From Carrying to Caring

PAST & NOW – a retrospective of Tatsumi Orimoto

PAST & NOW is the title of the retrospective of Tatsumi Orimoto organized by the Onomichi City Museum of Art (Hiroshima) from August 4th to September 16th. It honors one of the most active performance artists of Japan who has been traveling and showing his work in four continents since 1982.

The curators of the show and authors of the catalogue Noritoshi Motoda and Shinji Umebajashi enrol Orimoto’s work in 6 chapters.

The earliest works consisted of metal-bracelets and -tags which Orimoto attached to arms and clipped to ears of people – single or groups – he photographed in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and Japan.


In the 1980s Orimoto attracted attention by carrying-events, in which he carried bread, carton-boxes, a chimney, a tire-tube and other things alone or with somebody in various ways. This type of performance is still going on until today, when he carries a rabbit, a duck or a baby-pig, which are part of his performances with animals.

Tatsumi Orimoto: Carrying a Baby Pig on my Back, Juni 13, 2012, Poster (c) ART-MAMA Foundation

Bread-Man, which made him famous worldwide, developed out of carrying bread. Without a container Orimoto attached a loaf of bread or a number of different types of bread onto his face or around his head. Covered by this strange type of mask he performed not only in museums, but also in hospitals, stations and even in trains and boats. In public places and streets he often gathered large groups of people who formed surreal processions.


His father’s death forced Orimoto to take care of his mother who suffered from depression and Alzheimer. From 1996 on he created and documented numerous performances and events including “Art-Mama” as well as neighbors and friends within the domestic situation. After participating in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 he took the chance to expand these events with public lunches and gatherings of up to 500 grandmothers (Convent of Sao Bento de Castris, Evora, Portugal) in international locations and museums from Brazil to Denmark.

Last but not least the exhibition presented hundreds of his watercolors and pencil-drawings, which he created alongside of his performances especially while planning art-events, traveling and having his beer in the evening.

Everybody who likes the work of Orimoto or looks for an opportunity to get in touch with it should not miss this catalogue. Thoughtfully chosen examples of his work and shoots from the exhibition give an excellent overview on his work.

The catalogue is available at the ONOMICHI CITY MUSEUM OF ART, 17-19 Nishitsuchido-Cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima 722-0032, Japan; please call for details!  Tel: 0081 (0) 849-23-2281 Fax: 0081 (0) 849-20-1682

55 Jahre FLUXUS – und der Umgang mit Gewalt

Faksimilierte Seite des Artikels von Emmett Williams aus „The Stars and Stripes“ vom 30. Aug. 1962, S. 11. Es gilt als das erste Dokument über Fluxus in Deutschland. Mit einer kurzen Einleitung (S.81) ist es im Katalog 1962 Wiesbaden FLUXUS 1982, Katalog Wiesbaden, Kassel, Berlin 1982, auf S. 80 abgebildet.

Vor 55 Jahren erschien der erste Text über FLUXUS von Emmett Williams in STARS AND STRIPES, einer Zeitschrift für US-Militärangehörige in Europa erschienen ist. Mit einem Text über Neue Musik und Happenings mit dem Titel „WAY WAY WAY Out“ warb er für das Festival: Fluxus * Festspiele Neuester Musik im Hörsaal des Städtischen Museums in Wiesbaden (ab 1. September 1962). Der Text ist leicht und humorvoll mit Passagen aus einem „satirisch-fiktiven Interview“ aufgelockert. Auf die Bedenken seines Gesprächspartners Ben Patterson, das Publikum könnte faule Tomaten beisteuern, gibt Williams zurück, dass es ihn nicht überraschen würde, wenn stattdessen die Performer Tomaten ins Publikum werfen würden.

Neben dieser Ankündigung von Konzerten der verrücktesten Neuesten Musik hätten unbefangene Leser der Tageszeitung für die amerikanischen Streitkräfte in Europa die Szenen von Gewalt auf den den Text begleitenden Fotos bemerken konnen. Auf der Abbildung oben links zerschlägt ein Mann – es ist Nam June Paik – eine Violine auf einem Tisch und auf dem Foto links unten hängt eine Frau kopfüber. Das wirkt brutal und kann durchaus an Folterszenen erinnern, denn keine 20 Jahre zuvor war der italienische Diktator Mussolini von einer aufgebrachten Menge kopfüber an einem Laternenpfahl aufgehängt worden. Nicht zu reden von den Spuren der Gräuel, die die Soldaten der Alliierten in Europa, China und Korea zu Gesicht bekamen.

Art-Mama of Life-Art died

One of the longest experiments Life-Art came to an end Thursday, May 25th 2017. Odai Orimoto, better known as “Art-Mama”, died at the age of 98 in Kawasaki-City. She has become part of the art-world, since Japanese Fluxus-Artist Tatsumi Orimoto included her in his Life-Art in 1996 and launched photoprints of “Tire-Tube-Communication” showing Odai with neighbors in her garden and in her living room.[1] It seemed slightly disturbing to the audience, to see three old ladies with tires as necklaces, and later also “Art-Mama”

Small Mama + Big Shoes, Kawasaki 1997, Courtesy of the artist

with gigantic custom-made shoes. But Orimoto’s work is about the burden of getting old and feeling one’s body as a weight, which becomes heavier and heavier every year. These aspects of the mature body, which have never been reflected by Body Art were introduced by Tatsumi Orimoto for the first time in art history. He started this unique artistic collaboration with his mother who was suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s disease and it lasted for 21 years. The whole artistic production of that period was labelled “Art-Mama” and focuses on the aesthetic implications of the growing number of elderly people in many contemporary societies. Beside the physical self-awareness it deals with the shrinking field of vision, deteriorated hearing and haptic sensations.

The last time, that Odai appeared in a public performance, was at a lunch for 50 grandmas in the Kawasaki-City-Museum in 2006. After that Orimoto spent more and more time taking care for his mother. Nevertheless he travelled in Japan and abroad, to show his new work (see several articles in this blog – just tick on Orimoto, Art-Mama and other key-words of this article like artist’s mothers) which he produced at home including his mother as usual and experimenting with new objects and tools related to his care-taking like diapers and wheelchairs.

The Stress with the Wheelchair, Kawasaki-City 2012, courtesy of the artist

Last year Orimoto appeared as a woman’s drag as “Art-Mama” by himself. Here he investigates the field of similarity and imitation not only of facial expression but also on body-language and habits as a topic in the arts.

[1] The first European shows of this series was realized by Aktionsgalerie in Berlin in 1999 and Fotogalerie Wien in April 2000 (Catalogue # 160, Vienna 2000)