AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 436

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Session 436: Contemporary Art

Contemporary Korean Photography: “Sensibilized Knowledge”
Keum Hyun Han, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

This paper investigates the intersection of Korean contemporary photography— a rapidly expanding, dynamic field of practice—and postmodern theories of representation from the critique of an image’s relationship to reality to its intertextuality. I will discuss the work of contemporary Korean photographers including Seung Woo Back, Sangil Kim, KOO Sung Soo, NOH Suntag , and Hein Kuhn Oh. The work of Korean artists represents what I call “Sensibilized Knowledge” for the way their photographs bring the artist’s gaze and sense into dialogue with contemporary debates concerning Korea’s newfound economic and political power in the world arena, and the cultural upheavals this development has produced. Korean photographers are actively participating in the production of a critical visual culture that explores problems of knowledge and cultural identity. It now engages how people live, act, and even express beauty, and it justifies itself in culture. As opposed to a photographic tradition that uncritically celebrated Korean life or national traditions, the work of the artists I focus on in this paper addresses the complicated processes that constitute Korean reality and identity. Korean photographers use photographic sense as a strategy way to capture heterogeneous cultural phenomena, show irony and contradictory in multi-culturalized society, and transform a style of knowledge by taking on the role of both observer and researcher. Through an analysis of Korean contemporary photography, I will present how a new photographic language functions as a critical medium that talks back to society.

Ways of Seeing: Paintings of the Nanyang Artists
Emelia Ong Ian Li, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

This paper discusses the works of Chinese émigré artists, known as the Nanyang artists, that define the beginning of artistic modernity in Malaya. The artworks of the Nanyang artists are a fusion of traditional Chinese painting, Western modernist art from the School of Paris, and Southeast Asian subject matter. This paper analyses the artworks of these artists that were produced during the 1950s and 60s in British Malaya and demonstrates how cultural identity and space are negotiated within the field of visual art. It places specific focus on two factors in this development. Firstly, their formalistic choices are discussed in relation to the negotiation of cultural values and ways of seeing. This includes western modernist concepts such as the employment of multiple perspectives, the naturalistic and symbolic use of colour, the flattening of picture space and self-expression. It will be shown that the adoption of European modernism – its technique, medium and method of representation – is seldom straightforward but is carefully resisted, transformed, or adapted so that it finds some congruence within the local definition of, or traditions related to, art. Secondly, the artists’ identities as immigrants are discussed in relation to the ways the artworks function to produce new cultural identity – one that asserts an affiliation with the new land and demonstrates a consciousness of both the diversity of cultures and their common interests.

A Social Theory on Art and Korean Diaspora
Hijoo Son, Sogang University, USA

I examine artists, artwork, and art practices of those who participated in the controversial 2004 Korean Diaspora and Art Symposium held in Tokyo at Keizei University. A Japanese and Korean Japanese curatorial team brought together thirteen artists from China, Japan, Germany, and the U.S., in part, presenting artwork, performance, and multi-media installations organized in response to the dissatisfaction with the 2002 Kwangju Biennial’s There: Sites of the Korean Diaspora exhibition . The larger argument attempts to think through the relationship between diaspora and art and to show how ethnicity and nationality may be, on the one hand, true and real, but on the other, superficial. Toward this end, I analyze art in relation to the paradox: the fact that ethnicity and national cultural identity informs one’s sense of self for some, and yet for others, is superficial and meaningless. By examining the attributes of the artwork from the vicinity of the art object, I explore how such a paradox of cultural identity is constructed using a social theory on art proposed by Alfred Gell. This theory situates the artwork from the vicinity of its production includes an examination of the artist, artwork, exchange, reception, discourse, and the exhibition itself. It makes apparent the dynamism and complexities associated with an analysis of visual culture and cultural production dealing with historical memory of migrant life. The images of the artworks on display at Kwangju and Tokyo bring into view the limitations of any essentialist claims that reduce the analysis of artists and their art practices solely to a nation, race, ethnicity, or culture.

