Embodying Postwar Trauma: Examining the fragmented body in the performances of Tatsumi Hijikata, Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

This paper focuses on cross-cultural parallels in postwar performance from the Second World War’s defeated nations. Taking as case studies Tatsumi Hijikata’s Butoh productions in Japan and the Actionist works of Günter Brus and Rudolf Schwarzkogler in Austria, I contend that imagery of violence, sacrifice, and mutilation of the artist’s body reflects a troubled cultural identity in the period following World War II. I will demonstrate that these artists shared a collective interest in spirituality and ritualism, and, significantly, embodied an alternative male archetype, one that represented the trauma of war defeat. I begin by outlining patterns of cultural exchange between Japan and Europe in the early twentieth century, before presenting case studies of Butoh and Actionist performances. I identify aesthetic and thematic parallels between these examples, resulting both from the legacy of cultural exchange, and the collective experience of defeat in World War II. In this paper, I examine Butoh and Viennese Actionism from new analytical perspectives. I re-position Butoh in the history of modern dance as the outcome of a reciprocal, international dialogue, contesting the notion that Butoh is a cultural isolate, or ‘uniquely’ Japanese in character. I approach the work of Brus and Schwarzkogler from my perspective as a dance scholar, suggesting that the choreographed nature of their ‘actions’ could be read as a comparable practice to postmodern dance-theatre. Accordingly, I interpret the first wave of Butoh and elements of Viennese Actionism as evolving from a shared history, one with its roots in the emergence of Modernism in the West, and argue that their emergence in the 1960s was catalysed by the fall-out of the Second World War.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventTrauma and Utopia: Interactions in Post-War and Contemporary Art in Asia - Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 9 Oct 2014 → …

Conference

ConferenceTrauma and Utopia: Interactions in Post-War and Contemporary Art in Asia
Country/TerritoryJapan
CityTokyo
Period9/10/14 → …

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