Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Webinar // Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Irankarapte: An Introduction to Ainu Culture in Japan,” webinar delivered at the Japan America Society of Minnesota (September 3, 2020).

ABSTRACT

“Irankarapte” is an Ainu greeting. While often translated as “hello,” it means “allow me to touch your heart.” The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan with their own language, religion, and cultural identity. Together with Dr. Christina Spiker, explore the development of Ainu culture and history through art, language, and material artifacts. This webinar will examine both historical and contemporary aspects of Ainu culture, including the surprising ways that Ainu and American history intersect in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will also explore the recent 2020 opening of the new national museum dedicated to the Ainu in Shiraoi, Hokkaido, and Ainu representation in popular media.

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Course // Arts of Korea (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Arts of Korea
ASIAN STUDIES 200 | St. Olaf College

DESCRIPTION

This course is an introduction to the history of art on the Korean peninsula. Beginning in the neolithic era, it offers a survey of significant artistic developments through the Three Kingdoms, Koryo, and Choson periods, in addition to works from the twentieth and twenty-first century. Students will explore a range of media, including ceramic vessels, sculptures, paintings, textiles, and works of architecture. Key artifacts and artistic traditions are discussed chronologically with their political, religious, and historical contexts. Within each period, foreign influences and indigenous Korean traditions are explored in order to gain a greater understanding of native characteristics and aesthetic concerns. Korea will be framed in context with its East Asian neighbors to showcase its crucial role in the transmission of art and aesthetics across space and time.

Image Credit: Unknown, Jar with Dragon and Clouds, 17th century. White porcelain with iron-brown underglaze. Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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Course // History of World Architecture (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

History of World Architecture
ART 161 | St. Olaf COllege

DESCRIPTION

This introductory course explores the history of architecture from an inclusive, cross-cultural perspective. Proceeding topically through diverse examples from across the globe, students will examine the various ways that individuals and groups responded to religious, political, social, and cultural needs through the creation of built environments. From practical solutions to monumental expressions of power, students will study the role of culture in undergirding regional construction, style, and form. This course examines both local approaches to architectural challenges and shared values that give rise to hybrid structures.

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Course // Arts of Japan (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Arts of Japan
ART/ASIAN STUDIES 260 | St. Olaf College

DESCRIPTION

Survey the arts of the Japanese archipelago from the Neolithic period to the present day. This course investigates diverse works such as funerary remains, Shintō architecture, Buddhist sculpture, castle architecture, woodblock prints, hanging and hand scrolls, gardens, tea ceremony, oil and ink painting, performance, photography, and fashion design. We will use visual analysis to discuss themes such as patronage, religious expression, social organization, traditional technologies, indigenous and imported techniques, urban design, and the political functions of art. This course will emphasize various connections between Japan and other cultures through the 21st century that have helped shape Japan’s dynamic aesthetic traditions.

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Digital // Analyzing Textiles with an Ainu Attush Robe (StoryMapJS)

DESCRIPTION

An analysis of a 19th-century Ainu robe from the Cooper Hewitt Collection at the Smithsonian Design Museum. This was produced as part of independent research conducted with students Adele S. Gordon ’20 and Julianne Stewart ’20 at St. Olaf College. Each collaborator created their own “story map” using StoryMapJS and used it to explore minority visual representation within Asia. The StoryMapJS was accompanied by a website.

Presentation // Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Optical Consistency in Ainu Photography: Tracing Networks of Transnational Reproduction,” paper planned to be delivered on the “Imaginaries in Motion: Early Transnational Photography in and beyond Asia” panel at the Association of Asian Studies, Boston (March 19-22, 2020) [CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19]

ABSTRACT

As Meiji Japan transformed the island of Hokkaido in service of modernization, the indigenous Ainu contended with the invasive colonization of their land and sudden, intense interest in their culture from both Japanese and international travelers. This paper examines this nineteenth-century fascination as captured in early Ainu photography. I investigate the links between original tourist and ethnographic albumen prints, their reproduction as souvenirs and postcards, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving. Rather than focusing on improvements in photographic technology, this paper draws upon a framework outlined by Bruno Latour to examine the mobilization of photographs to create a conceptual and optical consistency through an integration of both word and image. I argue that the understanding of the Ainu in both the Western and Japanese imagination often had little to do with capturing the reality of their lives, although this was often the claim. Instead, popular understanding depended on the visual calcification of the Ainu image into a cohesive notion of indigenous identity constructed solely from the outside. The resulting stereotypes were flat and one-dimensional. They found representation in a wide variety of media including Japanese tourist postcards, American newspapers, and photographs from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the 1911 Japan-British Exhibition based on earlier visual models. By tracing the afterlives of several key images, I discuss how optical consistency was achieved over time and how it affected the Ainu community who found themselves at the center.

