Literary Nonfiction. Art. East Asia Studies. In the 1970s Tokyo, artist Akasegawa Genpei and his friends began noticing what they termed "hyperart," aesthetic objects created by removing a structure's function, while carefully maintaining the structure itself. They called these objects "Thomassons," after an American pinch-hitter recruited by a Japanese baseball team, whose bat never connected with a ball. In the 1980s, through submissions from students and readers, Akasegawa collected and printed photos of Thomassons in a column in Super Photo Magazine. He wrote these columns with a warm, goofy humor that seems intended to cast back nihilism, irony, and other common responses to 20th century urbanization. What emerged was a lighthearted, yet profound, picture of how modernization was changing Japan's urban landscape, and the culture that underpinned it. These columns, collected into a book, became a cult hit among late-eighties Japanese youth. What they saw in this assemblage of casual photos and humorous descriptions was, as essayist Jordan Sand puts it, "a way of regaining some sense of the human imprint on the city in an era when that imprint was being rapidly erased."
Genpei Akasegawa is a rare phenomenon, an artist who successfully transitioned from the avant-garde to the larger realm of popular culture. He emerged on the Japanese art scene around 1960, starting in the radical "Anti-Art" movement and becoming a member of the seminal artist collectives Neo Dada and Hi Red Center. The epic piece Model 1,000-Yen Note Incident (1963-1974), which involved a real-life police investigation and trial, cemented his place as an inspired conceptualist. His irreverent humor and cunning observation of everyday life made him popular as a writer, peaking with his 1998 book Rõjinryoku, in which he put forth a hilariously positive take on the declining capabilities of the elderly. HYPERART: THOMASSON, marks a crucial turning point in his metamorphosis from a subversive culture to a popular culturatus. Author City: Tokyo JAP