Kazuko Tsujimura and the Dance without Body
Sunday, August 4
Yale Union and End of Summer co-present a talk by art historian Namiko Kunimoto in conjunction with Yale Union’s exhibition Yutaka Matsuzawa.
“…I open my womb to inhale every occurrence in the world.” –Kazuko Tsujimura, 1971
A common interpretive framework posits that postwar cultural production sought to emphasize bodily carnality as an antidote to wartime propaganda that gave primacy to the union of the state rather than to the individual. During the 15-year war, the government officially promulgated terms such as kokutai (national body), which referred to the uniqueness of the Japanese as authenticated by their “divine origins.” The heavy-handed rhetorical use of kokutai in state propaganda was rejected in the postwar period, and some artists instead celebrated the oppositional nikutai (carnal body). However, women were often excluded from the nikutai movement because of the obvious strictures against female nudity, transgressiveness, and female sexual desire.
Kazuko Tsujimura (1941–2004) was an avant-garde dancer who aimed for a “dance without body, without dancing.” While Tatsumi Hijikata of Ankoku Butoh declared the primacy of the carnal body in his works like Revolt of the Flesh, photographs reveal that Tsujimura tried to fuse her body with the natural environment, to be transparent, and to disappear. Her works might be understood as a rejection of the rhetoric of the national body as well as the heavily masculinized nikutai or “carnal body.” In 1974, Tsujimura started her own dance school, and had numerous conceptual dance events in collaboration with Yutaka Matsuzawa (a leading Japanaese conceptual artist), the Parinibbna Paliyaya Body Group, and other visual artists such as Tatsuo Ikeda. Tsujimura’s demand to de-materialize the body from dance was a means to break away from the nikutai–kokutai binary and thereby created a new space for women’s avant-garde art.
Namiko Kunimoto is a specialist in modern and contemporary Japanese art, with research interests in gender, race, urbanization, photography, visual culture, performance art, transnationalism, and nation formation. Her essays include “Olympic Dissent: Art, Politics, and the Tokyo Games” in Asia Pacific Japan Focus, “Tactics and Strategies: Chen Qiulin and the Production of Space” forthcoming in Art Journal and “Shiraga Kazuo: The Buddhist Hero” published in Shiraga/Motonaga: Between Action and the Unknown. Dr. Kunimoto’s awards include a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowship, Japan Foundation Fellowships (2007 and 2016), a College Art Association Millard/Meiss Author Award, and the OSU Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching (2018). She has been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and is an executive member of Japan Arts and Globalization and Vice-President of the Japanese Art History Forum. Her book, The Stakes of Exposure: Anxious Bodies in Postwar Japanese Art, was published in February 2017 by the University of Minnesota Press.
Yutaka Matsuzawa performing My Own Death with Kazuko Tsujimura touching his chest and Katsuhiro Yamaguchi as a witness, at Tokyo Biennale 1970 at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Photo © Mitsutoshi Hanaga