Mieko Shiomi

Mieko Shiomi (January 1938 – present)

Mieko Shiomi (née Mieko Chieko Shiomi) is a Japanese composer and artist who co-founded the Group ‘Ongaku’ (Music) with Takehisa Kosugi and Yasunao Tone. The Group’s aim was to explore “improvisation and action”. The group put on performances by artists that included John Cage, La Monte Young and George Brecht.

“Every week we discovered some new technique [or] method for playing a previously unthought-of ‘objet sonor’ and argued endlessly about how to extend its use, and what relationships of sound structure could be created between each performer. We experimented with the various components of every instrument we could think of, like using the inner action and frame of the piano, or using vocal and breathing sounds, creating sounds from the (usually unplayable) wooden parts of instruments, and every conceivable device of bowing and pizzicato on stringed instruments. At times we even turned our hands to making music with ordinary objects like tables and chairs, ash trays and a bunch of keys.”

– Mieko Shiomi

Shiomi soon tired of sounds and, between 1962-1963, Shiomi wrote her ‘action poems’, which disregarded musical notation and instead placed emphasis upon verbal instructions that were to be interpreted by the performer. Shiomi first learned about Fluxus in 1963 when she attended a concert in Tokyo where she was introduced to Nam June Paik. Upon his recommendation, Shiomi sent her work Endless Box to George Maciunas:

“I was thinking about transparent music, music in which nothing could be heard but the ceaseless passage of time. And I thought, perhaps this could be presented to the senses not necessarily through sound, but by some other method. . . . I emptied my mind, and what came into it was an image of the origami boxes I used to make as a child. No matter how many boxes you opened, there would always be a slightly smaller one inside, and each time you opened a box, it was as if you were entering yet another, deeper layer of time. A white object that acts as a kind of visual diminuendo, focusing a person’s awareness and conveying the endless passage of time with a sort of sensuousness, beckoning the person onward. . . . I decided to try to re-create these boxes. I calculated the sizes so that one set could be made with two sheets of 78.8 x 109.1cm sheets of paper and selected paper with the pliability, tension, and strength required for folding, in a white that sometimes appeared tinged with violet, depending on how the light struck it.”

– Mieko Shiomi

Shiomi is best known for her event pieces and objects, such as Disappearing Music for Face, Endless Box, and her Spatial Poem series.


Music of ‘Group Ongaku’: https://www.ubu.com/sound/group_ongaku.html

Music of ‘Group Ongaku’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzmuq2Vu-U8&ab_channel=JapaneseAvantGarde-AvantGardeJaponaise

An essay on and video version of Endless Box: ​​https://post.moma.org/to-the-people-of-the-30th-century-the-lives-of-shiomi-miekos-endless-box/ 

Disappearing Music for Face: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qAjQVKQgUQ&t=621s&ab_channel=nuriamarti100 

Spatial Poem No. 2 (1966): http://concretestream.umbc.edu/map/shiomi_about.html 

Requiem for George Maciunas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leWVygFwymc&ab_channel=Celestialrailroad

60 works online: https://www.moma.org/artists/5403 


Video interview with Shiomi about Fluxus: https://post.moma.org/interview-with-artist-mieko-shiomi/ 

Written interview with Shiomi: http://www.kcua.ac.jp/arc/ar/shiomi_eg_1/