Tomii derived the phrase of “wilderness” from Matsuzawa, who, in 1964, took out a small magazine ad that advertised an imaginary exhibition called “Independent ’64 in the Wilderness.” Artists were invited to deliver a “formless emission” by “any delivery method,” which presumably encompassed telepathic and supernatural methods, according to Tomii. Revealed only in the ad, the exhibition was an invisible experience, appreciated through the mind’s eye. This psychedelic experiment might seem in line with the drug culture that unfolded in the 1960s, but reflects instead a moment of resonance; Matsuzawa intentionally turned away from chemical agents to expand the mind with more ancient Japanese sources like non-Zen Buddhism.
Like Matsuzawa, Osaka-based “happeners” The Play sought to disrupt the comfortable complacency that they saw overtaking Japanese society during the period of strong economic growth and increased modernization. Instead of protest or rebellion—youth culture’s popular modes of dissent in the 1960s—The Play chose “voyage” as their strategy as a means of disruption. For their best-known work, Current of Contemporary Art (1969), The Play embarked on a styrofoam raft shaped like an arrow from Tōnoshuma island, south of Kyoto, and rowed to Nakanoshima island in Osaka. The public-facing journey was meant to create “an image of liberation from all the material and mental restrictions imposed upon us who live in contemporary times,” the artists wrote.
This project resonates with similar experiments by Conceptual artists like
; both of their works were included in a 2016 show at the Parrish Art Museum
called “Radical Seafaring
.” But unlike Ader’s fateful sailing trip
across the Atlantic Ocean, on which he disappeared and likely died, The Play conceived of working in landscape as an act within society, rather than in solitude.