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Public Lecture // Indigenous Modernity in Hokkaido, Japan: the Complexities of Ainu Representation in Photography and Illustration (Macalester College)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Indigenous Modernity in Hokkaido, Japan: the Complexities of Ainu Representation in Photography and Illustration,” public lecture delivered at Macalester College. Co-sponsored by Art and Art History, Asian Studies, and the Office of Academic Programs (September 19, 2019).

ABSTRACT

The Japanese island of Hokkaido experienced a boom of travel at the turn of the twentieth century as explorers sought out the indigenous Ainu—a people who were often idealized as a singular white race stranded in the North Pacific. These travelers reproduced countless representations of the Ainu; images that would come to define their culture in the Euro-American imaginary. This presentation explores notions of indigenous modernity through photography and illustration from 1870 until roughly 1930. In what ways did the visual field preclude the existence of modern indigenous subjectivity in Hokkaido? How did photography play a role in the construction and reinforcement of native Ainu stereotypes in Japan and abroad? This lecture will examine some key examples of Ainu photography by popular studios and discuss engravings and newspaper collages based on these original photographic works. It will also explore how Ainu producers of image and text—such as Takekuma Tokusaburō and Katahira Tomijirō—engaged with these dominant representations. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad, as well as expand our understanding of photography as a visual medium in Meiji and Taishō Japan.

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Course // Arts of China (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Arts of China
ART/ASIAN STUDIES 259 | St. Olaf College

DESCRIPTION

This course is intended as an introduction to the history of Chinese art, offering a survey of major artistic developments from neolithic times to the present. Among the topics considered: ritual bronzes, funerary remains of the Qin and Han, Buddhist sculpture, and the evolution of landscape painting. Important issues discussed include production and patronage, function, and borrowing and influence in the evolution of artistic works across time and space. Also counts toward Asian studies and Chinese majors and Asian studies concentration.

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Essay // The Texture of Crepe: The Role of Women in the Creation and Consumption of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books (chirimen-bon) (In Preparation)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina. “The Texture of Crepe: The Role of Women in the Creation and Consumption of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books (chirimen-bon).” In preparation for submission.

ABSTRACT

In his book A Shoemaker’s Story, art historian Anthony W. Lee reflects on the importance of investigating local subjects with an eye open to the large—and often global—issues they invoke. He explains that projects such as these are never truly limiting nor local, but instead have the ability to open a meaningful world of inquiry. The Smiling Book, a 24-leaf woodblock printed crepe-paper book (chirimen-bon) released by Japanese publisher Takejiro Hasegawa allows us to apply Lee’s method of working “local” while thinking “global.” Collected by Minnesota artist Evelyn Goodrow Mitsch and housed in St. Catherine University Library’s Special Collections (St. Paul, MN), The Smiling Book might appear both small and unassuming. However, a material history and visual analysis of the work reveals the relationship between the historical use of crepe paper in girls’ culture, the production of densely illustrated crepe paper books for a predominantly Western female audience, and the obscured labor of British, French, and American missionary and military wives who served as writers and translators of these rich image-texts. Histories of Japanese modernization in the Meiji period (1868-1912) often focus on the stories of male dignitaries and officials. The Smiling Book presents us with an alternative, but concurrent, narrative rooted in visual culture. It upsets the image of the male connoisseur of art and culture to highlight the active role of women—both Japanese and foreign—in bridging and introducing Japan to new American (and Midwestern) audiences in the twentieth century.

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Public Lecture // Nostalgia as Remedy: Modernity and Sentimentality in Japanese Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Era (The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery)



CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Nostalgia as Remedy: Modernity and Sentimentality in Japanese Woodblock Prints of the Meiji Era,” public lecture delivered at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition Nostalgic Femininity: Japanese Woodblock Prints from The St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections (May 13, 2019).

