Marin Escande

University of Lille, France;


The 1960s saw the beginning of a rapid internationalisation of the Japanese art scene. Be it through John Cage’s visit to Tōkyō in 1962 or the presence of Fluxus, Japan became a major player in a now globalized artistic contemporaneity. This internationalisation opened the way for a range of new practices, from happening to in situ installation, taking advantage of the new technological and media possibilities of the period. The world of music was no exception to these transformations and composers such as Takemitsu Tōru, Ichiyanagi Toshi, Yuasa Jōji or the members of the Ongaku group experimented, in the tradition of Cage, with new musical and performative forms.

In this context, “Environment Art” (kankyō geijutsu) emerged as a term. It quickly became a generic term for these new intermedial practices, embodying a form of Japanese specificity while reflecting the internationalisation described above. Theorised by members of Environment no kai (Environment Society) and personalities such as architect Isozaki Arata, designer Kiyoshi Awazu or critic Takiguchi Shūzō, the expression referred both to an interdisciplinarity aimed at abolishing hierarchies and distinctions between practices, and to a new, more inclusive relationship between the work and its audience. The exhibition From Space to Environment (kūkan kara kankyō he) established the foundations for this turning point in the history of Japanese art. As its title indicated, it implied a shift between two conceptions of the site: In other words, the static, harmonious relationship between the viewer and the artwork has been broken, and the notion of site has shifted from a conventional “space” to a dynamic and chaotic “environment” that includes viewers and artworks. Along with a performance at the prestigious Sōgetsu Art Center, the exhibition brought together visual and sound works, each offering a specific type of interaction with the site and the viewer. Isozaki, in charge of drawing up the plans, defined three categories for these environmental works: taiō (reception, reaction, response) refers to the idea of in situ, shikake (mechanism) to the use of technological devices, and taiken (lived experience) to their inclusive and participatory nature. Although the term kankyō has been the subject of several recent studies in art history, it remains largely unfamiliar to musicologists. If scholars point out the intermedia turn of the 1960s, the site and the relation to the audience remains nevertheless underacknowledged as concerns for composers. Starting from the three perspectives described by Isozaki, this paper proposes a new framework for understanding some of these musical experiments, taking into account the great diversity of form that characterised them.

Keywords: Environment Art; Intermedia; Japanese Contemporary Music.


Marin Escande was born in Paris (1992). He is a French musicologist. In 2021, he obtained his PhD at Sorbonne University by doing research on the Japanese avant-garde group, Jikken Kōbō (実験工房 Experimental Workshop). Between 2016 and 2018, he was selected for a scholarship program in Tokyo University of the Arts to pursue his research on Japanese artistic scene. Back to Paris for five years, he had been teaching sound creation and contemporary music history at Paris 8 university and is now an associate professor at Lille University. Besides his activities as a researcher, he is also studying music composition in Paris Conservatory (CNSMDP). Through various interdisciplinary collaborations, he has developed an original musical language in relation with environmental soundscape, urbanism and architecture. His music received award from numerous competitions – “Petite forme” (2016), “Sound Spaces“ (2019), “Mixtur Barcelona” (2020), “MA/IN” (2021) – and was played in France, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, Italia, Sweden, Austria and Sri Lanka.