Cover art of Boredoms’ 2007 album Super Roots 9. Courtesy EYヨ. 

Teppei Kaneuji on Eyヨ

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

I am often asked which artist has influenced me the most. To tell the truth, the answer is probably EYヨ. I think this is true for many artists of my generation and, potentially, not only those in Japan.

EYヨ is a visual artist and musician who was part of many different bands based in Japan’s Kansai region during the 1980s—including the noise bands Hanatarash and Boredoms. As well as being the lead singer for Boredoms, EYヨ is known for his emotive use of various experimental instruments, such as the open-reel tape recorder and other electronic equipment. His music practice is characterized by songs that sound like they are from outer space and are accompanied by outrageous dance performances. Prior to the digital age, his drawings, print collages and sculptures—like his music—enigmatically reconfigured earthly knowledge from an extraterrestrial perspective. They were in some ways mathematical, while simultaneously chaotic, like a unification of matter, knowledge and the physical body.

EYヨ often collaborates with Western musicians such as John Zorn and Sonic Youth and, since the early 1990s, has performed and released his music in various countries outside of Japan. He creates the artwork for almost all of his music, including the cover design for cassette tapes, CDs and LPs. His art was also featured on Beck’s 1999 album Midnite Vultures; the design had a visual impact that was on par with Raymond Pettibon’s Sonic Youth album covers, as well as those by artists Mike Kelley and Gerhard Richter. Among EYヨ’s many collaborations with other artists was Puzzle Punks, a creative unit that he formed with artist Shinro Ohtake in 1995. Their 1996 publication Donkedelico presents a compilation of the two artists’ correspondence via fax, visualized in manga form. By applying the sense of disconnect (of location, time and texture) inherent to the medium of faxing into the realm of manga (which itself follows a unique concept of time), meaning and sensation become disjointed; this, in turn, creates a place and time that don’t exist. Donkedelico could only have been made under the specific direction, or improvisational sensibility, of these two artists.

The first thing that shocked me about EYヨ was his work with Boredoms between the late 1980s and the early ’90s—specifically his album artwork, music and live performances. They were mysterious yet, somehow, innately familiar—like everyday junk possessed by a higher power. His art was the first that I felt with my body, rather than my mind. It was an experience that I couldn’t comprehend yet was amazed by nonetheless, like watching a festival or sports event from an unknown planet. It was a destructive force against reality. Because this happened during a time before the internet, the mystery and legend surrounding his work kept growing in my mind. I never saw Hanatarash, the band he was in before Boredoms, but I’d heard outrageous rumors about it—that he demolished a live-music venue with an excavator or that he waved around a chainsaw on stage. This became imprinted in my mind as what “art” should be. From the late 1990s through the aughts, EYヨ actively performed as part of Boredoms, and during this time, as a college student, I attended almost all of their concerts in Japan. Following the release of their 1998 album Super Are, they began transitioning from a junky, noisy and collage-like aesthetic to one that was more spiritual and festive. The band’s lineup became more fluid, they released less music, and more emphasis was placed on performances and events. I believe this change in the band reflected the arrival of the internet. From the late 2000s onward, Boredoms has been recognized for experimental performances that involve several dozen drummers or guitar players. Among such large-scale projects is “Boadrum,” which featured the performance of 77 drums at New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park on July 7, 2007, and 88 drums at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on August 8, 2008. Major forces such as order, nature, rhythm and time, and the various emotional and physical sensibilities of each individual participant, came together to create a powerful, new groove.

Freely changing form and genre in accordance with the times—working on his own, in collaboration with others or as part of a large group—EYヨ’s practice is extremely relevant to today’s world. The relationship between his work and that of his global contemporaries, as well as his influence on younger generations, are topics that I think should be revisited. It would perhaps be interesting as well to investigate his work within the context of “pre/post-internet,” or in relation to Japanese art history. For starters, my wish is for an exhibition—at any large museum in the world—where I could see EYヨ’s drawings, sculptures and recorded performances all in one place.