Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Essay Publication on Illustration & Photography of Ainu in Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, 1880

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my essay “‘Civilized’ Men and ‘Superstitious’ Women: Visualizing the Hokkaido Ainu in Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks, 1880” in the new edited volume titled Gender, Continuity, and the Shaping of Modernity in the Arts of East Asia, 16th­­–20th Centuries (Leiden: Brill, 2017). The book was edited by Kristen L. Chiem (Pepperdine University) and Lara C. W. Blanchard (Hobart & William and Smith Colleges), who were both awesome to work with throughout this entire process. Overall, the book features work by Lara C. W. Blanchard, Kristen L. Chiem, Charlotte Horlyck, Ikumi Kaminishi, Nayeon Kim, Sunglim Kim, Radu Leca, Elizabeth Lillehoj, Ying-chen Peng, and myself. Here is the official blurb for the book:

Gender, Continuity, and the Shaping of Modernity in the Arts of East Asia, 16th–20th Centuries explores women’s and men’s contributions to the arts and gendered visual representations in China, Korea, and Japan from the premodern through modern eras. A critical introduction and nine essays consider how threads of continuity and exchanges between the cultures of East Asia, Europe, and the United States helped to shape modernity in this region, in the process revealing East Asia as a vital component of the trans-Pacific world. The essays are organized into three themes: representations of femininity, women as makers, and constructions of gender, and they consider examples of architecture, painting, woodblock prints and illustrated books, photography, and textiles.

The book is the second volume in Brill’s series Gendering the Trans-Pacific World: Diaspora, Empire, and Race. The first volume titled after the series was edited by Catherine Ceniza Choy (UC Berkeley) and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (UC Irvine) this past March. Combined, there are so many insightful contributions to the study of gender in this region. My reading list is ever expanding.

I’m excited about my own contribution to this volume for a few reasons. The essay, which derives from the first chapter of my dissertation, looks closely at the role of photography and illustration in the 1880 publication Unbeaten Tracks in Japan written by explorer and naturalist Isabella Lucy Bird (1851–1904). She is often best known for her travel to Hokkaido and her time spent among the Ainu there. In volumes that contain the word “East Asia” in the title, narratives that concern the creation by and representation of indigenous peoples in Asia are often excluded. We need to do better in this regard to recognize their stories and images as integral to the fabric of the region. I see my research as a small step in this regard. But being concerned chiefly with images produced of the Ainu, rather than by, it highlights the need for more indigenous voices to round out these ideas of how indigenous identity was complicated and complimented by notions of Asianness in the Pacific. Personally, the essay represents a huge accomplishment as well. I wrote the first draft while living in Hokkaido, Japan, and it reminds me of my archival research in the Northern Studies Collection in the Hokkaido University Library. (It also reminds me of all the time spent in local Sapporo coffee shops typing away on my half-broken laptop). In the essay, I also take an interdisciplinary approach that I feel is representative of what I always wanted from Visual Studies. It some senses, the method taken is a culmination of my degree and my time at the University of California, Irvine.

I’m happy to answer questions about the book, the work, or the research involved — just #AMA below. The abstract for my essay can be found here.

Gachapon & Middle State Publishing

For curious eyes, I just published a brief essay titled “Should You Pull?: Gachapon, Risk, and Reward in Mobile Gaming” with First Person Scholar. I’m trying to historicize plastic capsule toy vending machines in Japan, or gachapon, while also thinking forward to their application in mobile games as a monetary model. The essay brings together cultural history with some examples of application where the physical meets the virtual. I hope you enjoy it! I couldn’t help but to throw some contemporary art in there too. I am an art historian, after all.

