Japanese Arts and Globalizations Group present:

Commensurable Distinctions: Intercultural Negotiations of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture.

A Conference of the Japanese Arts and Globalizations (JAG) Group

Organizers: Bert Winther-Tamaki & William Marotti

Dates: January 31-February 1, 2014
Location: University of California, Irvine; All events Humanities Gateway, room 1010 except Second Keynote Lecture in Humanities Gateway, room 1030

While modern Japanese art has often been assessed in terms of the uniqueness of its transformations or revisions of modern Euramerican art, the closeness of its products to transnational ideas and forms has typically been overlooked or regretted. This conference examines the critical role of relationships of convergence, similarity, or identity whether or not these relationships serve to provoke new forms of difference.
“Commensurable distinctions” operate within a globalized concept of art as distinctive visual dimensions generated by a transnational framework (format or genre), one that positions artists (and artworks, styles, movements) in relative measure to some standard presumed to have global reach or authority. Focusing on fluidity, mutations, and interstices as opposed to modes of analysis based on contained national and cultural forms, we hope to examine the compatibility and global passages of transfer and transaction that lead to situated distinctions and complex drifts. This conference will provide another take on the JAG moniker and our shared injunction to consider “Japanese Arts and Globalizations.” We invite considerations of the frameworks operative in, and generative of, the possible identification of distinguishing features of modern Japanese art as commensurate with the distinguishing features of foreign counterparts. This conference aims to forge innovative approaches to the analysis of relationships between visual culture in Japan and other regions.
Art History Department, UCI
Center for Asian Studies, UCI
Dean of Humanities, UCI
East Asian Languages & Literatures, UCI
Friends of Art History (FOAH), UCI
Japanese Arts and Globalizations (JAG)
Music Department, UCI
University of California Institute for Research in the Arts


2:30 – 3:50 First Keynote Lecture

BENJAMIN PIEKUT (Music, Cornell University): Ecologies of the Rim: The Promise and Peril of Actor-Networks in History. In this paper, I share some of the theoretical moves and strategies that have emerged in my study of experimental music history. Central among my questions has been how to account for the movement of ideas, sounds, or techniques from (what we think of as) one relatively stable or repeated network into another. With this work in mind, I will suggest a few ways that concepts identified with actor-network theory might be useful for scholars engaged more directly with processes of global circulation. Among these concepts are translation, action-at-a-distance, and drift. Drawing on a few examples from my research, including a visit to London by Takehisa Kosugi’s Taj Mahal Travelers in 1971, I hope to put these concepts into contact with the work of my colleagues in music studies, with a view to highlighting the specific problems of history writing.

Respondent: Margherita Long (Japanese & Comparative Literature, UCR)

3:50 – 5:10 Panel 1

Moderator: Susan B. Klein (East Asian Languages & Literatures, UCI)

TRAVIS SEIFMAN (History, UCSB): New Views of Ryukyu: Yamamoto Hôsui in Okinawa, 1887. This paper compares the woodblock print series Ryūkyū Hakkei, designed by Katsushika Hokusai and published in 1832, to a set of oil paintings produced by Yamamoto Hōsui in 1887, also depicting famous sites in Okinawa. Both sets, it might be argued, purport to depict Okinawa as it actually appears, though within very different historical contexts. Having investigated the Ryūkyū Hakkei in a previous paper, I am interested in exploring, through this comparison, changes over the course of the 19th century in how Okinawa was understood, perceived, and depicted within Japan, and the role of images in transforming specific locations within Okinawa into “famous places” (meisho, or meishō), as well as changes in what it meant to be a “famous place,” or a “famous view.”

EUGENIA BOGDANOVA-KUMMER (Japanese Art History, Heidelberg University): The Concept of Space in Japanese Postwar Avant-Garde Calligraphy: An Innovative Interpretation of the Bokujinkai Group. The Japanese avant-garde calligraphers of the early 1950s were actively looking for possibilities to innovate and internationalize their art. This paper focuses on the Kyoto-based calligraphers of the Bokujinkai group, who saw great potential in developing calligraphy’s connections to Euro-American abstract painting. This was achieved by gradually detaching the calligraphic representation from the linguistic sign and by appealing to the visual expressivity of calligraphy. As a part of this process, the Bokujinkai, driven by the wish to protect their distinctiveness as calligraphers, turned to developing theoretical tools that would demarcate the borderline between calligraphy and painting. For that, they had to renegotiate even the concepts of line and space, the most fundamental visual categories common to both avant-garde calligraphy and abstract painting.

