artist and director Nippon International Performance Art Festival – NIPAF
Seiji Shimoda is the most active performance artist in Japan. The field of performance art is now becoming one of the most exciting fields in the contemporary art scene in the world. He was invited to various kinds of Festivals, Museums, Theaters, and Art centers in over 20 countries in the world. Shimoda is 43 years old now, born in 1953 in Nagano city, 2 and a half hours from Tokyo by train, a very beautiful mountains area. He entered to high-school in 1969 and that time was the last moment of student movements in Japan, like anti-Viet Nam War, antipollution, anti-system, so on, like other western countries. He organized some demonstrations and meetings in his high school time. But in Japan, such student movements were completely defeated in the early ’70s. So he stopped going to high school in one year and traveled inside Japan by hitchhiking.
Then he started to write poems. Those poems were like fantasy or dark dreams. He sometimes published them in small number books for his friends. And through writing poems, he could get some inspiration from body expression. For him, that was not dancing, not theater but just performance art instead of writing poems. He had started this activity in 1975; when he was 21 years old.
After that, he started to travel again to Japan with his art. In those days in Japan, there are some so-called Live Houses movements. Live House had live concerts and other events almost every weekend. He performed so many times in such places. In 1981 he published his poetry book, the title was Coffee shops. lt was over 200 pages one.
In 1982, he went to Paris with very small money and stayed there for 3 months. The reason, why he went to Paris, was just some audience in such Live House gave him a one-way free ticket to Paris because the ticket value was only 10 days and the audience had no time to use it. lt was very soon that he finished his money in Paris. Then he had started to do street performances because he had no way to earn money to survive in cold Paris. He did nearly 100 times street performances in very cold Paris in January and February in 1983.
After coming back from Paris, he started to organize some art events in the middle ’80s. Like 1 min. original poetry reading tape, 1 min. free song tape, 10 min. performance festival, 21 min. chain performing arts festival, Book media perform and so on. Many young artists, musicians, poets, dancers, filmmakers, etc. participated in those events from many cities in Japan. Then he had started to go to Europe again in 1987. His special strong body expression was acclaimed as very high-quality impressive art in western Europe.
In the 90’s he enlarged his area to other Asian countries like Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Those his presentations were very shocking events there, because of his nakedness. One organizer in Hong Kong asked the audience, if someone didn’t want to see a man’s naked body, he would pay back the audience fee and please go back home. But no audience went back and they all gave him a very big applause.
In Japan, he was arrested by police twice in 1979 and 1984, because of his naked outdoor performance. In each time he fought for the freedom of expression against police. But now today in Japan he is one of the best well-known artists in the performance art scene, and his report by writing and video-tapes about performance art festivals in various countries in the world are very precious things in Japan. Now some museums asked him to organize some video events of world performance art.
In ’93, he succeeded to organize the first full-fledged International Performance Art Festival in Japan, in Nagano, that 14 leading artists from 10 countries have participated. In ’95 &’96 he organized the 2nd & 3rd festival (NIPAF’95, ’96) in Tokyo and Nagano with 15 artists from 14 countries. In ’96 he started to organize the Asian Performance Art series and the NIPAF Summer seminar. In 97 he organized the 4th NIPAF and invited 9 international and 9 domestic artists.
His new piece since ’96 Gracias Marcos, Adios Marcos” is dedicated to late Polish – Mexican artist Marcos Kurtycz, who died this year at 61 years old by lung cancer.
His piece since ’95 WHAT’S NEXT ? is like his poetry world. He uses many poetry words and only small actions. His piece since ’94 MY COUNTRY treated the issue of nationalism. His well-known performance ON THE TABLE was started in 1990 and treated the meaning of human gathering. This was performed in 20 countries’ festivals, theaters, and museums, and acclaimed as one of the most important works in the world.