Shigeko Kubota

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Shigeko Kubota (久保田 成子 Kubota Shigeko?) (born 1937) is a Japanese-born video artist, sculptor and avant-garde performance artist, who lives and works in New York City.[1][2] Shigeko Kubota’s career was most prominent in the 1960s and 1970s when the Sony Portapak was just beginning to gain popularity among artist and activist circles. Kubota is known for constructing sculptural installations with a strong DIY aesthetic, which include sculptures with embedded monitors playing her original videos. She was a key member and influence on Fluxus, the international group of avant-garde artists centered on George Maciunas, having been involved with the group since witnessing John Cage perform in Tokyo in 1962 and subsequently moving to New York in 1964.[3] She was closely associated with George Brecht, Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, Joe Jones, Nam June Paik, and Ay-O, other members of Fluxus. Kubota was deemed "Vice Chairman" of the Fluxus Organization in 1964, a somewhat superfluous title given by Brecht.

Shigeko Kubota's video and sculptural works are mainly shown in galleries – though her use of the television is synonymous with other video artists of the 1960s who made experimental broadcast programs as a move against the hegemony of major networks.[4] Shigeko Kubota is known for her contribution to the expansion of the field of video into the field of sculpture and for her works addressing the place of video in art history.[5] Her work explores the influence of the technology, and more specifically the television set, on personal memory and the emotions. Some works for example, eulogize, while also exploring the presence of the deceased in video footage and recorded images such as her Duchampiana series, the video My Father, and her later works Korean Grave and Winter in Miami which eulogize her husband Nam June Paik. Kubota's sculptures also play with ways in which video footage and sculptures which utilize videos can evoke nature, as in her Meta-Marcel, Bird, and Tree series' and in River, and Rock Video: Cherry Blossoms.[6]

Biography[edit]

Kubota was born to a family of monk lineage associated with a Buddhist temple in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, where she lived through World War II.[7] As a young adult, she moved to Tokyo to study sculpture at the Tokyo University of Education. She was introduced to the experimental music collective in Tokyo called Gurupu Ongaku (Group Music) by her aunt Chiya Kuni, an established modern dancer. Members of Gurupu Ongaku included Takehisa Kosugi, Chieko Shiomi, Yasunao Tone, who were experimenting with tape recorders, noise music, and avant-garde performances in the early 1960s. Shigeko Kubota first met John Cage and Yoko Ono at Tokyo Bunka Hall in Ueno when he was on tour there in 1962. Yoko Ono was a dancer for Cage's concert tour through Japan in 1962.

In December 1963, Kubota had her first solo show, "1st Love, 2nd Love..." at Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo, an alternative/ avant-garde space in Shinbashi, Tokyo.[8] Later that year, she moved to New York after exchanging letters with George Maciunas about the New York Fluxus scene. Her first show in New York was on July 4, 1965 at Cinemateque as part of the perpetual Fluxfest, where she performed her famous "Vagina Painting." After this exhibition, Kubota exhibited her works regularly in New York. In 1965 she was married to Nam June Paik after divorcing her first husband, the composer David Behrman.

Kubota continued her studies at New York University and the New School for Social Research 1965-1967. She studied at the Art School of the Brooklyn Museum 1967-1968. Kubota taught at the School of Visual Arts, and was video artist-in residence at Brown University in 1981 and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1973, 1981, 1982, and 1984, and at the Kunst Akademie in Düsseldorf in 1979. She also helped to coordinate the first annual Women's Video Festival at The Kitchen in 1972.[9] From 1974-1982 she was a curator at the Anthology Film Archives.

Feminism[edit]

Whether Kubota's work can be described as feminist has been a topic of interest in the scholarship and presentation of her work.[10][11] Kelly O'Dell writes that Kubota's references to Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, and Yves Klein, are used by feminist critics to describe Kubota's work as problematizing the interest of the Western canon in masculine rendering, to reclaim art for women.[12] However, Kubota does not characterize her works as feminist. In an interview with the Brooklyn Rail, she said, "People can put me in the Feminist category all they want, but I didn’t think I can make any real contribution other than my work as an artist."[8] But artists who are largely considered feminist may not personally identify as such for a variety of reasons. Judith Butler argues that the label of feminism works against the integration of a larger spectrum of ideas relating to gender and identity into the discourses about art by encapsulating feminist argues as a separate strain of history or art history.[13]

Feminist art historians have also emphasized Kubota and other women artists' estrangement and marginalization from the Fluxus movement.[14] Midori Yoshimoto writes that Kubota's Vagina Painting, which is her most explicit work about gender in art, was poorly received by her peers involved in Fluxus, similarly to ways in which Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneemann's performances were considered 'un-Fluxus' because of their strong emphasis on feminine subjects. There is also interest in the overshadowing of Kubota's career by her husband Nam June Paik's as an issue of the gender biased art world.

