Department of Music

Joe Nickols

Key information

Department of Music
Thesis title
Performance and Protest: Art and Anti-government Sentiment in 1920s Japan
Internal Supervisors
Dr Charlotte Horlyck


Joe Nickols is a researcher, curator, and writer. Joe has worked in public and commercial galleries, both in the UK and Japan. On commencing the PhD at SOAS, Joe was named the Sasakawa Scholar for 2023/24 by the Sasakawa Institute. Joe is interested in the dynamic relationship between society and creativity and is researching the disruptive impact of protest and art.

Research interests

Joe’s research explores the intersection of protest and art in 1920s Japan. Joe’s main focus is the Mavo movement (1923-26), which pioneered modern interdisciplinary art practice in Japan. Heralded at the originators of the Japanese avant-garde, the research aims to enquire into Mavo’s disruptions of social normativity, particularly in opposition to government regulations on the body.

The movement’s anarchic principles are directly connected to the influx of European philosophy, with Max Stirner’s work being particularly influential. There is a direct assessment of Mavo’s ideology and the theoretical shifts this creates in Japanese art production. Mavo disbanded very suddenly, and so this project stives to investigate the reason why Mavo failed to engage the public in dismantling the increasing social oppression. Joe aims to research other acts of conceptualised transgressions in Meiji and Taisho Japan.

Despite the movement’s sudden disbandment, it left a vast legacy and greatly impacted Post-war artists. Joe employs an ethnographic approach to the work and relates the movement’s motivations to contemporary issues.

Contact Joe