Artists Space

Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia

January 13 – March 18

Artists Space is pleased to present Region of Paramedia, the first retrospective dedicated to the work of Japanese American conceptual artist, composer, and theorist Yasunao Tone, whose deep investigation of the potential uses and misuses of emerging technology has made him a pioneer in performance, sound, and digital composition. This landmark exhibition and event series encompasses a comprehensive range of mediums and materials, from graphic scores to manipulated sound objects to documentation of performative actions and rare ephemera, and includes live events as well as first-time restagings that cover both Tone’s frequent, wide-ranging collaborations and his individually authored works.

Black-and-white photograph of a blurred figure in motion sitting behind a wooden desk surrounded by audio equipment in a sparse room.
Yasunao Tone performing Music for 2 CD Players at Experimental Intermedia Foundation, New York, 1986. [Black-and-white photograph of a blurred figure in motion sitting behind a wooden desk surrounded by audio equipment in a sparse room.]

Spanning the 1960s to the present, Region of Paramedia begins in Japan with Tone’s varied artistic efforts during his time as a founding member of the Japanese branch of Fluxus, a co-conspirator of Hi-Red Center in their social interventions, and a pivotal member of the key postwar collectives Group Ongaku, the world’s first freely improvising music ensemble, and Team Random, the first computer-art collective in Japan. Tone’s active participation in unsettling artistic forms, genres, and social expectations across these disparate affiliations boldly presaged his future activities.

Tone’s penchant for collaboration only deepened with his move to the United States in 1972, where he soon began to work with a prolific range of dancers, visual artists, and musicians that included Merce Cunningham, Blondell Cummings, Allan Kaprow, Senga Nengudi, Butch Morris, and George Maciunas. Since coming to New York in 1973, Tone’s work has been distinguished by his radical procedures for transmuting media into unpredictable and unstable forms through both analog and digital systems. Works like Molecular Music (1982)—in which Tone arranges light sensors on the surface of a projection screen to actively interpret 16mm images (characters from Chinese poetic texts) and sends that information to sound-producing instruments—bring together contingent systems, contemporary continental philosophy and media theory, and traditional Eastern culture.

Tone originated the use of “glitch” in artmaking thanks to his groundbreaking modifications of prerecorded compact discs, becoming the first person to compose via the inbuilt potential for their digital disruption. In performances and compositions beginning in the mid-1980s such as Music for 2 CD Players (1985), Tone physically alters the surfaces of compact discs, overriding their error-correcting system and generating wild unpredictability in playback. The artist calls these deviations paramedia, a shorthand way of describing a practice of diverting technological devices from their intended purposes to, in his words, “create pieces that are simultaneously multipliable and nonrepetitive.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Yasunao Tone will perform on multiple occasions at Artists Space, including a January 19 appearance with renowned flutist and composer Barbara Held. More performances will be announced. The exhibition will conclude in March with a weekend of film screenings, organized in collaboration with film scholar Go Hirasawa and the Brooklyn cinematheque Light Industry.

