japan

Shuddering Century: Futurist Poetry, Colonial Korea, and Industrial Warfare

This article examines the reception of European futurism in colonial Korea in the early-to- mid-1930s through the writings of Kim Ki-rim and O Chang-hwan, both of whom composed over the course of 1934 long modernist poems engaging with modern warfare and global imperialism—Kim’s “Weather Map” (Kisangdo, p. 1935) and O’s “War” (Chŏnjaeng, 1934, unpublished). My central proposition, based on close readings of these two poems in comparison with works by Italian and Japanese futurists, is that Korea’s unevenly developed colonial location and its experience with the violence of military occupation and with escalating warfare in China indirectly discouraged the celebratory posture adopted by the European futurists towards technology, speed, and mechanized violence.

Translation in Noh Time

Translation takes time; it also gives time, a new and complex temporality, to a source text that exists in a relation of misunderstanding and inspiration to the translation. Early twentieth-century Japanese-English translation practices and theories offer a case study for a version of global modernism informed by ancient aesthetics and subjectivities—but not the typical version in which the ancient is non-western and modernity is firmly Euro-American. Two competing committees translated James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) into Japanese before it was legal to sell in any English-speaking country.[1] Ezra Pound, that great promoter of Joyce as well as translation “by a committee,” did not encourage the Japanese interest in translating Anglophone modernist texts.[2] He worried that Japanese artists would be swept up in “the apeing of Europe,” as he put it in The Classical Noh Theatre of Japan (1916), a controversial translation of ancient noh plays he published in spite of his minimal knowledge of Japanese.[3] Noh plays and other classical texts, like Lady Murasaki’s famous The Tale of Genji (c. 1000, translated by Arthur Waley from 1926–33) were present in Anglophone modernism before many of its great works were produced, translated, and at risk of being “aped.” While western modernists celebrated a version of Japaneseness based on translations of classical texts, translators in Japan were eagerly tackling contemporary works like Ulysses.[4] This discrepancy in translation practices troubles the common presumption that Japanese modernism lagged behind Euro-American modernisms. Some theories of global modernism suggest that we need to expand the modernist period to accommodate the time of translation and open its geographical boundaries to include non-Western countries.[5] While these approaches work to be inclusive, they can imply that nonwestern modernisms were derivative; they also maintain a version of temporality that does not accommodate the messy, fertile, and multi-directional creativity of cross-cultural translation and exchange—much less the temporalities featured in noh plays.

Whither Politics? Photography and Protest in the “Provoke Era”

When the photography exhibit Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960-1975 began its tour of Europe and the United States in January of 2016, its relevance to the contemporary moment was unclear.

The Japanese Art of Fascist Modernism: Yasuda Yukihiko’s The Arrival of Yoshitsune/Camp at Kisegawa (1940-41)

In 2011, the Japanese government designated Yasuda Yukihiko’s Camp at Kisegawa (Kisegawa no jin, 1940-41) as an Important Cultural Property (Jūyō bunkazai). The left half of the painting, which portrays Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189), a famous warrior from the Kamakura period (1185-1333), was initially produced and exhibited in 1940 as The Arrival of Yoshitsune (Yoshitsune sanchaku). The right half, which depicts Yoshitsune’s older brother Yoritomo (1147-1199), was added later, and the artist then titled the completed work Camp at Kisegawa (Kisegawa no jin). The finished painting, executed in ink on two paper folding screens, shows the much-desired reunion between the two men before their battle against the rival Heike clan.

Response: More on Gas Masks

In her article on Japan’s interwar visual culture, Gennifer Weisenfeld has documented and critically discussed a wealth of interwar images, many of them photographic, that involve gas masks.[1] Among them stands out Masao Horino’s 1936 Gas Mask Parade, a photograph showing a formation of girls marching in school uniforms, with gas masks on their faces.