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Panel 2: Visuals Across and Beyond East Asia

(Saturday 1:15 PM – 2:45 PM)


“Precarious Affinity and its Radical Politicality – Mira Schendel and Hak Kyung Cha,” Ina Choi, University of Pennsylvania

This paper explores the works of Brazilian diaspora artist Mira Schendel and Korean American immigrant artist Hak Kyung Cha during the 60’s and 70’s. Both artists were deeply committed to incorporating language and text into the body of their works, not within the system of signification, but rather from where they fall short in the system. The comparison of Jewish born Brazilian artist Mira Schendel and Korean born American artist Hak Kyung Cha might seem strange considering the distinctive geopolitical ground between Jewish Brazilians and Korean Americans. The starting point of this comparison comes from the visual resonance of their language-body relations, and the emotional amplification that echoes and overlaps. By unpacking and re-orienting their works from multiple points of connection, in fact, I feel convinced that their works have strong affinity not just visually but also on a social and historical level. Schendel’s traumatic experience of surviving Nazi concentration camps and immigrating to Brazil, and Cha’s immigration to America after Japanese colonization of Korea and the military dictatorship there, both straddle the condition of post-socialism and the rise of global liberalism. This also importantly marks the transition from geographically-bound European empires toward new modes of governance that re-distributed the knowledge production. It was around this time that post-modern discourse anticipated the end of the grand narrative not only in terms of historical subjects but also within artistic and cultural domains. Cha’s and Schendel’s works also correspond to such disappearance of subjects. This paper aims to grasp where the two artists’ works resonate with such moments and how the works illuminate within. While admitting the extremely limited space of untangling the complicated historicity, I will focus on Cha’s mail art piece “Marking” and one of Schendel’s works from her Monotopia series, and will argue how “socially” their works embody and point toward the bodily engaging rather than being translucent and transient. Inspired by Sarah Ahmad’s notion of the re-orientation of phenomenology, the “shift” from norms to somewhere else in those works offers radical politicality.



“‘My Mother Left Me and Became Art:’ Fragmentation and Reunification in Japanese Photography,” Philippe Depairon, Universite de Montreal

Concerning her series Mother’s (2000), Ishiuchi Miyako writes that photography disconnected her parent’s possessions from their context, thus allowing them to become seemingly universal utterances of mother-daughter love and affection: her “mother left [her] and became art.” In Ishiuchi’s work, photographs appear to atomize and fragment the world they show, only to call the viewer to take an active role in the reunification of its various pieces. In this paper, I contend that Ishiuchi’s process of separating things before reconnecting them into a coherent whole is representative of a larger trend in Japanese photography. Photographs seem to be particularly adapted tools in giving shape and in answering to traumas, be they personal (for instance, the death of one’s mother) or general (for instance, following the “triple disaster” of 2011.) Photographs made by Ishiuchi, Arai Takashi, and Obara Kazuma, among other artists, show us how portraits and images of personal objects can become icons for bigger social issues. By erasing the context of the objects they depict while also making it key in understanding what we are shown, their photographs stand for themselves and for the community: in this, then, photographs become tools that connect the self and society.



“Transnational Text as Intermediary in Transnational East Asian Cinema,” Yoonbin Cho, University of Pennsylvania

In the field of East Asian cinema, the transnational is often exclusively associated with Hong Kong due to its history of having both British and Chinese national identities. However, the world today is becoming increasingly interconnected and East-West relations are becoming more prevalent and diversified, necessitating a critical inquiry into the notion of the ‘transnational.’ This paper will investigate the methodological rigidity of searching for a movement from one national context to another as the cause of failure to separate the transnational from national cinema studies, and propose that the scholarship reorients the gaze of inspection from the context to the text by offering an alternative approach that examines the text as the locus of kinetic energy for transnational exchanges. This approach will be demonstrated in a case study on Intimate Strangers (2018), a Korean remake of the Italian Perfetti Sconosciuti (2016). I will argue that the original text’s finite and mundane space that appears temporally and spatially fluid by the intervention of the smartphone can be read as an allegory of the nation that continuously transforms in reaction to influences from the globe in this era of ubiquitous globalization. Then, I will claim that the Korean remake continues in this impression of movement through an added sense of liminality, which renders physical travel, represented by Hong Kong cinema’s characteristic element of air-travel, unnecessary by the development of communications technology, and open the possibility to consider not only Korean cinema but also others in East Asia as transnational cinema.

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