Panel Title : FASHIONING MODERN JAPAN
Convener : Toby Slade
Chair : Toby Alexander Slade
Panel Abstract :
Modernity in Japan was a process that occurred very rapidly and was thus perhaps more shocking and disquieting than elsewhere, because of the previously enforced seclusion of the Edo period. While Edo aesthetics were undeniably sophisticated and intricate their virtual ignorance of the outside world made the arrival of photography, foreign architecture, foreign clothing, and foreign artistic practices particularly challenging and bewildering. These papers look at the fashions and fashioning of clothing, photography, architecture and artistic locality and the associated issues which faced Japanese visual culture during this particularly distinctive cultural convergence from the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships to the height of Taishô and early Showa Modernism.Between Meiji and the pre-WWII period, Japan modernized their society so rapidly that Japanese people created diversified and inventive expressions and conceptions about their new lifestyles. These studies examine Japanese peoples' daily and substantial presentations of their own bodies and living spaces, and how their psychologies were rendered onto their fashions and living sphere in that period. This occurred by being liberated from their conservative social ethos, and by learning about foreign lifestyles and fashions and adapting them to their actual conditions. These papers seek to explain how these phenomenon reflect the cross-cultural and ontological shift of the social framework and how Japanese people created their own framework of their Modernized Japan. As the performance of these new lifestyles and fluid identities were subject to the fashions of modernity so to were their means of representation. Fashions amongst local and foreign photographers in early Meiji reflect this as photographers like Usui Shûsaburô grew more fashionable than his European master, Baron Ralmund von Stillfried, because his work offered an alternate vision of a dynamic modernising Japanese society that incorporated the taste and fashion for cultural exchange and modernity which the European's more culturally static work lacked. Furthermore the fashion for locating Japanese art within Asia and for Sino-Japanese art collaborations, impossible and repudiated once the politics of imperialism and war became dominant, will also be examined. In this and also in Kon Wajirô's work, examined in terms of both architectural and sartorial modernity, the panel will seek to find the parallels between the universals of modern visual culture and the particulars; between the major Avant-garde movements of modernism and the everyday lives and fashions of the modernising Japanese.
Paper Title : Fashioned Space: Architecture and Urban Perspective in Kon Wajirô's
Studies of Fashion.
A Japanese architect Kon Wajirô created the primal frameworks for the study of the rural houses, the phenomenological urban studies, the living and housing improvement, as well as of the fashion in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century in Japan. He had very multi-contextual interest in the study of fashion, such as the stage design, the phenomenological examination of people's psychological and social conditions, the spatial expression of people's cognition of their bodies, and the rational and functional clothing. Kon was also one of the frontiers in the study of fashion theory and history in Japan, and left influential books in those fields, in which he studied European Fashion theories and design books to understand the factors of the historical and cultural transformation of the fashion in the world. Thus, the examination of his fashion studies clarifies the characteristics of the primal historical conditions of Japanese modern fashion and of the interdisciplinary meanings in his works. The theme of fashion is currently easily applied to the urban and architectural field without enough theoretical contexts examination. I believe that the examination of Kon's fashion theories relating to his architectural perspectives gives us one interesting insight for that problem. Particularly, I believe that his spatial and formalistic approach to the relationship between human body and fashion is very characteristic and gives an important perspective to understand the nature of the modernization of Japanese society. Thus, in this paper I am going to explain how Kon developed such diversified approaches from his synthetic understanding of people's living environment, by examining his works of rural houses, urban studies in Kogengaku, and living and housing improvement. Particularly, by examining about the relationship between European Avant Garde Art Movement and Kon's works of the theater designs and the Ornament Company for the Earthquake Barracks, I will explain how he recognized the study of fashion as the most vivid field to examine the social aspects of art, and how he approached to that area from his architectural viewpoint. Also, I will explain how he collaborated with the other Domestic Science field scholars to develop Japanese people's understanding of the role of fashion, and tried to help people's reasonable and subjective formation of their own fashion.
Paper Title : Fashioning Artistic Locality: Reconsidering Early Collaborations In Asian
Modernity In Sino-Japanese Art Exchanges Of The 1920s.
