Money, Trains, and Guillotines

Art and Revolution in 1960s Japan

Money, Trains, and Guillotines

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 464 Illustrations: 125 illustrations, incl. 19 in color Published: March 2013

Author: William Marotti

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies

During the 1960s a group of young artists in Japan challenged official forms of politics and daily life through interventionist art practices. William Marotti situates this phenomenon in the historical and political contexts of Japan after the Second World War and the international activism of the 1960s. The Japanese government renewed its Cold War partnership with the United States in 1960, defeating protests against a new security treaty through parliamentary action and the use of riot police. Afterward, the government promoted a depoliticized everyday world of high growth and consumption, creating a sanitized national image to present in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Artists were first to challenge this new political mythology. Marotti examines their political art, and the state's aggressive response to it. He reveals the challenge mounted in projects such as Akasegawa Genpei's 1,000-yen prints, a group performance on the busy Yamanote train line, and a plan for a giant guillotine in the Imperial Plaza. Focusing on the annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition, he demonstrates how artists came together in a playful but powerful critical art, triggering judicial and police response. Money, Trains, and Guillotines expands our understanding of the role of art in the international 1960s, and of the dynamics of art and policing in Japan.


“William Marotti explicates the social and political context of the Yomiuri Independent avant-garde. . . . [A] remarkably detailed and vivid view of the activities of Akasegawa and his circle.” — Mark Schilling, Japan Times

“None of these art interventions documented in Money, Trains and Guillotines are fully understandable without the background of the politics of the time, and the author skillfully presents both art and politics, focused and interwoven. Author William Marotti's twenty-year effort has produced a fine book.” — Mike Mosher, Leonardo Reviews

“This challenging volume by historian Marotti (UCLA) addresses the important topic of domestic artistic resistance to the Allied occupation of Japan during the 1960s. . . . Recommended.” — T. S. Munson, Choice

“Marotti's detailed analysis of the Japanese artists' evolution from surrealist sensibility to interventionist action contributes immensely to our understanding of how the political aesthetic so characteristic of the 1960s emerged simultaneously in numerous countries…. A vivid, highly informed and richly rewarding investigation of art and politics under post-1945 capitalism in Japan.” — Justin Jesty, Art in America

“[An] innovative, carefully crafted interdisciplinary history of the cultural origins of Japan’s 1968. . . . Appropriate to its rich and diverse visual subject matter, it is also beautifully illustrated and produced. Its provocative interrogation of conventional scholarly boundaries of discipline, chronology, narrative, and ontology, at the level not only of theory but also of practice, suggests a kinship with the efforts of the artists whose story it so carefully and sympathetically excavates.” — Ethan Mark, American Historical Review

“Visual scholars will find the book to be a solid and important contribution to the literature on the Japanese avant-garde, and it will also appeal to visual researchers interested more broadly in social movements and resistance.” — Daniel Garrett, Visual Studies

"Marotti’s subtle readings of these texts, underappreciated in Japanese scholarship, make a strong case for their importance within art history. Money, Trains, and Guillotines not only fills in a major gap within English-language understanding of postwar Japanese art. Once translated into Japanese—which it should be, promptly—it should sharpen the discourse within Akasegawa’s home country." — Kenji Kajiya, Pacific Affairs

“William Marotti’s book is a landmark study of political art and the politics of artistic expression in contemporary Japan. . . . Marotti uncovers a fascinating, provocative, and sometimes-shocking history of political art. . ..  Marotti’s attention to detail and to the emotional life of his subjects is truly engrossing in the best traditions of microhistory. . . .  [T]his is a richly documented, thoughtprovoking, and marvelously sculptured piece of scholarship that will be immensely enriching for anyone interested in issues of constitutional freedoms, artistic expression, and the intersection of politics and the everyday in postwar Japan.” — Simon Avenell, Journal of Japanese Studies

"Marotti’s text is a major scholarly contribution to a growing body of literature on the postwar Japanese avant-garde. It models a compelling new approach to the subject that productively questions divisions between art, politics, and the everyday. ... The text will resonate with readers across academic disciplines, as well as with people interested in postwar Japanese arts, history, and social politics. In addition to scholars of postwar Japanese history and art history, researchers with interests in visual culture studies or in fields including the visual arts, music, and theater will find this book invaluable." — Miki Kaneda, Monumenta Nipponica

"Money, Trains, and Guillotines is the first extended study of art and activism in Japan during the 1960s, and as such it constitutes a major contribution not only to the history of Japanese art and politics but also to our knowledge of activism in the 1960s." — Thomas LaMarre, author of The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation

"The annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition, the Hi Red Center group, and the ¥1000 Note Trial are surely among the most significant avant-garde initiatives anywhere in the world in the 1960s. This stunning study assesses the oppositional politics of these and other Japanese avant-garde undertakings by probing deep into the history of that which they opposed: the arrogation of power by the postwar Japanese state over everyday life. In William Marotti's hard-hitting theoretical analysis and accessible prose, the seemingly nonsensical antics of avant-gardists become occasions for grasping fundamental truths about the political makeup of postwar Japanese society." — Bert Winther-Tamaki, author of Maximum Embodiment: Yoga, the Western Painting of Japan, 1912–1955


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William Marotti is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Chronology of Select Events xiii

Introduction 1

Part I. Art against the Police: Akasegawa Genpei's 1,000-Yen Prints, the State, and the Borders of the Everyday 9

1. The Vision of the Police 15

2. The Occupation, the New Emperor System, and the Figure of Japan 37

3. The Process of Art 74

Part II. Artistic Practice Finds Its Object: The Avant-Garde and the Yomiuri Indépendant 111

4. The Yomiuri Indépendant: Making and Displacing History 117

5. The Yomiuri Anpan 152

Part III. Theorizing Art and Revolution 201

6. Beyond the Guillotine: Speaking of Art / Art Speaking 207

7. Naming the Real 245

8. The Moment of the Avant-Garde 284

Epilogue 317

Notes 319

Select Bibliography 393

Index 405

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4980-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4965-5
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