people visited this tower in ten years and shared time waiting for the lightning to strike. We shall now move on to our next object.18


Besides its determined drive to carry out actions, The Play is also worthy of mention for its longevity and its organisational structure. Founded in 1967 without any hierarchical structure nor master theoretical principle, the group is still active today, its members having always fluctuated according to the projects, while continuing with their professional activities in order to make a living, like Keiichi Ikemizu, who has been a junior high school art teacher all his life. Even though Ikemizu’s continued presence has made him the group’s figurehead, he is not its leader, as The Play’s organisation relies on collegial discussions and decision-making. The group’s persistence may also be explained by the way each member was free to participate, or not, in the projects, and by their desire not to follow the rules of a particular manifesto, aesthetics, or agenda. Its organisation, its reasons, its ideals thus developed freely and gradually, along with their various accompanying activities and texts.

For the action White Cross, As a Matter of Sight and Thought (1970), which consisted of deploying, during twenty-four hours, a 50 × 50 m white cross made of cloth over Mt. Rokko, visible from three different Kobe neighbourhoods, and publishing its documentation, an unsigned text, written in Japanese and English,20 entitled “Comment,” recalls a manifesto:

Our group “THE PLAY” was organized in 1966. It is not a group of people who have the same way of thinking or ideology. Each member has his or her own thoughts about “art” or “happenings.” We have debates and discussions from time to time, and we perform a “happening” when we come across the point of intersection of our thought. Therefore, it is often a case of finding that the members of the group are motivated by the thoughts of different points of view at the time of the “happening.”

It is not our aim to convey a certain ideology to spectators. We only expect that something will happen in their consciousness by learning about our “happenings.”

We have used natural outdoor spaces as the stages for most of the “happenings” we have performed so far. There is no special reason for this, however. We only like the infinite time and space of open air.

“THE PLAY” practises two kinds of activities in parallel: One is to perform “happenings,” and the other is to publish the organ paper THE PLAY. The purpose of publishing THE PLAY is to deepen and enrich our thoughts and advocate these.21

As Keiichi Ikemizu explains today, this text was principally meant to set the record straight in order to better understand the actions of the group—following, among other things, violent reactions to some of their actions from radical left-wing students. For the same reasons, and in order to make their actions public and to circulate them beyond their (small) circle of regular followers, made up of relatives and friends, The Play published photocopied newspapers that included photographic reproductions of their actions, usually accompanied by a brief, concise statement, posters, plans and articles. Even though they never shied way from media coverage, they were aware of the importance of communicating about their activities, for if they “fail to enter people’s everyday life through these means of communication, their project will never be anything other than personal experiences.”22

Later collected by the group in two self-published books, both with a print run of 500 copies (in 1981 and 1991), this abundant archive is solely considered as documentation, and is not to be considered as a work in its own right. Contrary to the documents accompanying Fluxus events or several conceptual works that came to be fetishisized by collectors, the works of The Play inhabit the group’s very actions, thus achieving their aim of dematerializing the artwork and demystifying the work as a commodity—a myth that is still vivid today. In fact, in addition to nearly fifty years of activity, The Play has never sold nor tried to sell a single work.

In addition, while all the artefacts (pyramid, raft, floating house, and so on) produced for the group’s action have been destroyed, some works do not demand any material construction, as an answer to a wish Keiichi Ikemizu made for his own work in 1969: “I don’t want to make an object as such any longer. What concerns me now is the experience of the subject of an act and its viewer.”23 The action Wandering in the Wind (1976) exemplifies this position. This action mainly consisted of group members walking in line against the wind in the wild plains of Hokkaido Island, in Northern Japan. The shifting directions of the wind then defined the aimless direction of the walk.


The Play, Wandering in the Wind, 1976.

Wind! Unlike when we drift on a river’s current, we should always walk steadfastly against the wind. In the Sarobetsu Wilderness in Hokkaido, the very wind of creation blows unceasingly. We walked against the wind there for five days.24


For all that, the group also accepted invitations for museum exhibitions, and proposed actions aiming at testing the limits of such spaces. When they were invited to the 2nd Kyoto Biennial in 1973, The Play transplanted for the first time its outside-looking aspirations into an exhibition space, while still taking care to keep a way out at hand. The members chose to build a 30 m high hanging bridge connecting the entrance to the exit door of the room they were assigned, then moved it outside into a natural environment once the exhibition was over. With this typical, oscillating gesture between the museum and the outside, they returned its main essence and main functionality by creating a new crossing path over the Kizu river for a single day.



