A shaved head flies round the world
1. Shaving my head
How did I come to start using my shaved head to do art? The reason is rather strange. In 1986, we invited Cavellini, the Milanese mail-artist, on the occasion of the Twinning Festival. I had written about his work on other occasions, and as he was a particularly original person, it was worth inviting him.
Usually, artists – and this is also true of me – think they are the number one in the art world, and he is fairly convinced of this too. He says he’s a genius who will be under-stood in a hundred years’ time. So he writes the autobiography of his production every-where: on the walls of his house, on clothes, hats, etc., on women’s bodies. I’m not sure why he writes on the female body; in any case, when he arrived in Japan, I realised that he had never experienced autobiographical writing on a shaved head.
I went to Shitennoji (a suburb of Osaka) to ask the monk if I could write Cavellini’s autobiography on his head, but of course he refused. Then I asked if he could shave my head according to the custom of the noble monks. The bonzo reproached me saying, ‘Look, this isn’t a barber’s! Only people who follow the practice can shave’. I replied that I was not going to follow Buddhist practice, and eventually the monk under-stood my request and shaved my head. Cavellini immediately wrote his autobiography on my shaved head, and this was my welcome.
A few hours later, the welcome reception for the Twinning Festival was held in a hotel near Shitennoji. I went there and I met a lot of beautiful girls, samba dancers from Sao Paulo. However, as Cavellini had written on me with a marker, I wasn’t able to erase the writing from my head.
While I was eating, with my head covered in writing, the beautiful girls asked to have their photo taken with me. I was surprised because it was the first time in all my fifty-eight years that girls had asked to have their picture taken with me.
Well! Since then I decided I would always appear with my head shaved; at any rate I was sure to be popular with the girls.
My friends told me that this didn’t mean I was popular with women; it was only curiosity. Up to then I had written my thoughts on paper, but most people threw them away without reading them, whereas what is written on my head is either respected or despised. At any rate, it is read.
And thus my Skinhead art came into being.
6. Art is sex
In 1988, I did a performance in which I painted an image of a woman in a bathing costume on my shaved head, after which I sent a photo to the mail artists.
When you live in a closed environment, the need to make artistic claims is small, even mild, and draws everyone together to gain the acceptance of others, while in the case of mail art, which can communicate with the ends of the earth, there are people in the world who really are interested, even if it is a matter of an action like this that shocked the small-minded Japanese community.
A resident of Paris called Nato (I don’t know why, but he is called NATO), upon seeing my performance, thought: ‘If this is art, I can do it too’, and later became the only artist to be an expert in women.
Numerous naked women take part in his performances. He himself is naked and he carries them around on his shoulders or paints them. He also set up a museum which is called the Nato Museum. I visited it in 1990. A photo of the woman in a swimsuit on my head is on display at the entrance. There was also a sculpture of my shaved head. Beside it, framed and set out in a line, was all the underwear of the young women he had used for more than 48 hours.