Installations and Videos[edit]

1st Love, 2nd Love...[edit]

While in Tokyo, Kubota became friends with Yoko Ono, who was at the time involved in Fluxus and the New York art scene. Kubota and other members of Grounp Ongaku and began working on poetic 'scores' and sending them to Yoko Ono's contact, George Maciunas, in New York. Midori writes, "the term Happenings was more popular than events in Japan, so Kubota called these poetic works 'Happenings'. Their form and poetic content, grew out of influences from Fluxus scores, such as instructions by Ono."

Kubota's first exhibition in 1963 titled, 1st Love, 2nd Love... exhibited these Happenings as conceptual works. The exhibition was at Naiqua Gallery, an alternative exhibition space in Shinbashi, Tokyo. Kubota exhibited tons of crumpled paper, which she called 'love letters' mounted on the walls and ceiling and covered in white cloth, which she called a Beehive. Her scores of instructions, A Beehive 1, A Beehive 2, and A Blue Love I, and A Blue Love 2 were included in the exhibition. The happenings and other printed items were sent to George Maciunas who printed them in Fluxus publications.

Vagina Painting[edit]

Vagina Painting was performed at the Perpetual Fluxus Festival in New York in July 1965.[15] [16] In the performance, Kubota assumed a crouching position over a sheet of paper on the floor with a brush affixed to the crotch of her underwear and painted abstract lines in blood red paint.[17] The work is often cited[18] as a female rejoinder to Jackson Pollock's action or drip paintings and to Yves Klein’s use of the female body as a painting tool in his Anthropometrics of the Blue Period (1960) in which female models covered in blue paint imprinted their bodies in white paper on a floor. The work has been associated with feminist art, although Kubota has not publicly expressed if she considers the work feminist or not.

Duchampiana Series[edit]

This series of works spans from the 1960s to 1981 and includes documentaries that Kubota filmed when she met Marcel Duchamp personally in the 1960s, and sculptural homages to Duchamp created after his death.

  • Marcel Duchamp's Grave, 1972-1975: Footage of Kubota's visit to the Duchamp family’s grave in Rouen, France is played on a freestanding plywood construction with more than twelve nine-inch monitors attached. A mirror is placed on the floor to reflect the footage. Kubota presented her blue book from film stills of her video Marcel Duchamp and John Cage to the grave. The installation was first exhibited at The Kitchen in New York in 1975.
  • Duchampiana: Video Chess, 1975: A monitor in a plywood box plays Kubota's footage of Duchamp and Cage playing chess and a second version of Kubota playing chess with a naked Nam June Paik. The installation also includes a glass chessboard, a photograph of Duchamp and Nam June Paik playing chess, Kubota's book Marcel Duchamp and John Cage and handpainted wall texts.
  • Duchampiana: Nude Descending a Staircase,1976: Television monitors are embedded in each of the four steps in a wooden staircase made by Al Robbins. Clips from Super 8 film of the filmmaker Sheila McClaughlin walking down stairs loops in the monitors. The installation takes its name from Duchamp’s painting of the same title. Kubota's wall text reads, "Video is Vacant Apartment/ Video is a Vacation of Art./ Viva Video."
  • Duchampiana: Door, 1976-1977: A small room with two doorways next to each other on a corner, and one door able to open one and close the other at the same time. In the room, two monitors play a video of a photograph of Marcel Duchamp mixed with images of Old Faithful, and including audio of Duchamp's voice. Construction of the doors and wood frames was done by Al Robbins.
  • Duchampiana: Bicycle Wheel, 1983 and Duchampiana: Bicycle Wheel One, 1990; Duchampiana: Bicycle Wheel Two, 1990; and Duchampiana: Bicycle Wheel Three, 1990: Bicycle wheels with small, five-inch color monitors attached to the spokes are motorized to spin.

