This talk traces a current from the mid-1950s to 1970s’ that is unique to contemporary art not only in Japan but internationally. Exploring modern and contemporary art in Japan in terms of its unique context; collectivity and collective production of art, “avant-garde” arts including film and animation, dialectical interaction between inner and outer realities, high art and mass culture, society and politics, nature and technology.

Japanese art and post-war artists in particular are now being reappraised; 2012 Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Tate Modern curated by Frances Morris. Doryun Chong’s, Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde, Museum of Modern Art in New York and Gutai: Splendid Playground, at The Guggenheim Museum curated by Ming Tiampo and Alexandra Munroe. With Japanese post-war artists in particular now being reappraised and understood as pioneers.

Japan has a very different almost paradigmatic position in modernism, due to its early and sustained involvement with the West as well as its ambivalent struggle with the questions of modernity throughout that period from the 1890s onwards. Speaking of after World War II a major transformation began in Japan’s post-war art scene. What can we point to a significant turning point or development, and what new aesthetic theories bridged art and society in a meaningful manner after Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers on the 15th of August 1946. More than anything, how did modern Japanese art, which rushed to embrace the concepts of modern Western art as its standard, finally escape from being labelled imitation, derivation, eclecticism, and constraint?