The third episode of our podcast presents Mirror Piece (1963) by Japanese artist Mieko Shiomi. This work, as many other Fluxus scores, does not have a singular manifestation but rather exists as many different entities, the material ones and the performative ones captured through documentation. Two versions of the handwritten score – in English and Japanese, live in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NY and belong to The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection. Mirror Piece exists also as one of the cards in Events and Games —a Fluxbox and a multiple designed and arranged by George Maciunas (c. 1964) and later re-editioned on several occasions. The work can be appreciated through interpretations of performance artists as well, including an instance by Elina Brotherus who experimented with various pieces by Shiomi, and Dicky Bahto, Taylor Doran, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta and Yvonne Tam version commissioned by The Getty Museum in 2021. In this episode, Sally Kawamura gives a playful guided tour through diverse instances of the Mirror Piece including her own experience in enacting it on a Welsh beach.
Sally Kawamura is an art historian whose interests lie in 1960s Japanese experimental communities. Her doctoral thesis Object into Action: Group Ongaku and Fluxus (2009, University of Glasgow) investigated the reasons for the mutual similarities and connections between avant-garde practice in Japan, Europe and America. Following a career break, she now focuses her attention on Japanese contemporary art, especially interactions between experimental groups in 1960s Japan and globally. Sally loves to perform Shiomi’s pieces while out in nature.
Mieko Shiomi 塩見 允枝子 (born Chieko Shiomi, 1938, Okayama, Japan) is a musician, composer and visual artist. In 1957, she began her studies in musicology at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where, in 1959, she formed the pioneering, ‘Group Ongaku’ (グループ音楽 / Group Music), a free-improvisational ensemble with Takehisa Kosugi, Yasunao Tone and others. During that time and afterwards, she developed her musical ideas and appreciation for nature into objects and action-based pieces. In 1964, she joined Fluxus artists for a year in New York. Back in Japan, she continued composing and performing, and collaborated with 1960s Fluxus events in Japan. In 1969, Shiomi changed her given name to Mieko. After marrying in 1970 and then having children, she altered her creative methods to be able to work at home. She continued her important mail-based work, Spatial Poem (1965-1975), begun in New York. Her tenth Spatial Poem <Spatial Poem: moving event> (2022 version) was exhibited during the Aichi Triennale. From the 1990s onwards, Shiomi initiated and contributed to several international Fluxus festivals, exhibitions and concerts. In 2005, she produced a book entitled, Furukusasu to ha Nani ka [What is Fluxus?] (Tokyo: Film Art Sha). She is active today as a composer, performer and artist.
References from the audio
[03:07] “Step back” in Japanese: Atozusari suru
[04:04] Music researcher Nao Takuichi. See: Kakinuma, Takuichi, Shiomi 2014
[04:30] for Hanna’s idea about event scores performing materially themselves as they decay and change see: Hölling, Hanna B. 2022. “Unpacking the Score: Notes on the Material Legacy of Intermediality.” On Curating, Fluxus Special Issue, no. 51: 1–38.
[06:22] the calligraphy: as the art historian, Midori Yoshimoto found out. See: Yoshimoto 2005.
[06:27] By the artist Takako Saito
[07:45] Fantastic films by the artist Elina Brotherus
[09:52] Boundary music by Shiomi
[10:00] As she mentioned in an interview with Toshie Kakinuma (2021).
[10:10] In a quote from a magazine: Shiomi, Mieko. 1974 ‘Oto wo koeru ongakuteki sōnen no kiseki’ (The track of musical thoughts that surpass sound), in Gainen Geijutsu (Conceptual Art), special edition of Geijutsu Kurabu (Art Club) Tokyo: Film Art Sha. Reference provided courtesy of Shiomi, email to Kawamura, 16 December, 2007.
[14:00] Water Music (1964): ‘‘1. Give the water still form. 2. Let the water lose its still form.’’ For more information, see: Yoshimoto 2005, 152-154 and 159-160; Kawamura 2010, 313 – 314; also Friedman, Ken, Owen Smith and Lauren Sawchyn, eds. 2002. Fluxus Performance Workbook [n.p.] Performance Research, 2002 <https://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/fluxusworkbook.pdf> (accessed 18 September 2008)
- Hashimoto, Azusa. 2021. “Beyond Time and Space—Inside the World of Mieko Shiomi”, Art Week Tokyo, 2021, 44 min. Video. (Japanese/English).
- Kakinuma Toshie, Takeuchi Nao, Mieko Shiomi. 2014. “Oral History Interview with Shiomi Mieko”, Kyoto City University of Arts (Japanese/English), https://www.kcua.ac.jp/arc/ar/shiomi_eg_1/, (translated by Reiko Tomii).
- Kawamura, Sally. 2009. “Object into Action: Group Ongaku and Fluxus.”, PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
- Kawamura, Sally. 2010. “Appreciating the Incidental: Mieko Shiomi’s ‘Events.” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 20 (1): 113.
- Shiomi, Mieko. 2013. “Intermedia /Transmedia.” Post: Notes on Art in a Global Context. https://post.at.moma.org/content_items/241-intermedia-transmedia.
- Shiomi, Mieko. 2021. “Beyond Time and Space—Inside the World of Mieko Shiomi.” Interview by Azusa Hashimoto [Video Interview]. Art Week Tokyo, 2021, 44 min. (Japanese/English)
- Spencer, Amy Elizabeth. 2022. “Mieko Shiomi: A Bodily Exploration of Selected Objects.” MA thesis, University of California, Riverside.
- Yoshimoto, Midori. 2005. “Music, Art, Poetry, and Beyond: The Intermedia Art of Mieko Shiomi,” in Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press
Featured photo: Sally Kawamura performing Mirror Piece on a Welsh beach ©Sally Kawamura