ABSTRACT

Christina M. Spiker, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and curator of the current exhibition, Nostalgic Femininity, will discuss the broader historical and social contexts that inform the relationship between nostalgia and feminine imagery in the work of Japanese printmaker Yōshū Chikanobu and his peers. Learn about print styles from late nineteenth-century Japan using examples from St. Catherine University’s Archives & Special Collections.

VIDEO

A video of the lecture can be watched on The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery website.

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Exhibition Catalog // Nostalgic Femininity & From Flowers to Warriors: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Archives & Special Collections (The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery)



CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Nostalgia as Remedy: Contextualizing the Japanese Woodblock Prints in the St. Catherine University Archives and Special Collections.” In Nostalgic Femininity / From Flowers to Warriors: Japanese Woodblock Prints from The St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections. Exhibition catalog. (The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, 2019).

VIDEO

You can read my essay digitally or download the entire exhibition catalog through our digital exhibition.

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Exhibition // Nostalgic Femininity: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections (Catherine G. Murphy Gallery)

CITATION

Nostalgic Femininity: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections, curated by Christina M. Spiker, Ph.D, Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN (April 13-May 26, 2019)

ABSTRACT

Drawing from items in the University’s Archives & Special Collections, this exhibition explores the relationship between nostalgia and gender in Japanese woodblock prints of the late nineteenth century. The show features various prints by Meiji-period artist Yōshū Chikanobu alongside select examples by Miyagawa Shuntei, Utagawa Kunisada I, Mizuno Toshikata, and Toyohara Kunichika. It will open alongside a complementary library exhibition and digital supplement.

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Exhibition // From Flowers to Warriors: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections (St. Catherine University Library)

CITATION

From Flowers to Warriors: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the St. Catherine University Archives & Special Collections, curated by Christina M. Spiker with MaryJane Eischen and Nicole Wallin, St. Catherine University Library, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN (April 13 – May 26, 2019)

ABSTRACT

Drawing from items in the University’s Archives & Special Collections, this exhibition builds on the concurrent show Nostalgic Femininity in the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery to explore a broader range of topics in nineteenth-century printmaking, from delicate studies of flowers to intense scenes of battle. The show features various prints by Meiji-period artists Utagawa Yoshitora and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi alongside select examples from other artists including Showa-period shin-hanga artists Aoyama Masaharu, Asada Benji, and Ohno Bakufu. It will open alongside a digital supplement.

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Essay // The Cost of Precarity: Contingent Academic Labor in the Gig Economy (w/ Kristen Galvin)

CITATION

Galvin, Kristen and Christina M. Spiker. “The Cost of Precarity: Contingent Academic Labor in the Gig Economy,” in Art Journal Open (May 1, 2019).

INFORMATION

This essay builds on an original blog post by the authors titled “Generation Wipeout,” which was a part of a special issue of Art Journal Open titled “Beyond Survival: Public Support of the Arts and Humanities.” The original call was cosigned by Sarah Kanouse (Northeastern University), Catherine Morris (Brooklyn Museum), Mimi Thi Nguyen (University of Illinois), and Jeremy Liu (Creative Ecology Partners).

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Presentation // The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The White Native Body in Asia: Woodcut Engraving and the Creation of Ainu Stereotypes,” paper delivered on the Coloring Print: Reproducing Race Through Material, Process, and Language panel at the annual College Art Association (CAA) Conference (February 13-16, 2019).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated travelers as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a singular white race stranded in the North Pacific, writers, artists, and anthropologists not only textually described Ainu manners and customs but also reproduced countless photographs and illustrations, which would come to visually define Ainu culture in the Euro-American imaginary. Since works depicting the Ainu tended to be overly reliant on readily available woodcut engravings based on photographs from the tourist trade, a small body of images came to stand in for the whole of Ainu experience and culture in the eyes of late nineteenth and early twentieth century European and American readers. Eventually, even Ainu producers of image and text would have no choice but to engage with these dominant representations.This paper examines the role of popular printmaking of the Ainu as a complex, multi-media endeavor. I investigate links between original albumen prints, such as those by Baron Raimund von Stillfried (1839 – 1911), their reproduction, and their eventual translation into the medium of woodcut engraving or illustration. Understanding the gradual development of optical consistency from photographs to the printed illustrations based on them can better illuminate the calcification of Ainu stereotypes at home and abroad and the flourishing debate over Ainu whiteness in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

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Presentation // Western Women and the Poetry of Crepe-paper Books (Kanagawa University, Yokohama)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Western Women and the Poetry of Japanese Crepe-Paper Books” (西洋女性とちりめん本の詩について), invited paper delivered at the Japanese Crepe Paper Books and Girl’s Culture Exhibition and Symposium (「ちりめん本と女性の文化」展覧会・シンポジウム), Kanagawa University, Yokohama, Japan (November 24, 2018).

