AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 5

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Session 5: The Permeability of Borders: Artistic and Cultural Realities in East and Southeast Asia

Organizer: Kazuko Kameda-Madar, Hawaii Pacific University, USA

Chair: Jerome A. Feldman, Hawaii Pacific University, USA

In art history borders commonly refer to the perimeters of countries or regions. Typically they mark the limits of hegemonic political entities. In terms of art and culture they can be useful descriptors in the sense that if one registers for a course on Chinese Art they pretty much have an accurate idea of the content of the course. Like most paradigmatic constructs however historic and cultural realities often reveal the weakness of these constructs. Modern political entities rarely conform to previous situations. Tibet, Vietnam, and Yünnan were and are not always “Chinese”. Even today the populations at the borders are frequently heterogeneous and sometimes minority communities may outnumber the “pure” dominant populations. These apparent lapses of insight may be prompted by nationalistic prejudices that are often imposed on scholars or may be internalized presumptions. Borders are also not necessarily political nor geographical. They may be the artifacts of academic disciplines. In the diversity of genres studied in art history these sometimes assume the attributes of separate disciplines. Therefore one who studies painting may ignore or not be cognizant of the foreign elements and styles or even indigenous artifacts that lie behind or within the subject matter of the painting. These studies analyze art from the standpoint of the interactions that traverse our contemporary borders and enrich the traditions of everyone.

Rejection and Acceptance of a Foreign “Other:” The Influence of Art Nouveau in the Works of Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1943) and Tsuda Seifu (1880-1978), Masters of the Kyoto Design World in Late Meiji
Scott Johnson, Kansai University, Japan

In July of 1901 Kamisaka Sekka was sent by the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts to Scotland to observe the design world of the United Kingdom, as shown in the Glasgow Exposition (May-November 1901). Before returning to Japan in January of 1902, he visited the Netherlands, France and Italy. Exactly what museums and galleries he visited is not known, but he returned to Kyoto, more determined than ever to master the Rimpa tradition in painting and design, and to urge his students and peers to reject Western influences, especially Art Nouveau. Tsuda Seifu, trained by Asai Chu (1856-1907), thoroughly accepted Western influences, including Art Nouveau, smoothly shaping these influences into his early design style. Japanese artists at the end of the nineteenth century had the freedom to explore and exploit artistic styles from all over the world, limited only by exposure to actual foreign art, and their reproductions in publications from at home and abroad. Both Sekka and Seifü had their designs and art books printed by the Kyoto publisher Unsodo. An examination of a few of their color woodcut pictures will demonstrate their differing but contemporaneous attitudes.

Tribal cultures, Bronze age Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Papua New Guinea
Jerome A. Feldman, Hawaii Pacific University, USA

Long before there were places called China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea groups of people migrated, traded and settled over the vast regions of East and Southeast Asia without regard for contemporary borders. Academic specialization has often overlooked similarities between established regions of scholarly interest and the legacy of these academic blinders has left whole areas to appear as though they had lived forever in islands of splendid isolation. Nowhere is this more evident than among the tribal cultures of Indonesia. In the late nineteenth century through the mid twentieth century groups of primarily European scholars, commonly referred to as “diffusionists”, devoted their studies to pointing out artistic traits that appeared to travel from one culture area to another. Their insistence that influences came from powerful large cultures such as China and India to smaller more fragile tribal cultures tinged their studies with cultural favoritism and implications that tribal cultures were inherently inferior. Because of that, starting in the 1960s diffusionism became associated with a kind of cultural fascism and these early studies fell into disuse and disregard. Now with new archaeological finds, especially in China, and with advances in linguistics it is becoming abundantly clear that the peoples of Indonesia are part of a bigger picture that ties dispersed ethnic groups into larger realms of cultural transaction. Relationships between arts and cultural practices in tribal cultures can help bridge cultural gaps that connect contemporary nationalities to their own past and to each other. Some possible connections will be explored in this presentation.

Permeating Times, Spaces and Genres: A Study of Applied Art Represented in Kano Sansetsu’s Orchid Pavilion Gathering Painting
Kazuko Kameda-Madar, Hawaii Pacific University, USA

Art historians traditionally have worked within a specific field of study, which is enclosed by the customary artificial frameworks such as time periods, regions and categories of art, and hardly ever do these borders get crossed. These borders often function to provide secure and comfortable fortifications. This study challenges us to step out of the fortification. It investigates the taste of cultural consumption of the 17th century Japanese intelligentsias through examining applied art – mainly ceramic wares and stationary objects – painted in the Orchid Pavilion Gathering folding screen by Kano Sansetsu (1590-1651). Sansetsu, the second generation leader of the Kano Painting School in Kyoto, was recognized to be a Sinophile scholar as well. He illustrated a well-known event in China, when Wang Xizhi invited forty-one scholars at the Orchid Pavilion to participate in the annual Spring Purification Festival. In this work, Sansetsu represented numerous images of Chinese applied art, which were deemed as symbols of cultural sophistication. Some of the ceramics are identified as Longquan-type export celadon produced in Fujian province, and others are the blue-and-white porcelains in Jiangxi province in the Ming dynasty. He also included the vessels possibly imported from Vietnam of the earlier period. Since these applied arts are depicted in a high degree of precision, he must have directly observed the models, which were collected by himself and his contemporaries rather than copied from different paintings. Therefore, this study reveals the economic and social environment of Sansetsu’s production and its historical reception by challenging categorical academic limitations.