January 19, 2023

Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held
Concert
8pm

Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors are placed along the sides of the room.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors are placed along the sides of the room.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. On the left wall series of photographs hang, and vitrines containing musical scores. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, and various television monitors are placed along the sides of the room..
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. On the left wall series of photographs hang, and vitrines containing musical scores. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, and various television monitors are placed along the sides of the room..]
Color photograph of a white gallery wall with three vitrines containing musical scores built into the wall. On top of the vitrine is a manipulated flute, and a series of black-and-white images. Two black-and-white photographs are hung to the right of the vitrine.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a white gallery wall with three vitrines containing musical scores built into the wall. On top of the vitrine is a manipulated flute, and a series of black-and-white images. Two black-and-white photographs are hung to the right of the vitrine.]
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Flute from Lyrictron for Flute, 1968; Score for Trio for a Flute Player, 1985), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak.
Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall are two black-and-white photographs, and on the right wall is a black-and-white silhouette of a figure smoking. In the corner, a television monitor sits on a shelf.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall are two black-and-white photographs, and on the right wall is a black-and-white silhouette of a figure smoking. In the corner, a television monitor sits on a shelf.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projected images are placed along the sides of the room.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projected images are placed along the sides of the room.]
Color photograph of a piano from above. Six solenoids are placed along the piano
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Instrument for Aleitheia, 1987), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a piano from above. Six solenoids are placed along the piano's strings, and are attached by wires to a device placed on a chair next to the piano.]
Color photograph of a piano. Six solenoids are placed along the piano
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Instrument for Aleitheia, 1987), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a piano. Six solenoids are placed along the piano's strings.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. In the foreground is a small reed organ, with a music stand holding a clock device behind it. In the background are vitrines holding other audio devices and ephemera. On the window to the right is a blown-up image of a man kneeling with his head to the floor. Black-and-white photographs hang on the wall.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Instrument and Diagram for Music for Reed Organ, 1963), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. In the foreground is a small reed organ, with a music stand holding a clock device behind it. In the background are vitrines holding other audio devices and ephemera. On the window to the right is a blown-up image of a man kneeling with his head to the floor. Black-and-white photographs hang on the wall.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projections are placed along the sides of the room.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the middle of the room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projections are placed along the sides of the room.]
Color photograph of a gallery space with white walls. Two vitrines are built out of the walls, and contain various ephemera. Above the left vitrine hang black-and-white photographs. Above the right vitrine, placed over a window, is a blown-up image of a man kneeling with his head to the floor.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space with white walls. Two vitrines are built out of the walls, and contain various ephemera. Above the left vitrine hang black-and-white photographs. Above the right vitrine, placed over a window, is a blown-up image of a man kneeling with his head to the floor.]
Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera, including magazines, correspondence, and photocopied photographs in black-and-white are placed inside.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (ephemera c. 1970s), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera, including magazines, correspondence, and photocopied photographs in black-and-white are placed inside.]
Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera, including magazines, posters, press releases and photocopied images are placed inside.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (ephemera c. 1970s), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera, including magazines, posters, press releases and photocopied images are placed inside.]
Color photograph of a gallery wall. On the left, four black-and-white photographs are hung vertically, and on the right is a shelf with a television monitor placed on it.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Peter Moore, Concert at The Kitchen, 1979; Paramedia Music, 1990), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery wall. On the left, four black-and-white photographs are hung vertically, and on the right is a shelf with a television monitor placed on it.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. A free-standing wall sits in the middle of the space, holding framed CDs, a projected image of a man and a truck, and an audio device. On the floor in front of the wall sits a television monitor.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. A free-standing wall sits in the middle of the space, holding framed CDs, a projected image of a man and a truck, and an audio device. On the floor in front of the wall sits a television monitor.]
Color photograph of the side of an oscillator box, with various notes written next to all of the controls.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Device for Paramedia, 1990), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of the side of an oscillator box, with various notes written next to all of the controls.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. Along the middle of the space are placed various television monitors and musical instruments and audio devices. To the right on the wall are a series of photographs and prints, and two vitrines hang on the wall.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. Along the middle of the space are placed various television monitors and musical instruments and audio devices. To the right on the wall are a series of photographs and prints, and two vitrines hang on the wall.]
Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall hang various framed posters, and black-and-white photographs. A small window in the wall leads to the front of the gallery. On the right wall are more photographs and posters, and a vitrine. On the floor sits a television monitor displaying a black-and-white image of a pocketwatch.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall hang various framed posters, and black-and-white photographs. A small window in the wall leads to the front of the gallery. On the right wall are more photographs and posters, and a vitrine. On the floor sits a television monitor displaying a black-and-white image of a pocketwatch.]
Color photograph of a framed artwork. Various images of people, the sun, and other objects are cut-out and in red ink over them are japanese characters.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Social Eclipse, 1997), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a framed artwork. Various images of people, the sun, and other objects are cut-out and in red ink over them are japanese characters.]
Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera including magazines and fliers are placed inside.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (ephemera c. 1960s), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera including magazines and fliers are placed inside.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the back room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projections are placed along the sides of the room.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. Various musical instruments and audio devices are placed around the back room, photographs and vitrines hang on the walls, and various television monitors and projections are placed along the sides of the room.]
Color photograph of a vitrine set into a wall. Placed inside are various works including a book, stacks of printed imitation yen sheets, film cannisters, and a mask made of printed imitation yen sheets.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a vitrine set into a wall. Placed inside are various works including a book, stacks of printed imitation yen sheets, film cannisters, and a mask made of printed imitation yen sheets.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. On the left wall is a projected black-and-white video. On the right wall are various scores, posters, and photographs, and a vitrine.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. On the left wall is a projected black-and-white video. On the right wall are various scores, posters, and photographs, and a vitrine.]
Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall is a shelf holding a machine, speakers, and a light sensors. A black-and-white photograph also hangs on the wall. In front of the right wall is a standing vitrine containg various ephemera.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a corner of a gallery space. On the left wall is a shelf holding a machine, speakers, and a light sensors. A black-and-white photograph also hangs on the wall. In front of the right wall is a standing vitrine containg various ephemera.]
Color photograph of a gallery wall. A video is projected onto it. Next to the projection is a shelf holding an audio device consisting of a machine, speakers, and light sensors. A black-and-white photograph also hangs on the wall.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view, Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery wall. A video is projected onto it. Next to the projection is a shelf holding an audio device consisting of a machine, speakers, and light sensors. A black-and-white photograph also hangs on the wall.]
Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera including press releases, photographs, and notes are placed inside.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (ephemera, c. 1980s), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a vitrine from above. Various ephemera including press releases, photographs, and notes are placed inside.]
Color photograph of an audio device placed on a shelf. The device consists of a machine, speakers, and light sensors. A paper containing notes and instructions on the controls is placed on top of the machine.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Device for Molecular Music, 1982), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of an audio device placed on a shelf. The device consists of a machine, speakers, and light sensors. A paper containing notes and instructions on the controls is placed on top of the machine.]
Color photograph of two framed works that are hung on the wall. The piece on the left contains typed instructions for a musical performance, and the piece on the left contains hand-written notes for another performance.
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Music for Several Composers, Solo for Several Composers, Music for Every Tablaux, and Music for Footpeddal Organ, 1962-64; Diagram for Music for Footpeddal, 1962-64), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of two framed works that are hung on the wall. The piece on the left contains typed instructions for a musical performance, and the piece on the left contains hand-written notes for another performance.]
Color photograph of a gallery space. In the corner are three stacked television monitors, displaying videos taken at different speeds. On the top monitor is an image of part of a wall in a room, with a mirror and framed images. The middle monitor shows an empty image. The bottom monitor shows part of a woman
Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia. Installation view (Clockwork Video a la MAGRITTE, 1974), Artists Space, 2023. Photo: Filip Wolak. [Color photograph of a gallery space. In the corner are three stacked television monitors, displaying videos taken at different speeds. On the top monitor is an image of part of a wall in a room, with a mirror and framed images. The middle monitor shows an empty image. The bottom monitor shows part of a woman's leg.]