Memories of Bodies, Memories of Place: Contemporary Art In and Out of Japan
Rebecca S. Jennison, Kyoto Seika University, Japan

This paper will introduce the work of several contemporary artists whose works explore the intersections of private and public memory in the context of Post-1990’s Japan. Touching on the findings of three international, collaborative research projects conducted during the last 4 to 5 years, it will argue that contemporary performative art practices are opening up a new space for inquiry and dialogue at a moment when national and transnational identities are shifting. Through “The Art of Intervention” collaborative research project (Kyoto Seika University and Kingston University), artists, art and cultural historians, performance artists, curators, photographers and film-makers have engaged in dialogue and coordinated exhibitions on the theme of private and public memory. Here, I will focus on the representation of the “foreign body” in two early works by Dumbtype, the Kyoto-based performance art group, “pH” and “S/N,” and more recent work by artist Shimada Yoshiko and the fruits of her collaborative research on the alternative art school, “Bigakko.” A second collaborative research project called “Asia, Politics and Art” has brought together researchers, artists, composers and curators working in Japan, and resulted in the publication of a volume of essays and dvd titled Zansho no Oto (Sound of the Scars that Remain). Here, I will discuss the work of three young textile and performance artists, Oh Haji, Soni Kum and Yamashiro Chikako, who in strikingly unique ways are exploring the tensions between private and public memory from their respective viewpoints as Zainichi (South and North affiliated) Koreans and Okinawan artists. Finally, I will briefly examine the use of performative practice as metaphor in the recent work of Tomiyama Taeko, an artist who has worked “on and off the margins” of the Japanese art world and who exhibited at the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial (2009). Here I will focus on the artist’s practice as a “contemporary tabi-geinin “ in her most recent collaboration with musician and composer, Takahashi Yuji, "Hiruko and the Puppeteers, A Tale of Sea Wanderers" (2009).

Light from within the sphere: the art of Mariko Mori
Allison L. Holland, University of Queensland, Australia

Over the last decade the mixed media installations of contemporary artist Mariko Mori have utilized state of the art technology to reflect the subtle rhythms of nature. Through the dynamic play of light and colour she creates works with a cool aesthetic and promotes an appreciation that is both current and globally appealing. Mori appropriates contemporary ritual and artefacts to substantiate a unique representation of the sociological framework and the spiritual belief system of the ancient people of Japan. By establishing an unbroken lineage with the ancients Mori positions herself as near as a possible to the origination myths of Japan, making a claim on her spiritual inheritance. In other words, Mori uses ancient symbolism, in its simplest and earliest form, to substantiate a national lineage and a personal genealogy. In this way, the artist continues to play with the tensions between self, nation and the universal. This paper will explore how Mori draws on ancient forms found in Japanese and European culture to further develop her leitmotif of the circle and express a continued fascination with shamanism and universal space. How Mori invests, or reinvests, the element of fire in the form of light with traditional meanings of purification and transmigration will also be explored. Responding to a global art market, Mori reaffirms her long-term objective to merge science, spirituality and art while encouraging a response that is neither fixed to the specificities of geography, religion or cultural background.

Situating Zao Wou-ki in Modern Chinese Art
Melissa Walt, Bates College, USA

Zao Wou-ki (Zhao Wuji, b. 1921) is the most renowned modernist painter in France. In China, he is revered. On the world stage, his paintings command record prices at auction. In America, he is largely unknown. Scholarly writings on him are scant; even in France, his adopted home since 1948, non-academic writers, collectors, and critics dominate Zao scholarship. Zao grew up near Shanghai and committed himself to art early, entering the Hangzhou Academy of Art at age 14 and eventually becoming an instructor there. In 1948, he moved to Paris. There, the trajectory of Zao’s career was breathtaking, as he made friends among influential literary and artistic circles, and had his first solo exhibition in 1949. Group and solo shows have continued without interruption since. Unlike predecessors and contemporaries who sought to modernize Chinese painting through balancing traditional Chinese painting with western styles, Zao Wou-ki chose abstract oil painting, producing large, colorful canvases that would seem closer to Abstract Expressionism than the ink-wash styles of his early training. In American museums, his works are assigned variously to departments of contemporary painting, European painting, prints and drawings, and occasionally, Asian art. Records identify him as Chinese, French, or Chinese-French, underscoring the ambiguity of Zao’s transnational status among scholars and curators. Zao Wou-ki occupies a unique position in modern art and modern Chinese art. This paper will situate Zao and his contributions, by analyzing his influences, styles, techniques, and themes. It will also consider the reception, collection, and exhibition of Zao’s works.