Meta Marcel: Window Series[edit]

This series references Marcel Duchamp’s wood-framed Fresh Window. This series includes four separate video works which are projected behind a plywood box with glass windows framing a twenty-four inch monitor.

  • Meta Marcel: Window (Snow), 1976-1977: Kubota met Duchamp during a snowstorm while both were on a flight en route to Buffalo, NY in the year of his death, 1968. The video screen is filled with ‘snow’– the effect achieved by image distortion on a television set, and the window pane is substituted for black leather, and the video is appropriately called Snow. This piece was part of Kubota's Meta-Marcel series.
  • Meta Marcel: Window (Flowers), 1983: Footage of flowers.
  • Meta Marcel: Window (Stars), 1983: Footage of stars.
  • Meta Marcel: Window (Snow With Computer Writing), 1991.

River, 1979-1981[edit]

Consists of three monitors suspended screen-down over a crescent shaped metal structure filled with water. The videotapes playing on the monitors reflect in the water and the structure.[19] It was first shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Other Installations and Sculptures[edit]

  • Fluxus Suitcase, 1964: Aluminum suitcase sent from Japan to George Maciunas in New York as mail art. Kubota has shown it as a memorial to George Macinuas and Al Robbins in recent years.
  • Fluxus Napkins, 1965: Original paper napkins with collage made for a Fluxus dinner organized by George Maciunas for Kubota, Chieko Shiomi, Takako Saito, and Nam June Paik.
  • Fluxus Pills, 1966: Empty gelatin pill capsules in a plastic box made for George Maciunas.
  • Video Poem, 1968-1976: Kubota's color-synthesized tape Self-Portrait is encased withiin a nylon bag with zippered openings, which rests on a wooden pedestal. The bag was made by the Japanese artist Takehisa Kosugi (1963).
  • Three Mountains, 1976-1979: Three freestanding plywood structures: two mountains with monitors inside, one of a pyramid with a monitor inside. The tapes include footage of a Grand Canyon helicopter trip; a drive on Echo Cliff, Arizona; and a Teton sunset.
  • Video Relief, 1979-1981: Two plywood panels with round lenses and one with painted calligraphy– each showing the video Shigeko in Berlin (1979).
  • Rock Video: Cherry Blossom, 1981
  • Berlin Diary: Thanks to My Ancestors, 1981: Wood rope helps fasten a sheet of pink crystal with Japanese calligraphy of Kubota's ancestor's names on a five-inch monitor.
  • Video Haiku– Hanging Piece, 1981: A round television with a closed circuit camera hangs over a round, concave plastic mirror (42 in (110 cm) diameter) so that the image is visible in the mirror.
  • Green Installation, 1983: A large plywood structure that resembles a two-sided, freestanding staircase has five monitors playing a color videotape of the Arizona landscape on each side.
  • Niagara Falls I, 1985;Niagara Falls II, 1987;Niagara Falls III, 1987. A freestanding wall with many monitors projecting images of the four seasons, and covered in mirror shards. A speaker plays a recording of the waterfall at Niagara Falls. A sprinkler system hangs over the piece and pumps water from pipes over the wall to a basin below the sculpture.
  • Rock Video: Cherry Blossoms: 1986, 12:54 min, color, silent: A five inch monitor is embedded in a boulder and shows a single-channel video of cherry blossoms. Shards of Mirrors are placed around the rock.
  • Dry Mountain, Dry Water, 1987-88: Seven plywood sculptures are covered with Mylar mirrors and shaped like rocks and abstract 3-D geometrical shapes. Video projectors on the wall and floor show a two-channel video of cherry blossoms.
  • Adam and Eve, 1989-1991: Two life-sized robot figures with eight embedded monitors total are paced near each other. Behind the Video is Video Byobu II (Cherry Blossoms)
  • Video Byobu I (Cherry Blossoms), 1988; Video Byobu II (Cherry Blossoms), 1991; Video Byobu III (Cherry Blossoms), 1991.
  • Bird I, 1991, and Bird II, 1992: Videos of birds in sculptural installation.
  • Study for Wheel, 1990
  • Jogging Lady, 1993: Footage of women running marathons playing on monitors stacked to resemble a human form.
  • Tree I and Tree II, 1993: Sculptures of a tree whose branches have become resting places for television monitors.
  • Pissing Boy, 1993: A sculpture of a robot urinating into a tin. Kubota has said the sculpture is of Nam June Paik.[20]
  • Sexual Healing, 1998
  • Nam June Paik I and II, 2007: An installation of metal piping sculptures with video monitors attached that suggest Nam June Paik's body. Footage of Kubota and Paik on vacation in Miami in 1996 plays on these monitors, and the video serves as a homage to Paik.