Largely forgotten or ignored, China and Japan experienced an intense period of artistic exchange in the early twentieth century. While Japanese art institutions represent the earliest art education in East-Asia integrating European art standards with an established national art practice, constituting a model that would subsequently be promoted and adopted in the Taiwan and Korea, for example, the earlier Sino-Japanese art exchanges show that such activities were not always so uni-lateral. Indeed, they reflect a spirit of Asian modernity, the implications of which have largely been overshadowed by the wars that followed. This paper will focus on the activities of the Sino-Japanese Art Association (chûnichi bijutsu kyôkai), and the Sino-Japanese Joint Exhibition of Art (chûnichi rengo bijutsu tenrankai), as well as the publication ‘Sino-Japanese Art' (chûnichi bijutsu). Even a brief discussion involves some of the foremost artists and thinkers of the 1920s-40s: Chinese such as Wang Yiting and Kang Youwei, or of the Japanese, Ishino Tetsuhiro, Masaki Naohiko and others, show that while short-lived, their activities should be considered not as historical anomalies. While many of the figures involved are not without their controversies, their expressedly collaborative Sino-Japanese activities deserve greater attention, particularly as Sino-Japanese relations become a strategic issue anew. Considering these activities again, we can approach them as fascinating art historical phenomena hitherto largely ignored. However, beyond this, such cultural exchanges -not state to state, but rather by like-minded collaborators -suggests an alternative path, albeit it one on which signs of the decades that followed were, perhaps, already visible.
Paper Title : Fashioning Photography: Usui Shûsaburô and the Rise of Early Meiji
Photography's rapid dissemination in Meiji Japan is often characterised as representative of the period's widespread adoption of foreign technologies and cultural practices. The establishment of such treaty ports as Yokohama made it possible for Japanese eager to learn the new technology to gain direct practical knowledge from informed foreign practitioners. However the exchange of such information was far from seamless or devoid of conflict. Early Japanese photographers rapidly moved from the acquisition of technical knowledge to become astute market competitors with their foreign counterparts, leading to intense rivalry for control of the lucrative market. This paper will consider the case of the Austrian photographer Baron Raimund von Stillfried, arguably the dominant photographer of early Meiji Yokohama, and one of his numerous former Japanese apprentices, Usui Shûsaburô. Although von Stillfried dismissed the abilities of his Japanese competitors, Usui's enterprise succeeded not only through his technical proficiency but also his aggressive market strategies and tactics. Usui was one of the first Japanese photographers to challenge the overseas market hegemony of foreign photographers by actively entering spaces previously outside of their purview. He attracted foreign customers to his studio by advertising in the foreign press and hiring agents, counting among his patrons such renowned figures as Ulysses S. Grant. By considering Usui's studio practice and work alongside that of von Stillfried, Usui emerges as a key innovative photographer whose work furnished an alternative image of Meiji society, introducing signs of cultural exchange and modernisation lacking from the portfolio of his former master.
Toby Alexander Slade
Paper Title : Fashioned Bodies: Sartorial Modernity in Tokyo in the Studies of
Everyday Modernity by Kon Wajirô
From the Meiji Restoration in 1868 Japan was suddenly exposed to a range of clothing styles and philosophies that its previous isolation had concealed. The necessity to rapidly engage with a radically different dress ideology was as intense and as important to Japanese modernity as was the shock of new art and foreign technology. Japan is unique in its experience of adopting, appropriating and restyling foreign clothes because it did so without colonization and before full-scale industrialization. From the awkward Edwardian tailcoats and the bustle dresses of the 1870s first encounters to the suave and chic modern boys and flapperesque modern girls of 1920s and 1930s, the story of modern Japanese fashion is as fascinating as it is unique. And it is this remarkably idiosyncratic aesthetic history that is the foundation for the distinct and revolutionary styles of the Japanese fashion designers of today. The central role which clothing fashions played in the formation of modern visual culture first recognised and extensively recorded in Japan by Kon Wajirô. Kon Wajirô represents the overlap of art as research and research as art, and is a significant element in Japanese modernity particularly in the Taisho era. Kon's contribution to how the changing consciousness of modernity evolved in Japan, and the role that everyday life plays in history should be more widely accessible and his avant-garde notions of what constituted art and what was worthy of serious research, long before those ideas became popular, should be more widely recognized. Kon observed, in countless studies conducted in the 1920s and 1930s, that innumerable identities were being played out daily on every street corner where people could assume different subject positions by the way they held and smoked cigarettes, dressed, styled their hair, and walked, and by the choices they made for play and consumption in the Ginza. It was Kon who recognized, perhaps before anyone, the shift from notions of identity based in civilization of the Meiji period to notions of identity based in culture. And certainly his observations constitute a prelude for the myriad present day manufactures of identity in Japan. Kon's interest in everydayness predates similar interest in European and American scholarship, making him an integral thinker not just for Japan but for global understandings of modernity. Kon's own programme Modernology (kogengaku) remains largely unread outside Japan unlike Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project-a Eurocentricity in the interpretation of modernity which should be rectified. This paper addresses the crucial role that fashion played in modernity in Japan and by extension the role it plays in modernity more generally.