ABSTRACT

Coming Soon

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Guest Blog // Generation Wipeout (w/ Kristen Galvin)

CITATION

Galvin, Kristen and Christina M. Spiker. “Generation Wipeout,” part of “Beyond Survival: Public Support of the Arts and Humanities” in Art Journal Open (October 25, 2018).

INFORMATION

The original call was cosigned by Sarah Kanouse (Northeastern University), Catherine Morris (Brooklyn Museum), Mimi Thi Nguyen (University of Illinois), and Jeremy Liu (Creative Ecology Partners).

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Course // All Art is Propaganda: Visual and Scientific Perspectives on Persuasion (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

All Art is Propaganda: Visual and Scientific Perspectives on Persuasion
HONORS 4990 | St. Catherine University
Co-taught with Gabrielle Filip-Crawford

DESCRIPTION

Building on an edited volume of George Orwell’s writing titled “all art is propaganda,” this course will explore the art and psychology of advertising, propaganda, and other persuasive visual media. Combining methods of scientific and visual analysis, students will investigate how both historical and contemporary images are constructed and consumed. In learning to apply psychological theories of influence, students should expect to engage with diverse media including contemporary art, political advertisement, public service announcements, military propaganda, cartoons, caricature, product advertising, and branding. Upon completion, students will have the tools to be critical consumers of art and visual culture.

Image Credit: (top) Cliff Chiang, Untitled (He Can’t Do it Alone), 2010. Originally made for Star Wars Galaxy Series 5, a series of Legends trading cards by Topps.

Image Credit: (bottom) Aleksandr Rodchenko, “Books,” 1924. Poster.

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Course // The Reflective Woman (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

The Reflective Woman: Scholars, Artists, Thinkers, Writers
CORE 1000W | St. Catherine University
Co-taught with Cecilia Konchar Farr, Hella Cohen, and Monica Rudquist

DESCRIPTION

The Reflective Woman (TRW), the first course in the Catherine Core Curriculum, provides a common touchstone experience for all entering students at St. Kate’s. Our main objective will be to examine together what it means to be a “reflective woman”—to know yourself, to integrate the knowledge you have, to seek new truths, to encounter art and perceive beauty, to live in communities, and to quest after a good life.

Image Credit: Patricia Olson, Details of selected paintings from The Catherine Portrait, 2008-2011. Oil on canvas.

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Presentation // Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Vaguely Oriental: Engineering Asian Architecture in Fantasy MMORPGs,” paper delivered at the 48th Annual Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference, Indianapolis (March 28-31, 2018).

ABSTRACT

In his work Orientalism (1978), Edward Said describes the “Orient” as “the stage on which the whole East is confined.” He explains that, “The Orient then seems to be, not an unlimited extension beyond the familiar European world, but rather a closed field, a theatrical stage affixed to Europe.” The construction of Said’s metaphorical stage is likely familiar to any art historian looking at Neoclassical or Romantic painting. From Ingres to Delacroix, odalisques with unusually Romanesque noses are surrounded by the props, architecture, and costume of an Orientalist tableau made by and for nineteenth-century Europeans.

The application of Said’s Orientalism to the field of art history was and is a common move, but the application to video games is more uncommon. This paper pursues Said’s original line of thinking in another visual mode by focusing on the way that Orientalism manifests in massively multiplayer online role-playing games within the fantasy genre. When immersing one’s self in these games, the design of the world forms a “stage” for the player. Reading Said literally in this sense, I investigate the construction of these spaces with an experimental approach that combines art historical analysis with the recent study of race representation in game studies. While the latter tends to focus on the physical bodies and attributes of in-game characters and avatars, applying close visual analysis so central to the field of art history allows us to understand the way that ideology operates in the smallest—or in the case of architecture, the largest—of environmental details. The visual settings of MMORPGs challenge us by creating specific locales that are read by the player as “Asian” or “vaguely Oriental” within story narratives that harken back to fantasy worlds based in the Western tradition. I want to envision the stakes as well as the creative possibilities enabled by such design.

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