Yasunao Tone (b. Tokyo, Japan, 1935) is a multidisciplinary artist working in New York City. Tone graduated from Chiba University in 1957 with a major in Japanese literature and became an important figure in postwar Japanese art during the 1960s. He was a key member of Group Ongaku, Team Random, and the Japanese branch of Fluxus, and was involved with several other collectives and artists such as the Neo-Dada Organizers, Hi-Red Center, and Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata. Relocating to the United States in 1972, he has since been a crucial force in the philosophical and material advancement of durational art across myriad live forms, gaining a legendary reputation as a musician, performer, and writer. He has collaborated with a prolific range of dancers, visual artists, and musicians including Merce Cunningham, Blondell Cummings, Allan Kaprow, Senga Nengudi, Butch Morris, and George Maciunas.

Much gratitude to Ann Adachi-Tasch, Hideki Aoyama, Thomas Beard and Ed Halter (Light Industry), Christophe Cherix, Danielle Johnson, and Emily Cushman (The Museum of Modern Art), Paula Cooper Gallery, Merce Cunningham Trust, Rhodri Davies, Steve Giordano, Gladstone Gallery, Linda Goode Byrant, Taro Hanaga, Barbara Held, Jon Hendricks, Go Hirasawa, Mari Ingram, Taka Ishii Gallery and the Estate of Minoru Hirata, Yukie Kamiya, The Kitchen, T. (Thomas) Jean Lax, Joshua Mack and Ron Warren, Sean McCann, David Meschter, Akiko Miyake, Barbara Moore, Shinji Nanzuka, Senga Nengudi, Phill Niblock, Northwestern University, Takako Okamoto, Erica Papernick-Shimzu, Participant Inc., Glenn Phillips, Yuzo Sakuramoto, Sara Seagull and Larry Miller (Estate of Robert Watts), MM Serra (The Filmmaker’s Cooperative), Olivia Shao, Amy Sloper and Mark Johnson (Harvard Film Archive), Swiss Institute, Keiichi Tanaami, Reiko Tomii, Walker Art Center, Christian Xatrec and Emily Harvey Foundation, and Nancy Zendora.

Major support for Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia is provided by Taka Ishii Gallery and Joe & Nancy Walker. Exhibition support is provided by James Cahn & Jeremiah Collatz, Gretchen Gonzales Davidson, Fridman Gallery, Stephanie LaCava, and the Japan Foundation, New York.

Support for Artists Space’s exhibitions and programs is provided by Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, Imperfect Family Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Herman Goldman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, The Luce Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, The David Rockefeller Fund, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.