MARGUERITE V. HODGE (Art History, Theory, Criticism, UCSD): The Transnational Adventures of the Kewpie Doll. This paper examines the Kewpie doll as a case study in the unstable dynamics of transnational visual culture. First appearing in 1909 as an American illustration, Kewpie traveled quickly to Europe and East Asia, to anchor in Japan, which took over doll production from Germany at the start of WWI. As Kewpie proliferated, it morphed in scale, design, and purpose; produced in media ranging from sheet music to condiments, the Kewpie doll was enlisted to serve multifarious goals: from championing women’s suffrage, to domesticating warfare, to selling mayonnaise. I argue that the Kewpie doll functioned as a ready-made yet malleable transnational site, one whose unmoored associations commercial and political entities sought to commandeer. In particular, I claim that the Kewpie doll trafficked in affect, enabling nostalgia to be harnessed, re-coded, and leveraged for economic and political purposes.

6:00 – 7:15 Second Keynote Lecture (Humanities Gateway, room 1030)

GENNIFER WEISENFELD (Art, Art History, Visual Studies, Duke University): Transwar Design: Kamekura Yūsaku from Nippon Kōbō to the Tokyo Olympics (40-min.) Renowned designer and art director, Kamekura Yūsaku is widely heralded as a pillar of the postwar Japanese design field. As a founding member of the influential Japan Advertising Artists Club in 1951, and key designer for both the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka, Kamekura's enormous contribution to the public visual sphere is indisputable. But despite the standard emphasis on Kamekura’s postwar triumph, his success was not simply a postwar phenomenon. It was built on a deep foundation of design practice and a professional network developed while he worked with some of the most talented designers of the 1930s and 40s at Nippon Kōbō design studio. This paper will explore Kamekura’s work during and after the Asia-Pacific War to excavate the transwar continuities of Japanese design in the service of commerce and the nation.

Respondent: Cécile Whiting (Art History, UCI)

7:15 – 8:30 Reception


9:00 Welcome

9:15 – 10:30 Panel 2

Moderator: Serk-Bae Suh (East Asian Languages & Literatures, UCI)

TOM O’LEARY (Art History, Saddleback College): Natori Yōnosuke, Ina Nobuo, and Hōdō Shashin; Defining Documentary in 20th Century Japanese Photography. Natori Yōnosuke developed his concept of documentary photography after working several years as a photographer in Germany. Introducing photojournalism to Japan by translating the term as hōdō shashin, Natori influenced a generation of photographers to produce images as a series connected to a single theme without the taint of the personal. Working with Ina Nobuo, he concluded that the photographer should allow the theme to develop organically rather than be predetermined. This paper will look at the interconnectedness of German visual theories and Japanese photography of the 1930s as well as the lingering effects on later photography in Japan.

JORDAN A. YAMAJI SMITH (Comparative World Literature & Classics, CSULB) Polyphony and Palimpsest: Transnationalism in the Poetry and Photography of Yoshimasu Gōzō.

JONATHAN HALL (Media Studies, Pomona College): Over Mishima’s Dead Body: Hosoe Eikoh and Yato Tamotsu. This paper considers, in comparison, two photographers well known for their connections to author, aesthete, and political rightist Mishima Yukio. Both Hosoe Eikoh’s and Yato Tamotsu’s oeuvres intersect powerfully with Mishima in the few years just prior to his death. Yet the two photographers and their trajectories differ greatly: one straight, one gay; one central to the history of 20th-century Japanese photography, one barely admitted; one living, one dead; one committed to an aesthetic intervention, the other pursuing a nostalgic eroticism. Using the powerfully signifying presence of the author’s (dead) body, my paper considers homophobia within the Japanese photographic canon.