Working with First Person Scholar was an amazing experience, and a venture that I hope to continue as my path through visual culture helps me to connect art history with game studies. FPS is a “middle-state” publication. Described by Jason Hawreliak, this means a hybrid publication that addresses two of academia’s biggest downfalls: accessibility and speed. When dealing with material that is fast moving, like games tend to be, these kinds of publications are invaluable for presenting immediate critical reflections in a timely manner. The essays do not go through the rigor of the peer-review process, but are vetted and edited. In many ways, I see the AHTR Weekly of Art History Teaching Resources doing similar work with regard to pedagogy and art history. Personally, I think we need more of this kind of publication in academia, and we especially need this kind of work to be valued. The art world moves fast as well, and it would be great if some weight could be given to these kinds of immediate explorations, essays, and critical commentaries. I know the change needs to come at the level of what search committees value in order to encourage young scholars to take stock in these sorts of publications. But I have to say that there is something intensely satisfying about a quick turn around… Especially when our work gets stuck in typical publication cycles that can take anywhere from 1-3 years time from submission to publication. By the time something comes out, nobody cares…

I feel energized — what an awesome way to kick off the Fall Semester! I’m teaching Ways of Seeing and Art History: Renaissance through Modern this time around, so more about my in-class experiences soon!

 

Photo credit: MsSaraKelly Vending machines outside a games shop in Shinjuku via photopin (license).

Karil Kucera’s Ritual & Representation in Chinese Buddhism

9781604979176front Karil Kucera’s Ritual and Representation in Chinese Buddhism: Visualizing Enlightenment at Baodingshan from the 12th to 21st Centuries (Cambria Press, 2016) has been published! I have been Karil’s sabbatical replacement here at St. Olaf College for 2015-2016, and it is exciting to see the product of over 20 years of research on the site at Baodingshan in Sichuan Province, China.

Although my research does not focus on Buddhist Art, it remains one of my favorite topics to teach. Students have a natural curiosity about the unification of art and religion outside of the Christian tradition. When I teach sculpture from Dunhuang (China), the Yungang Grottoes (China), Hōryū-ji (Japan), or Hiraizumi (Japan), I want students to understand works not just as singular art objects, but as part of a larger design program that includes other works of sculpture, painting,  architecture, and text. These elements work together to define a patron’s experience. With her focus on the visualization of enlightenment, Karil describes the Great Buddha Bend at Baodingshan and the organic and multi-layered inclusion of tenets of Pure Land, Chan (Zen), Huayan, and Esoteric Buddhism.

The book is accompanied by a bilingual website, http://www.baodingshan.org,  that serves as an excellent teaching resource. The “interactive tour” under the “in the classroom” section, in addition to the maps and walking tour are all particularly useful for scholars who want to teach this material with an awareness of spatial context. The challenge the art historian has, regardless of topic, is transporting students to the site–either physically or in the realm of the mind. By using these tools, students can develop an understanding of Baodingshan by traversing the geography of the physical site in digital space.

And for me, the website published alongside her book raises the importance of these kinds of digital accompaniments as a way to mitigate the limitations of academic publishing in a field so dependent on images.

Translation of Takashina Erika’s chapter on Yamamoto Hōsui’s Urashima

This has been in development for what seems like forever, but I am thrilled that my translation of Takashina Erika‘s essay “Sea of Hybridization: In Dispute over Urashima” (異種交配の海―「浦島」をめぐって) from the third chapter of her book The Sea Beyond: Hōsui, Seiki, Tenshin, and the West (異界の海 ―芳翠・清輝・天心における西洋) is now available and online as part of the Review of Japanese Culture and Society‘s special issue titled “Commensurable Distinctions: Intercultural Negotiations of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture.”

This particular essay discusses oil painter Yamamoto Hōsui’s multi-figure painting Urashima (1893). Takashina’s research on this painting is exhaustive, to quote the editors of this issue. She painstakingly analyzes the iconography of Hōsui’s work that depicts the Japanese legend of Urashima Tarō to reveal deep connections and fractures between Japan, Europe, and Asia. Takashina compellingly frames Urashima as a complex and multivalent work that figures the ocean as a space of cultural hybridity, while projecting Hōsui’s aspirations for the future of Japanese modern art and transnational realpolitik in the Meiji era. Connected by a vast and primordial ocean, Hōsui negotiated an identity between Paris and Japan, and he saw art as having the power to cross borders through the sensorial and highly symbolic space of the imagination.

It is great to have a role in bringing Takashina’s work into conversation with other scholars exploring intercultural negotiations in this issue. Definitely check it out if you have an interest in yōga (western oil painting in Japan) or the arts of the Meiji era!

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