The Play, Bridge, 1973.

In 1980, they carried out Mado (window) at the Prefectural Museum of Modern Art in Kobe, where they moved a 3.50 × 4 m window from the museum’s first floor in order to display it in the middle of the exhibition room “which was then able to breathe the fresh air…”25

As Keiichi Ikemizu noted, “this exhibition created a full-scale conflict with the curator, who disagreed with the project. At first, we had left the window opening wide open, but we were told it was too dangerous for theft and insurance concerns. Each night, after the museum closed, we had to set up wooden planks in order to insulate the room. It was a compromise we were obliged to accept. Meanwhile, the museum director always carried a resignation letter in his pocket should something happen. But in the end, the exhibition was very successful. The audience was quite confused. It was not an installation. You could feel the wind and hear the animals, for there was a zoo next to the museum, you could hear the lions roar… Without understanding why, the audience enjoyed the exhibition.”26


The Play, Working Room = Model of Meaning,1981.

In 1981, the group was invited by the same museum, and proposed Working Room = Model of Meaning, an installation demanding the construction of a wooden pyramid—similar to the one that had been built over ten years, then demolished for Thunder—hung on the external museum façade. The following year, in the same museum again, they proposed MAP 1/1, a real-scale, 3.000 square-metre map surrounding a temple on the outskirts of Osaka. Following the same desire to bring everyday life and exteriority inside the museum through a process of constant displacement, The Play organised Kalejdoskop, an exhibition taking place in 1983 at Namba Media Studio in Osaka, for which they created a floor with the same wooden logs used for the Thunder and Working Room = Model of Meaning pyramids, providing an environment for the more classical documentary presentation of the group’s former actions.


The Play, Kalejdoskop, 1983.


Refusing to distinguish art from life, The Play dwells in an in-between space, removed from the established structures of art, from its production to its consumption. Through its involvement, the group underlines an attitude and an outlook focused on playing, sincerity and humor, notions that remain crucial today. Its persistence and longevity, which may be partly explained by the collective organisational model, as well as the outstanding motivation of its members for each project, have set The Play apart from other groups in Japanese art history, never completely integrated, yet never completely at the margins.

As art critic Keiji Nakamura explained in 1985 in the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun after an exhibition of the group called Traces and the Present of N Floating Entities, at Gallery 16 in Kyoto:

Devoid of any artistic pretence, their activities were predicated upon physical labor outdoors. However, their activities are not completely mundane. That is to say, their voluntary and unrewarded act defies our common sense, yet this precisely and barely makes their labor art. Still, they never aspire to “climb up” onto the stage of art, but stay in a place where staying there itself constitutes a critique of art. It's neither inside nor outside art. Their presence in a strange/delicate nook is dangerous and annoying to art that is content with its existence.27

Even though The Play’s outdoor activities have been scarcer since the 1980s, they are still ongoing. One may cite, for instance, Clock: A Shaft of Light of 70 Million Years from 1990, for which the group assembled a giant mirror reflecting the sunlight on a mountain located on one of Japan’s largest faults.

clock1 clock2

The Play, Clock: A Shaft of Light of 70 Million Years, 1990.

The persistence in collective, ephemeral actions still crystallizes a refusal to abide by the codes of the art world. Long ignored in its own country, The Play is now raising a certain critical interest in Japan.28 At the Osaka National Museum of Art29 in spring 2011, a collective exhibition called Kaza Ana/Air Hole, dedicated to conceptual art practices in Asia, gathered a number of documents on their projects, going as far back as the 1960s, as well as the replica of the arrow-shaped raft made in 1969. As a condition for their participation in the exhibition, the production and display of the raft had once again the sole purpose of its setting in the water at the end of the exhibition, and the continuation, through Osaka, of a drift that had begun nearly fifty years ago, on the current of art and of life.