Videography[edit]

  • Marcel Duchamp and John Cage: 1972, 28:27 min, b&w and color, sound: Shigeko Kubota recorded the Reunion performance of Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, a chess match in which music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered sporadically by normal game play.[21] Kubota assembled this video using her own photographs and video. Reunion turned out to be the last public meeting of these artists. With her footage, Shigeko Kubota developed this videotape, a video-sculpture, and a book called, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, which she reportedly later placed on Duchamp's grave in Rouen, Normandy.[22]
  • Broken Diary: Europe on 1/2 Inch a Day: 1972, 30:48 min, b&w and color, sound: Europe on 1/2 Inch a Day is the first of Shigeko Kubota's series of video diaries. Kubota used a Portapak to create the video travel diary of her travels through Amsterdam, Paris, and Brussels– which includes footage of underground performances, Kubota's meeting with Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf, graffiti, and a visit to Marcel Duchamp’s grave in Rouen, Normandy, which inspired her later sculptural work, Video Chess'.[23]
  • Riverrun– Video Water Poem: 1972: When filming Broken Diary: Europe on 1/2 Inch a Day Kubota took footage of her boat trips on the Seine, the Rhine, the Amsterdam canal, and the Venice Canal. Riverrun includes this footage and footage from boat trips on the Hudson. The video includes audio excerpts from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.
  • My Father (Shigeko Kubota), 1973-1975: In the film she explains that when she found out her father had died of cancer she decided to film herself mourning. In the footage, Kubota cries while watching videos she recorded of her father watching TV at his home in Japan.
  • Video Girls and Video Songs for Navajo Sky: 1973, 31:56 min, b&w and color, sound: In 1973, Shigeko Kubota began experimenting with image processing equipment at WNET's TV Lab and produced Video Girls and Video Songs for Navajo Skies. The video is a surreal diary of Kubota’s stay with a Navajo family on a reservation in Chinle, Arizona with footage of the family and the surrounding landscape. ”[24]
  • Allan 'n' Allen's Complaint: Nam June Paik and Shigeko Kubota: 1982, 28:33 min, color, sound
  • Trip to Korea: 1984, 9:05 min, color, sound: The story of Nam June Paik's first trip to Korea after thirty-four years of being in the USA. Video includes footage of Nam June Paik's family, and his visits to a Korean village, and a graveyard where his ancestors lay.[25]
  • SoHo Soap/Rain Damage: 1985, 8:25 min, color, sound: Video of Kubota's co-op studio at 110 Mercer Street, New York, and rain damage during a storm.
  • George Maciunas With Two Eyes 1972, George Maciunas With One Eye 1976 :1994, 7 min, b&w, sound
  • Sexual Healing: 1998, 4:10 min, color, sound
  • April is the Cruelest Month: 1999, 52 min, color, sound
  • Winter in Miami: 2005 2006, 14 min, color, sound[26]
  • Korean Grave: 1993 (A homage to Nam June Paik)

Exhibitions[edit]

Source:[27]

