"Make a Shadow": The Performative Arc of Mieko Shiomi's Spatial Poem #4

From 1965 to 1975, Japanese artist Mieko Shiomi (b. 1938) designed a series of nine performative events entitled Spatial Poems in association with the international Fluxus Movement. The entire project was conducted through the postal service, allowing space and time to stretch between Shiomi's studio in Osaka and her contacts around the pre-Internet world. Shiomi produced "scores," asking friends to perform intimate or public actions, document their experince, and report back for inclusion in the work's ultimate publication.

Traditional scholarship on these works focuses on the performance action. Instead, this project traces J.L. Austin's notion of performativity in many moments over the arc of this artwork's lifetime: in writing, performing, documenting, publishing, and exhibiting the project. Spatial Poem No. 4: Shadow Event is exemplary of this performative arc, demonstrating that there is more to these performance-based artworks than the performance itself.


Emily Lawhead, PhD Student, History of Art & Architecture