Teacher portal: 09 The Way Between

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The destruction, and military failure in WWII created space for young Japanese artists to critic the status quo.

We visit the vaults of a museum in Tokyo where a key work in the new style hangs. Instead of just painting the canvas, artists began to explore ways of incorporating their gesture and movement into the work. The gesture became more important than the artwork itself. It became the artwork, leading to a rise of performance art. Examples include Ono’s Cut Piece and Tanaka’s Electric Dress.

The boundaries between visual arts and performance blurred, culminating in the work of Hijikata and his creation of Butoh.

Alison Carroll talks with Yumi Umiumare, a Butoh practitioner about the ideas behind this form of dance.

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Interviewees in this episode

Yumi Umiumare – Japan/Australia


Yumi Umiumare is a dancer, choreographer and the creator of Butoh Cabaret and visceral dance theatre works. Born in Hyogo, Japan and originally a member of the seminal Butoh Company DaiRakudakan in Tokyo, she came to Australia in 1991 to appear in the Melbourne Festival, and has lived in Melbourne since 1993. Over the last 20 years she has provoked audiences with the startling visual and physical power of her work, using her body, gesture and costume to undermine existing ideas of harmony, beauty and nature.

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Experimentation Topic 1

The performative works of Atsuko Tanaka’s Electric Dress and Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece both promoted ‘gesture’ over the end result. They were not ‘object’ artworks that could hang in a gallery.

Create an artwork that involves gesture and focuses on the creative process, instead of the outcome. How did you interact with your audience? How did you use your own body?

Discussion Topic 2

Shozo Shimamoto cut into his painting. He saw beauty in the ruin and he said of the work, “Something great has been accomplished.” What did he mean by this?

Discussion Topic 3

Tatsumi Hijikata created Butoh form of dance/performance. Yumi Umiumare explains it as a form of continuous movement based on what you cannot do which challenged the idea of South Asian calm and steady movement, and European idea of heading towards an ‘ending’.

What did she mean when she said that it was good to misunderstand because it opens another possibility? Would you welcome a reading of your work that “misunderstood”?


Resources ( Please note that some include nudity)

Shozo Shimamoto




Ha Chong-hyun


Yoko Ono








Tatsumi Hijikata


Yumi Umiumare




Atsuko Tanaka