1955 Laceration of Paper/1956 Second Gutai Installation
Shozo Shimamoto and JiroYoshihara founded Gutai together in 1954, and it was Shimamoto who suggested the name Gutai, which means (again, according to this source) “concrete”. This group had a considerable influence on fluxus, but worked primarily in installations rather than happenings.
A common assertion is that Gutai was primarily fascinated with the destruction of material and its properties thereby revealed. Although this was an element of their work, Gutai was primarily interested in the interactions between different materials in a composition, the interaction between artist and material, and the specific actions of an artist that generated creative content.
Thus, Gutai did several pieces with considerable control over the art and a minor or nonexistent emphasis on destruction. For example, the 1955 work Challenge to the Mud featured a man wrestling with clay in a pit filled with mud and gravel, with images being taken of the event. On hands and knees, the artist sat in the mud and lifted, squeezed and punched it, while the gravel in the mud cut into his body. Other works involved artists swinging over a canvas and painting with their shoes, exploring the properties of paint and the dynamism resulting from the influence of the artist. Another repeatedly exhibited work was by Atsuko Tanaka, where she dressed in a suit of lights and would move about, demonstrating the visual effects of light and electricity when combined with the actions of a human artist. This work was also a commentary about the increasingly electronic life of human in a world full of commercial household goods, pushing the performance from the realm of art into the everyday.
Many of their works, however, did focus on the material’s destruction. Many pieces demonstrate the interactions between the artists and the material, often with a lack of complete control on the part of the human. For example 1955 Laceration of Paper, pictures were taken as an artist smashed through a row of sheets of paper. In 1956 throws of color, the artists fire jars of paint at a canvassed wall. Both these works demonstrate the interest in the material’s properties as it is destroyed- how the paper interacts with the artist, how the glass embeds in the canvas. In the respective cases, the artist then selected the most evocative images or cut the canvas, demonstrating a final act of control and artistic influence.