10:30 – 10:45 Coffee break

10:45 – 11:45 Panel 3

Moderator: Anne Walthall (History, UCI)

SHARON HAYASHI (Film, York University, Toronto): Mapping Heterotopia: Port B’s Media Archaeology of Asia in Tokyo. How to counter the monolithic image of Tokyo being created for the 2020 Olympics? Port B’s Tokyo Heterotopia tour performance recently staged from November 8 to December 8, 2013 for Festival/Tokyo attempts to use the premise of a fake Asian gourmet tour to lead Tokyo-ites to reconsider the historical significance, presence and personal histories of Asian immigrants to Tokyo. Sometimes culinary, always experiential, this site specific tour enhanced by radio narratives remaps Tokyo as a historical hub of Asian student, refugee and revolutionary networks elucidating the potential of media archaeologies to remap urban space.

ANN-ELISE LEWALLEN (East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, UCSB): “Indigenous Modernity,” Global Indigenous Art, and Contemporary Ainu in the Museum. Inside Japan, Ainu art has long been dismissed as souvenir arts and Ainu artists have found themselves subalterns amongst Japan’s contemporary artists. In international circuits, however, Ainu have enjoyed acclaim as indigenous artists versed in the lexicon of global indigenous values and artistic expression as a mode of mobilization. Since the 1970s colonial subjects and marginalized communities have claimed an “indigenous identity,” in an attempt to generate political leverage with domestic governments. Increasingly, Ainu artists are drawing upon global trends and translating heritage forms and ancestral values through the prism of “Indigenous modernity,” a framework whereby contemporary indigenous identities are recast in ways compatible with traditional heritage while incorporating flexibility to address increasingly globalized presents.

11:45 – 1:00 Lunch Break

1:00 – 3:20 3rd and 4th Keynote Lectures

Moderators: Ken Yoshida (Global Arts Studies, UC Merced)
and Bert Winther-Tamaki (Art History, UCI)

HAYASHI MICHIO (Art History, Sophia University, Tokyo): (De-)Mapping the Nation : Cartographic Imaginations of Postwar Japanese Art. This presentation will discuss the recurrent appearance of the concept and image of the map in various forms in postwar Japanese art and visual culture. How to draw, or not to draw, the imaginary map of the restored nation and its symbolic centers became the critical issue for the collective psyche as well as for contemporary art from the immediate postwar years to the period of high economic rise. By taking up some exemplary cases from mass culture to avant-garde practices in connection to shifting socio-political contexts, the paper will try to delineate the way in which the act of “mapping” Japan became the symptomatic site where various ideological forces from nationalistic to terroristic came to crash with each other. The exemplary cases to be touched upon include Hiroshi Nakamura’s painting, photographic representations of Hiroshima and rural Japan, Metabolist movement in architecture, Hi Red Center’s street performances, and photographers associated with the Provoke magazine.

Respondent: James Nisbet (Art History Department, UCI)

OKAZAKI KENJIRÔ (Artist, Writer, Tokyo): Isamu Noguchi’s Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima. Isamu Noguchi's 1952 plan for a monument to the victims of atomic-bomb in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was rejected by the city committee immediately before the start of its construction. It is said that what lay behind this rejection was the committee's hesitation about Noguchi's American citizenship. This incident thus reveals that the monument to the atomic-bomb victims in Hiroshima shared the problematic of the tomb for unknown soldiers as, in Benedict Anderson’s analysis, representative of nationalism of the modern nation state. But a re-examination of Noguchi's Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima makes it clear that the theme of his plan lay in the dissolution (deconstruction) of the very notion of identity. It is through the dissolution of the identity of those residing above ground (in the world) that the resurrection of the dead becomes conceivable. Thus, an attempt to flee from issues pertaining to identity above ground—such as the question of which nation one belonged to – lay at the core of Noguchi's project.
Respondent: Amy Lyford (Art History & Visual Arts, Occidental College)

3:20 – 3:30 Coffee break

3:30 – 5:00 Break-Out Discussion Groups

5:00 - 5:30 Plenary Session
Noriko Aso (History, UCSC)
Margherita Long (Japanese & Comparative Lit., UCR)
William Marotti (History, UCLA)
Jordan A. Yamaji Smith (Comparative World Literature and Culture, CSULB)
Gennifer Weisenfeld, Art, Art History (Visual Studies, Duke University)
Ken Yoshida, Global Arts Studies Program (UC Merced)