Separate Realities: China for Japan in the 17th Century
Mary Ann Rogers, Independent Scholar, USA

The world of Chinese ceramics has always been complex and continuously evolving. This is in part attributable to the Chinese potters themselves who were never resistant to influence or change, due in great measure to their ingrained pragmatism with an eye almost exclusively trained on the commercial ball. While much of the drama was internal, the borders of China were sufficiently permeable for ideas to trickle and sometimes even stream in, albeit the flow outward and beyond her borders of ceramic wares, styles and technology comprised a much more formidable current. During the pre-Yuan period exported wares were by and large identical to those produced for home, with such rare exceptions as the ceramic sutra containers produced exclusively for Japan. The lengths, however, to which Chinese potters would go to appeal to clients abroad is at no time more strikingly manifest than during the late Ming period when the floodgates were swung open in an attempt to increase foreign clientele during a time of calamitous domestic upheaval. That they were willing to create and produce wares completely antithetical to all their basic instincts, training and tradition, their products an affront at best to their Chinese brethren then and now, is evidence that permeable physical/economic borders do not ensure similarly permeable psychological/aesthetic borders. The phenomenon of porcelain production during the first half of the 17th century by the Chinese for the Japanese will be briefly explored to demonstrate the significance of the borders, both permeable and not, dividing these simultaneously close and distant neighbors.

What Would Hiroshi Sugimoto Do? What Would Museums Do? : Deified Artist and Museum - Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “History of History”
Daisuke Murata, Toyama Glass Art Museum, Japan

Hiroshi Sugimoto (1948- ), who has received international praise for his photographs, has produced his “History of History” since 2003. Sugimoto constructs this with his photographs and collection of objects including artworks and ‘materials’ from around the world. Designated “exchange values” by the artist, “History of History” reveals the inalienable relationships between artists and museums in today’s capitalistic and phallocentric system, by delineating the structure whereby artists and museums enhance their social statuses by deifying one another. By centering upon a “History of History”, the relationships and borders delineating artist, artwork, and museum can be explored. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa opened in 2004 with its aim to create new values. The “History of History” exhibition at the museum professed Sugimoto's expression as an action of relativizing history, and that the relativization of all things including himself is the essence of his expression. However, by investigating the “History of History”, the characteristics of “mystified history” and “deified artist” emerge. Also regarded as his “self history”, Sugimoto’s perspective of history and art loosely overlaps those of the hosting museums, yet the differences and borders of their perspectives remained obscured. In the frameworks of “Japanese art”, “Asian art”, “Photography”, and “Contemporary art”, Sugimoto was always deified as the great artist, while hosting institutions secured themselves as deified museums of beauty and knowledge. The structure of the Izu Photo Museum, which Sugimoto designed, also illustrates such system. Our ultimate question is: what would artists and museums do without this ideology?

Fish and ships: Motifs of Art from the Bronze Age to the Modern Anthropological Context in Wider Southeast Asia
Wolfgang Marschall, Independent Scholar, Switzerland

The settlement of Island Southeast Asia and Oceania started most probably in present-day Southern China. Sooner or later prospective settlers had to put to sea and solve two problems: how to get to these new worlds and how to survive on these journeys. The solution was sea-going vessels (ships and occasionally rafts) and fish and fishing. That fish and ships played a major role in the worldview of Southeast Asian communities seems self-evident. But why are there areas, sometimes small islands, where fish and ships are not conceptualized to any degree. And why do we find rock paintings in the Papua area which do not only allow to define species of sea animals but which lead to the determination of their behaviour. In other areas, ships are taken as the blueprint for the layout of a village. Sometimes a village considers itself the crew of a boat, sometimes a clan is called after a species of fish. In some areas pictures of ships are connected with the travels of the soul of the dead to the underworld. Fish are threatening in Buddhist reliefs on Borobudur but they seem to be helpful in other stories. And why are there several reliefs of outrigger ships on Borobudur but none on the rock paintings in Borneo, Sulawesi, or Papua. The notions and representations of fish and ships in Southeast Asia will be shown and analysed in this presentation. There are still more questions than answers.