Collections[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Butler, Judith. Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of "sex". New York: Routledge. 1993.
  • Butler, Judith. Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. 1990.
  • Butler, Judith. Undoing gender. New York: Routledge. 2004.
  • Cross, Lowell. "Reunion": John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Electronic Music and Chess". Leonardo Music Journal. 9: 1999. 35-42.
  • Gever, M. "Pressure Points: Video in the Public Sphere," Art Journal 45.3, 1985.
  • Gewen, Barry. "State of the Art". New York Times. 2005.
  • Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance: live art since 1960. New York: Harry N. Abrams Publishers. 1998.
  • Jacob, Mary Jane ed. Shigeko Kubota: Video Sculpture. New York: American Museum of the Moving Image, 1991. Includes: Roth, Moria, "The Voice of Shigeko Kubota:' A Fusion of Art and Life, Asia and America,'" and Hanley, JoAnn, "Reflections in a Video Mirror."
  • Mark, Lisa, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2007.
  • O'Dell, Kelly, Fluxus Feminus, MIT Press (TDR) Vol. 41. No. 1, 1997. 43-60.
  • Ruhrberg, Karl; Honnef, Klaus; Fricke, Christiane; Manfred Schneckenburger, Ingo F. Walther, Art of the 20th century. Taschen. 2000. 596.
  • Sackler, Arthur M. American film. American Film Institute. 24–28. 1980.
  • Schneider,Rebecca, The Explicit Body in Performance. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • Smith, Roberta, "Review/Art; Sleek Video Sculptures By Shigeko Kubota". The New York Times. (24 May 1991), 26.
  • Stiles, Kristine, “Between Water and Stone: Fluxus Performance, A Metaphysics of Acts,” in Armstrong and Rothfuss, In the Spirit of Fluxus.
  • Warr, Tracey, and Amelia Jones. The Artist's Body. London: Phaidon. 2000.
  • Yoshimoto, Midori. "Self-exploration in Multimedia : the Experiments of Shigeko Kubota," in Into performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press. 2005.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ruhrberg, Karl; Honnef, Klaus; Fricke, Christiane; Manfred Schneckenburger, Ingo F. Walther (2000-12-01). Art of the 20th century. Taschen. pp. 596–. ISBN 978-3-8228-5907-0. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Smith, Roberta (24 May 1991). "Review/Art; Sleek Video Sculptures By Shigeko Kubota". The New York Times. p. 26. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Yoshimoto, Midori. "Self-exploration in Multimedia : the Experiments of Shigeko Kubota," in Into performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press. 2005.
  4. ^ See: M. Gever, "Pressure Points: Video in the Public Sphere," Art Journal 45.3, 1985.
  5. ^ Jacob, Mary Jane ed. Shigeko Kubota: Video Sculpture. New York: American Museum of the Moving Image, 1991. Includes: Roth, Moria, "The Voice of Shigeko Kubota:' A Fusion of Art and Life, Asia and America,'" and Hanley, JoAnn, "Reflections in a Video Mirror."
  6. ^ "Electronic Arts Intermix : Shigeko Kubota : Biography". Eai.org. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  7. ^ "Self-exploration in Multimedia : the Experiments of Shigeko Kubota," in Yoshimoto, Midori. 2005. Into performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press. 189
  8. ^ a b Bui, Phong (2007-09-04). "Shigeko Kubota with Phong Bui". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  9. ^ Arthur M. Sackler (1980-01-01). American film. American Film Institute. pp. 24–28. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Stiles, Kristine, “Between Water and Stone: Fluxus Performance, A Metaphysics of Acts,” in Armstrong and Rothfuss, In the Spirit of Fluxus, 82.
  11. ^ Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance (New York: Routledge, 1997), 38
  12. ^ O'Dell, Kelly, 1997. Fluxus Feminus, MIT Press (TDR) Vol. 41. No. 1, 43-60.
  13. ^ See: Butler, Judith. 2004. Undoing gender. New York: Routledge; Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge; and Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of "sex". New York: Routledge.
  14. ^ [15]
  15. ^ Gewen, Barry (December 11, 2005). "State of the Art". New York Times. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  16. ^ Lisa Gabrielle Mark, ed. (2007). Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 255. 
  17. ^ Lisa Gabrielle Mark, ed. (2007). Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 256. 
  18. ^ Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance (New York: Routledge, 1997), 38.
  19. ^ Shigeko Kubota / Matrix 65
  20. ^ Bui, Phong (2007-09-04). "Shigeko Kubota with Phong Bui". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  21. ^ "Articles, TOUT-FAIT: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal". Toutfait.com. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  22. ^ "Shigeko Kubota | Kamakura Gallery". ZoomInfo.com. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  23. ^ Stiles, Kristine; Selz, Peter Howard (1996). Theories and documents of contemporary art: a sourcebook of artists' writings. University of California Press. pp. 443–. ISBN 978-0-520-20251-1. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Mitchell, Rose; Frisbie, Charlotte Johnson (2001). Tall woman: The life story of Rose Mitchell, a Navajo woman, c. 1874-1977. UNM Press. pp. 483–. ISBN 978-0-8263-2203-6. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  25. ^ "Electronic Arts Intermix : Trip to Korea, Shigeko Kubota". Eai.org. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  26. ^ "Electronic Arts Intermix : Winter in Miami 2005, Shigeko Kubota". Eai.org. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  27. ^ "Kubota Shigeko Biography". Kamakura-g.com. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 

External links[edit]