  1. Hajime Okamoto, “Cross Meeting,” 1969, reprinted in Play [black cover], trans. Reiko Tomii (Osaka: self-published by The Play, 1981), n.p. 

  2. “Comment,” unsigned, reprinted in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  3. An exhibition focusing on Jikken Kōbō was held at Bétonsalon, Paris, between September 8 and October 28, 2011, curated by Mélanie Mermod. 

  4. Shogo Ohtani, “The Experimental Workshop: The Meeting of Media,” in Jasia Reichardt (ed), Experimental Workshop: Japan 1951-58 (London: Annely Juda Fine Art, 2009), n.p. 

  5. In order to provide an insight on the type of works exhibited, it should be noted that the Tokyo Museum had preliminarily, and for the first time, emitted a set of restrictive conditions, which were of course not respected by the artists. Namely: “Works are prohibited that involve loud, unpleasant sounds, that smell bad, that decompose, that are dangerous or potentially toxic, that are installed either directly on the floor or hung from the ceiling.” Nakahaya Yusuke, quoted by Charles Merewether, “Disjunctive Modernity, The Practice of Artistic Experimentation in Postwar Japan,” in Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art, Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan, 1950-1970 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2007), 18. 

  6. It would be too lengthy to detail the agendas and actions of the groups and collectives that helped redefine production and exhibition processes of art during this period. For a deeper study of art during that period, see art historian Reiko Tomii, more specifically “After the ‘Descent to the Everyday’: Japanese Collectivism from Hi-Red Center to The Play, 1964-1973,” in Blake Stimson, Gregory Sholette (eds), Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination After 1945 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 45-76. 

  7. Atsushi Miyakawa, quoted by Reiko Tomii, in “After the ‘Descent to the Everyday’,” 47. 

  8. Allan Kaprow, handwritten note for Watching, 1967, Allan Kaprow Papers, ca. 1940-1997, box 12, file 8, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. 

  9. Interview with Keiichi Ikemizu, Kyoto, May 2011. 

  10. Ibid. 

  11. Allan Kaprow, Some Recent Happenings (New York: Something Else Press, 1966), 5. 

  12. Keiichi Ikemizu, quoted in Shukan Asahi, date unknown, reprinted in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  13. Unsigned statement, printed in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  14. Unsigned preface, printed in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  15. Action mentioned in the beginning of this text. 

  16. Unsigned statement, printed in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  17. Ibid. 

  18. Unsigned statement, printed in Play [blue cover] (Osaka: self-published, 1991), n.p. 

  19. As the members of the group called themselves at the first exhibition.  

  20. It should be noted that all the actions’ titles and descriptions, as well as the name of the group, were translated into English from the onset.  

  21. “Comment,” unsigned, reprinted in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  22. Quotation from Play [black cover], n.p. 

  23. Keiichi Ikemizu, in The 1st International Exhibition of Modern Sculpture (Hakone: Hakone Open-Air Museum, 1969), 60. 

  24. Unsigned statement, printed in Play [black cover], n.p. 

  25. Interview with Keiichi Ikemizu, Kyoto, May 2011. 

  26. Ibid. 

  27. Keiji Nakamura, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 29, 1985. 

  28. In France, a set of videos documenting their actions was presented in 1986 for the exhibition Japon des avant-gardes held at the Centre Pompidou. Following the discovery of the group during a residency at the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto in 2011, and after the conversations we had with them, we invited the artists to take part in Le Sentiment des choses at Le Plateau—FRAC Île-de-France, in Paris (December 15, 2011–February 26, 2011), and Le Mont Fuji n’existe pas, also at Le Plateau (June 6–July 29, 2012), for which, besides presenting a vast array of documents related to their past actions, the group continued the action Current of Contemporary Art on the Seine. 

  29. Kaza Ana/Air Hole: Another Form of Conceptualism in Asia, National Museum of Art, Osaka, March 8–June 5, 2011. 

Published on <o> future <o>, June 2, 2012.

Jean-François Caro
CC BY-ND 3.0 France

Previously published in French in △⋔☼, №2, 06/2012, p.13-30.