In ‘From Body in Action to Information in Time: Performance Art and its ‘Second Life’ in 1960s Japan’, Reiko Tomii illuminates a fundamental difference of performative practices in 1960s Japan from Euro-American counterparts. Through an examination of artwork documentation, which she terms the “second life” of a performance work, Tomii tracks major shifts in artistic practice during this time. This will be our final Keir Lectures on Art lecture for 2019.



In the history of performance art, 1960s Japan occupies a pioneering place with its early experiments and innovations in body-based and time-based practices. The study of performance art has customarily focused on the bodily agency of a performance artist. However, in reality, the object of study is what I call the “second life” of a performance work, usually documentary photographs, which are but only a part of the information generated by the work. In this lecture, in order to re-examine the history of Japanese performance art, I propose to introduce an agency centering not so much on body as on information, thereby expressly foregrounding the second-life aspect of performance art. This allows us to see a major shift that took place as the expanded 1960s unfolded from Gutai to Anti-Art (Han-geijutsu) to Non-Art (Hi-geijutsu). In the beginning, Japanese artists tended to leave the information operation to others, typically photographers, but increasingly they took control of it and elevated the second life to the status of work (sakuhin) as such. This observation also illuminates a fundamental difference of performative practices in 1960s Japan from Euro-American counterparts.



Reiko Tomii is an independent art historian and curator, who investigates post-1945 Japanese art which constitutes a vital part in world art history of modernisms. Her early works include her contribution to Global Conceptualism (Queens Museum of Art, 1999), Century City (Tate Modern, 2001), and Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art (Getty Research Institute, 2007). She is co-director of PoNJA-GenKon, a listserv group of specialists interested in contemporary Japanese art. With PoNJA-GenKon, she has organized a number of symposiums and panels in collaboration with Yale University, Getty Research Institute, and other major academic institutions. Her recent publication Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan (MIT Press, 2016) received the 2017 Robert Motherwell Book Award. Based on the book, she curated Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s at Japan Society Gallery, New York in 2019.



6:00-7:30pm, Wednesday 30 October

New Law School Foyer

University of Sydney Law School

Eastern Avenue

NSW 2006

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Reiko Tomii will also present a lecture at the University of Melbourne as part of the Keir Lectures on Art. To register for this event, taking place on 23 October 2013, please click here.



The Keir Lectures on Art series is a Power Instituted initiative supported by the Keir Foundation and presented in partnership with The University of Melbourne.