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Posts Tagged ‘karakuri’

Did everyone have a good Halloween? I had a great time. Dressed up as Haku from “Sen to Chihiro”, and went down to Waikiki, where hundreds (thousands?) of people just sort of walk up and down the street, admiring each others’ costumes. Mine was not nearly recognizable enough, even among people familiar with the film, but I’m really not sure what I could do to fix that.

In any case, it’s that time again. The links have piled up. I have a lot to share, and so I’ll try to keep the blurbs short. In short, here’s a smattering of interesting stuff I found on the web today!

*A short video about Higashino Hideki, 25 yrs old, a craftsman working to keep alive the 300-year-old tradition of Japanese karakuri, or clockwork automata. As early as 1662, the Takeda theatre in Osaka featured karakuri puppet theatre, based on European clockwork technology, and the same fine Japanese craftsmanship that went into carving the heads of bunraku puppets from wood, and fashioning their brocade clothing. Higashino revives, or continues, the tradition of making such automata, which, with surprisingly (relatively) natural movement, perform actions as complicated as calligraphy and archery.

*A Financial Times article from this past April, pointed out to me by a friend, relates bits of an interview with Chinese contemporary art superstar Xu Bing. The vice-president of China’s premier arts academy, and one of many artists who suffered during the Cultural Revolution, he is understandably reticent to talk about politics or political art, such as that of Ai Weiwei, who was still imprisoned at the time of the interview. … I certainly do not agree with China’s totalitarian stance on dissent, and am all in all frightened by the incredible number of people patriotically and nationalistically pro-CCP and pro-PRC, by the strength of their convictions, and by just how different their attitudes and views are from our own, as if there are two versions of the world competing for which one is real or true. Yet, at the same time, it does grow tedious and boring to constantly, and exclusively, talk about only that Chinese art which is vocally political. I adore Xu Bing’s work, which draws upon history and tradition, upon Chinese culture and arts, doing things that are very innovative and new, but also very Chinese, not aspiring in any way to be “modern” in a globalist, universalist, post-nation-state sort of sense.

*Meanwhile, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, which I visited a few months ago, apparently has been having serious financial trouble, and almost went bankrupt a year or so ago. The museum has now announced, according to a New York Times article from about a month ago, a brand new mission statement, new attitudes and goals. Like many museums, it is trying to combat the image of being stodgy, dusty, old or boring, and so is pushing in more modern/contemporary direction, and opening itself up to flashier, less conservative subjects. … I love contemporary art that relates to cultural identity, history, and historical art, that isn’t a-cultural or globalist in its aesthetics, and I think this new direction could bring lots of really awesome exhibits and events. I just hope that the Asian Art Museum – and others moving in similar directions – does not forget about, or neglect, the more traditional and historical art in its zeal to be fresh and new and exciting.

*November 1st is about to end here in Honolulu, and shortly afterwards November 2nd will end in Japan, where for the last 18 hours or so, the main frontpage “doodle” on Google.jp has been a gold-backed picture of Mt. Fuji, in honor of the birthday of neo-traditionalist painter Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958). I missed out on visiting the Yokoyama Taikan Museum in Ueno a year ago, on the site, I presume, of his house or studio; I hadn’t been aware of it, and only discovered it after they’d closed for the day. Taikan’s a pretty incredible artist. I’ve yet to devote a post to him, or to write an article on him for the Samurai-Archives Wiki, but this Chinese art website offers images of a number of his works, which is something of a start. Remind me, and one of these days I’ll try to put together a post about him.

*A 340-year-old Chinese coin has been found in the Yukon, according to the Vancouver Sun, a contribution to a body of evidence of connections between First Nations (i.e. native peoples of what’s today Canada) and China in the 17th-18th centuries, or perhaps as early as the 15th century, if not directly, then at least in the form of Russian traders interacting with both the North American natives and the Chinese, and transporting objects such as this coin, along with ideas and culture, to whatever small extent, between the two. We don’t normally think of interactions with the Russians, I don’t think (at least not in Japanese Studies so much; I don’t know about Chinese Studies), let alone with First Nations, so this is really quite an interesting find.

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