|“Interpreting Works of Yokoyama Matsusaburō in the Age of Experience”
This presentation aims to explore the manner in which we interpret the experiences in the life of the image-maker as a reliable source in construing their work. In writings of art and visual histories of Meiji Japan, the changes instigated by and through Meiji Restoration, particularly the shifts in societal and political infrastructures and attendant experiences of such reshaping are deployed as reliable and concrete sources that explain the visual and graphic works produced. As a result, one’s experiences of seminal events on one hand and one’s works on the other cohere into an overarching intepretive approach. What are the implications of this approach? Are there associated risks involved in reliying on this method? How can a contemporary interpretive community, who re-intepret the historical experiences of another, find resonances in their experiences, and to what extent is that possible or even desired? The works of Yokoyama Matsusaburō and his writings will be introduced as a case study to anchor this topic.
|“Negative Exposures, Or, How to Show the Unsayable in Contemporary China”
In 2014, Beijing-based photographer Xu Yong published a remarkable photo-book. Entitled ‘Negatives’ (Dipian), the book made public a series of photographs that Xu had taken 25 years earlier during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and which had lain hidden in his archives ever since. These photographs, which show vast crowds protesting peacefully for change, are reproduced as color negatives in Xu’s book, without captions or commentary, but with their trademark serrated edge clearly visible. The images, their tonal values inverted, are mystifying, even eerie; the protestors look – perhaps presciently in some cases – like ghosts. On one level, Xu encrypts his photographs in this way because the bloody crackdown of 1989 is an unsayable thing in contemporary China, approachable only in “scrambled” ways. But the photo-book’s epigraph openly flouts this taboo, stating that “These photographic negatives were taken 26 years ago, in 1989”. So why reproduce coded negatives, instead of positive prints? Why telegraph the photo-book’s subject matter, only then to hide it via smoke and mirrors? In this talk, I explore a couple of images from ‘Negatives,’ and examine what they tell about the status of the June 4th protests as China’s most restive public secret: an event which is both widely known and deeply hidden.
Jennifer Dorothy Lee
|“Image Limits: Medial Appropriations after Mao”
“You always treat the sun as though it were yours.” Lining the frame of a pen-and-ink sketch, these words reflect the conditions of possibility particular to testifying acts in post-revolutionary China. A series of such worded line drawings, penned from the late 1970s to the early ’80s by Heilongjiang-born artist Qu Leilei 曲磊磊 (b. 1951), offered radical ideations in their time. This paper will explore Qu’s under-addressed image-texts for the challenges they posed, as diaristic entries, to visual representation in the social landscape of still-Maoist Beijing.
In the wake of Cultural Revolutionary big character poster (dazibao) activism, Qu’s contributions to the ‘social media’ of this time raise, for our purposes, several intermedial as well as intertextual considerations. Arguably, his ephemera present the analogue of a social medium, less for their non-digitized reproducibility than for their self-centeredness, their reframing of the publicity of expression. My examination aims to highlight ways in which Qu’s line imaging relates to its textual accompaniments—or vice versa, how Qu’s line writing foregrounds the enhanced communicability of verbal form. Questions to be considered will include: To what extent did the strictures of socialist state-driven visualization offer up a modular basis for formal experimentation in the revolutionary aftermath? In the shift from public posters to diary notes, how did Qu’s appropriation of image-text combinations exceed the political and philosophical meanings embedded in everyday life? Finally, how does this transfigured word-image relationship complicate the rejection of Maoist visual vanguardism in cultural practices after the revolution?
|“The Liquid Image—or, The Sound of Empire”
This paper seeks an alternative genealogy of the moving image, or sign (considering the relation between movement and sign), especially as might be discovered within digital media environments—and within the context of contemporary Japanese (and global) culture. The starting point is a questioning of the recent turn toward sound within cultural studies, and an argument for considering sound in relation with liquid materialities. At stake is not just the historical relation between sound and the visual image, but also the status of history itself, and the movement of culture—as well as the image logic of Japanese national-imperial subjecthood.
|“Moving within the Space of Cosmetics”
This presentation examines the architectural, urban, and spatial mechanisms through which Amorepacific, a major Korean corporation, functions as a producer of cosmetics. It looks at the evolution of its production and distribution network: from the early door-to-door sales systems that began during the 1960s, through the emergence of urban shops after the 1990s, and to the sophisticated architectural projects of the 2000s. The evolution of these spaces follows the sixty-year development from a state-led industrial economy to an urbanized and postmodern society. Studied from the perspective of the corporation, the presentation focuses on the role of architecture and urban space in the spatial network that it creates. It moves beyond a focus on consumer culture and towards an understanding of the spatial networks of production, distribution, research, consumption, and image making. Within the changing global economy of the beauty industry, Amorepacific is particularly fascinating as a corporation that seeks to be an industrial leader based on the idea and imagery of Asia and Korea.
|“Thoughts on Tradition, Orientalism, and Sublime in Korean Modern Art”
“If a critique of Orientalism avoids the object of its criticism it is also unsound. Criticizing Orientalism is fine, but a more flexible approach within the structure of Orientalism itself should be entailed in the criticism. Criticism of Orientalism should be better than Orientalism itself or contain certain surpassing elements within it. The criticism and the exceeder may conflict with each other. Even the critical reflection of ‘what is not Orientalism?’ may be derived from outer, especially Western perspectives. This is imperative: what we can do in between escaping the Orientalist structure and demystifying it may even include intentional use of Orientalism.” (From: The Phantom of ‘Minjok Art,’ in: 2 or 3 Tigers online publication)