Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oriental is

Maybe some of my readers were as uncomfortable as I was with the Metropolitan Museums of Art's recent exhibit on Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms & Armor made possible by the Yomiuri Shimbun. Apparently, the Met was not the only museum featuring the charms of the samurai sword.

The myth of the Bushido was big this past year in the galleries of the United States.

Swords are for show and beauty, no?

It turns out that the Asian-American art community hated the exhibit even more than me! And did something about.

To learn what they "did", go to the University of California, Berekely on March 9th for Lord It's the Samurai: Socially Engaged Art and the Cultural Production of Orientalist Hysteria with Majime Sugiru, Communications Director, Asians Art Museum
Mr. Sugiru serves as communications director for the Asians Art Museum, a guerrilla art collective that creates public and online 'cultural interventions' as a means of challenging dominant (mis)representations of Japanese visual culture in the Bay Area. Their latest project integrates Japanese Studies scholarship with art in a parody of last summer's blockbuster Lords of the Samurai exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. 
Generating joyful laughter and impassioned debate across a broad spectrum of constituent communities while garnering media attention, critical acclaim and wide-ranging scholarly approval, this deft cultural counterpunch succeeded at raising awareness of the retrograde cultural politics that continue to play out in the exhibition of Japanese art in this country today.
Majime Sugiru is a Berkeley-born, Cal-educated contemporary artist based in San Francisco. His provocative art has been shown in New York and San Francisco, most recently at the de Young Museum where much of his work was ordered taken down shortly before the exhibition was about to open.
At the Asians Arts Museum website you will learn the following about the samurai:

Precision of the Blade
Better Ceramics through Slavery
Boys before Flowers

And yes, the Met is having another exhibit on Japan's noble arts (because it was only nobles who could afford to have and keep it). 5,000 Years of Japanese Arts runs through June. A New York Times review, Cleaning Out Closets, Reuniting Old Friends, finds that "Japanese art does not tiptoe around big emotions like fury, erotic passion, grief, and ecstasy."

1 comment:

  1. To be fair, quite a few Japanese people do cringe when I suggest that the Samurai did not abnormally engage in the "noble" tradition of "pederasty". Not that I mention the subject that often, mind.

    Also, "Majime Sugiru"? A little unfortunate don't we think?!


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