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PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance
TakiKōji, photograph from Provoke3, 1969 © Taki Yōsuke/ Private collection

PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance

Photography in Japan 1960/1975

Nobuyoshi Araki » Koji Enokura » Akasegawa Genpei » Eikoh Hosoe » Takamatsu Jiro » Daidō Moriyama » Shômei Tômatsu » Okada Takahiko » Yutaka Takanashi » Yosuke Taki » Nakahira Takuma » & others

Exhibition: 14 Sep – 11 Dec 2016

Wed 14 Sep 19:00


6, Impasse de la Défense
75018 Paris

+33 (0)1-44707550


Wed 12-22, Thu-Sun 12-19

PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance
Provoke3, cover, 1969 © Nakahira Takuma/Moriyama Daido/Okada Takahiko/Takanashi Yutaka/Taki Kōji
Private collection


Exhibition: 14 September – 11 December, 2016
Opening: Wednesday, 14 September,

LE BAL presents the first exhibition dedicated to the famous Japanese magazine, which greatly influenced the history of photography through its major figures: Nakahira Takuma, Moriyama Daidō, Takanashi Yutaka. Both a manifesto and a collective work, Provoke assigned a new role to photography as a reaction to violent social and political turmoil and echoed the emerging Performance art scene.

The exhibition and the accompanying book are the result of three years of research and collaboration between four international museums – Albertina (Austria), Winterthur Fotomuseum (Switzerland), the Art Institute of Chicago (USA) and LE BAL (France) – and more than 40 international lenders, artists, collectors, museums, and galleries

Part I : Protest
Beginning around 1960, a wave of books appeared in conjunction with the country’s first large-scale protests, mobilized against the 1960 renewal of the United States-Japan alliance. The protest movements, many student-led, grew in the later 1960s, at which point they generated a torrent of photobooks and photographic prints. Many of these books featured innovative graphic design involving photography: serialized imagery, gripping text-image combinations, dynamic cropping, and an alternation of provocatively “poor” materials (rough paper, low-resolution printing) with gatefolds and odd trim sizes.

During the years around Provoke, the massively creative protest movement created a riveting photoworld of opposition to corporate malfeasance and the despotism of the neoliberal Japanese state. The members of Provoke - critic Taki Kōji, poet Takahiko Okada, critic/photographer Takuma Nakahira, and photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Moriyama Daidō - claimed that protest photography was exhausted, and asserted the impossibility of effecting lasting change through direct political action.

Nevertheless, their writing and images are suffused with the tactics developed in Japanese protest photography, as this exhibition will show; they and their colleagues also expressed real sympathy for the protesters as the movement reached its culminating period in 1969-71.

Part II : PROVOKE - the magazine
Provoke took place "between protest and performance". It 'brought up for discussion' both the state and its dissenting subjects. The magazine (like the protesters) showed dissatisfaction with consumer capitalism, a society saturated by mass media, and the uncontrolled transformation of urban space, but it also subjected the group dynamics of protest movements - the formation of a community of discussants - to a radical critique, along the lines of the architectural collective Metabolism, the performance group Hi-Red Center, or Terayama Shuji’s Tenjo Sajiki troupe. Its members responded to the precedents set by photographer Tōmatsu Shōmei, as regards the relation of photography to language, and the need to question the subject position of anyone engaged in ‘reporting’ on the times. In magazine and book projects that stretch over roughly a decade - far longer than the quick life of Provoke itself - members of the group acted to take apart subjectivity and to keep photography, and language, in a state of perpetual development: words and images in formation, engaging yet resisting a world dominated by information.

PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance
Moriyama Daido, Untitled, from the series Accident(Akushidento), 1969 © Moriyama Daido/collection of Shadai Gallery, Tokyo Polytechnic University

To go beyond mere picturing, photography would need to forsake its claim to be a lasting record, a "mirror with a memory." Instead, photographs and photobooks would become fleeting, contingent things, flaring up into the social landscape.

Moriyama Daidō, Nakahira Takuma, and Araki Nobuyoshi are among the photographers who became intensely interested around 1970 in making darkroom activity or other processes of print creation into a visible and active part of photographic creation. They were preceded in these interests by dance performers, such as Hijikata Tatsumi and Terayama Shuji, who had worked with filmmakers and photographers; and by groups such as Hi-Red Center, who blurred the line between photodocumentation and live works involving photography among other media. Architect Arata Isozaki had also importantly used a photosculpture as a site of live intervention for an exhibition in 1962. But the influence did not flow one-way only.

In the early 1970s, following Provoke, Takamatsu Jiro, a member of Hi-Red Center, and Kōji Enokura, who had belonged to the related fine-arts group Mono-Ha, each turned to photoconceptual art expressly after witnessing the work of Provoke photographers.

To coincide with the exhibition, LE BAL and Steidl copublish "Provoke – Between Protest and Performance". The book retraces the history of the short-lived—but cult—avant-garde Japanese photography magazine Provoke. It reproduces the complete photographic works and critical writings showcased in the three issues by its members Taki Kōji, Okada Takahiko, Nakahira Takuma, Takanashi Yutaka, and Moriyama Daidō. Positioning "Provoke" within a socio-historical context of major political upheaval, the book analyzes the influence and legacy of this powerful group that broke the boundaries between protest, photography and the performative arts in Japan. The book features full reprints of the three Provoke issues, students' "Protest books", important theoretical texts of the period translated from Japanese for the first time, works from major performative artists/groups and interviews with Moriyama Daidō, Araki Nobuyoshi, and Hosoe Eikō, as well as previously unpublished critical and curatorial essays.

Edited by Diane Dufour and Matthew Witkovsky, with Duncan Forbes and Walter Moser
Book design by Pierre Hourquet
800 pages
7.5 x 9.8 in. / 19 x 25 cm
600 black-and-white photographs
60 €

PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance
Nakahira Takuma, photograph from the book For a Language to Come (Kitarubeki kotoba no tame ni), 1970 © Nakahira Takuma/ Private collection
PROVOKE. Between Protest and Performance
Tōmatsu Shōmei, Editor, Takuma Nakahira, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1964 © TōmatsuShōmei–INTERFACE/ Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago