Takako Saito was born in 1929, in Sabae-Shi, Fukui, Japan. From 1947 to 1950, she studied child psychology at Japan Women’s University, Tokyo and taught Junior High School in Sabae-Shi. During this time, she also became involved with the »Creative Art Education« Movement. From 1963 to 1968, she lived in New York where she came to know George Maciunas and participated with Multiples in the Fluxus movement that had emerged in 1962. From 1965 to 1968, she was a student at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and then she studied at the Art Student League, New York. Travels and longer stays abroad followed in the years from 1968 to 1979. Saito lived in France for several years where she worked, among others, with George Brecht and Robert Filliou. She also lived in Germany and Italy. In England she worked for the Beau Geste Press and published art books. From 1979 to 1983, Saito taught at the University of Essen.
Participating in numerous Fluxus activities, Saito appeared in public with own Performances from 1971 on. She specifically focused on the everyday world of things and materials: natural matters such as shells, onion skins, orange peels or stone and materials such as wood, paper, plastics or rubber foam. »Especially those materials that are usually thrown away, expand the possibilities to think about material, form, and the everyday, about the necessary und the sufficient« (Maki Haruhara). With small objects that often seem playful (chess games, toy objects) and that keep suggesting new, individual variants of games beyond strict regulations, Saito sought to immediately address and include viewer and reader. She wanted to turn them into agents, even into artists. In her installations and books, Saito also followed this idea – and the motif characterizes her works entitled Do It Yourself where the audience is offered white paper dice to play with (Do It Yourself, 1989/90; Takako’s Do It Yourself Bookshop, 1992; Do It Yourself In Fluxus, 2003). Saito’s You and Me Shop again includes the idea of exchange with the viewer and of collaborative artistic work. In a small shop resembling a market stall, the artist as sales woman offered an arranged selection of those small things or materials which she also used in her objects: dried onion skins, chestnuts, pieces of wood. Here, the interaction with the viewer started with the joint selection, placement and fixation of the offered items on paper plates. It ended with the handing over of the object to the respective participant. The jointly signed artistic work is thus the relict of a temporary artistic action, the finished product in the sense of a commodity exchange (from the statement of purchase intention to the handing over of the commodity), as well as the result of interactive and collective creative work.
Actually Here Is My Atelier, a drawing from the year 1996, shows a simple line drawing of a head profile. In the place of the brain, a kind of speech bubble is shown that contains the title of the work. The artistic work, the collection of art works, is located in the artist’s head, is of an ideal nature. This is the place where the artistic activity is based, where its implementation is initiated, always in exchange with the actively involved audience. As claimed by Beuys and other artists, the artistic work that emerges from the interaction with the audience is linked to the idea of the abolition of society’s state of alienation. Saito thus asks how humans may free themselves from this alienation. With her turn towards simple things and her interaction through simple activities, gestures, and small changes in the world of things, she offers and suggests to walk the individual path of experience: do it yourself.
Since the early 1970s, Saito’s works have been shown at exhibitions, especially in Japan, in the U.S., and in Germany. Aside from solo exhibitions in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Fukui, New York, and Kaunas, Saito’s work has been part of the exhibition »Fluxus Tour« at the Musée St. George, Liège (1980), of »1962 Wiesbaden FLUXUS 1982« at the Museum Wiesbaden (1962), of »Paper art 5.« at the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren (1994).
Since 1978, Takako Saito has lived and worked in Düsseldorf.
Spielräume: Ausst.-Kat. Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg 2005
Saito, Takako, in: Bull Shit 08, Mailand 1993
Malsch, Fr.: Takako Saito, in: Fluxus aus der Sammlung Andersch, Bielefeld 1992
Saito, Takako: Takako Saito. Schachspiele, Spiele und Bücher, Wiesbaden-Erbenheim 1989
Takako Saito – Eine Japanerin in Düsseldorf: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf 1988
1962 Wiesbaden FLUXUS 1982. Eine kleine Geschichte von Fluxus in drei Teilen: Berlin 1983