Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Presentation // Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Touring the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917,” paper delivered at the first annual Art Historians of the Twin Cities Symposium, St. Catherine University (April 2, 2016).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated late nineteenth-century anthropologists, intellectuals, and explorers in the United States, Great Britain, and Japan. Motivated by a burning Wanderlust, these figures searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier of Hokkaido. Japanese and Euro-American explorers alike often compared the unruly geography of Hokkaido to the “hairy” Ainu body, conflating natives with the natural landscape. While photographs and illustrations of the Ainu are common enough in the discourse of Japanese anthropology, this paper examines a series of Ainu drawings created by an unlikely figure: modern ink painter and newspaper caricaturist, Kondō Kōichiro (1884–1962).

Trained in oil painting (yōga), and well versed in Japanese monochromatic ink painting (suibokuga), Kondō would seek employment as an illustrator for the Yomiuri Newspaper in 1915. Two years later, he joined a cadre of Japanese travelers intent on visiting the farthest reaches of Japan’s empire not as an anthropological mission, but as a form of leisure and entertainment. The newspaper published Kondō’s comedic, visual exploits in a morning-edition column that exposed new and unsuspecting audiences to his art and travels. In the case of the Ainu, his playful candor exposes new trends in domestic ethnic tourism, and evidences changing perceptions of the Ainu prior to World War Two. Rather than an indigenous culture untouched by the encroachment of modernization, Kondō depicts the bumbling misadventures of four tourists in the village of Shiraoi. This paper explores these little-known illustrations as one example that illuminates the various connections between art, indigenous tourism, and the cosmopolitan traveler in Taishō-period Japan (1912–1926).

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Presentation // Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Constructing the Indigenous: Nineteenth-Century Circulation and Transformation of the Ainu Image in British and American Print Culture,” paper delivered at the Nineteenth Century Workshop (Theme: Circulation), Rutgers University. (October 2, 2014).

ABSTRACT

The indigenous Ainu of northern Japan fascinated Anglophone explorers and travelers, as they searched for an “authentic” native experience in the unexplored Japanese frontier. Idealized as a non-Asian race stranded in the North Pacific, writers like Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904), and Edward Greey (1835-1888) not only described Ainu manners and customs, but reproduced countless illustrations which would come to define the native people in the Euro-American imaginary. Augmenting previous textual analyses of early engagement with the Ainu, this essay is an attempt at a visual history of the Ainu as defined by the transformation, reproduction, and circulation of illustrations in travelogues and descriptions of the world.

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Presentation // An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “An Itinerary of Hokkaido: Photo Postcards, Tourism, and Erasing the Indigenous Body,” paper delivered at the Eighteenth Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ), Sophia University, Tokyo. (June 21, 2014).

ABSTRACT

Photo postcards are an often-ignored category of photographic reproduction, but a crucial hallmark of the modern travel experience. The everydayness and obviousness of the postcard format makes it a ripe primary material through which we can learn about culture, racial attitudes, and the inner-workings of imperial ideology. In this paper, I interrogate a single early Showa-period Japanese postcard set (ca. 1926-1940) that engages with the customs of the Japanese indigenous minority, the Ainu. Produced in Hokkaido, I argue that this particular set exemplifies a much broader postcard phenomenon that negotiates the industrialized Hokkaido landscape with the loss of indigenous, Ainu spaces. The speed of train travel forever changed the tourist experience in Japan by making it feasible to reach obscure locales with ease. As a testament to this new configuration of the tourist map in Hokkaido, postcards like these stand as visual relics that embrace new tourist geographies while illuminating the specter of the indigenous Ainu village erased in the name of progress. This particular postcard set was produced in order to educate a new sightseeing public about the Ainu linguistic origins of Hokkaido city names. The Ainu are visually relegated to the periphery—both literally and figuratively—as Japanese text is superimposed over native bodies in a crowded collage. Through a creative juxtaposition of image, text, and lithographic design these postcards simultaneously laud the wonders of railway travel to the island interior while inscribing new transportation hubs with nostalgia for a pre-Meiji, indigenous past.

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Presentation // Untangling a “Hairy” Encounter: Ainu Representation at the World’s Fair

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Untangling a ‘Hairy’ Encounter: Ainu Representation at the World’s Fair,” invited paper delivered at the Isamu Noguchi & Qi Baishi: And Other Inspiring Encounters In and Beyond Modern Asian Art Symposium, University of Michigan Museum of Art. (May 18, 2013).

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Presentation // Discovering Hokkaido: Postcards, Train Travel, and the Mapping of Tourist Space

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Discovering Hokkaido: Postcards, Train Travel, and the Mapping of Tourist Space,” paper delivered at the Nature of Space, Visual Arts Graduate Student Conference, UC San Diego. (March 9, 2013).

ABSTRACT

Photo postcards are an often-ignored category of photographic production, but a crucial hallmark of the modern travel experience. The everydayness and obviousness of the postcard medium makes it a ripe primary material through which we can learn about culture, racial attitudes, and the inner-workings of imperial ideology. In this paper, I interrogate a single Japanese postcard set (ca. 1926-1940) that engages with the customs of the Japanese indigenous minority, the Ainu. Produced in Hokkaido—the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago—I argue that this particular set exemplifies a much broader postcard phenomenon that negotiates the newly industrialized Hokkaido frontier with the loss of indigenous, Ainu spaces. Through a creative juxtaposition of image, text, and graphic design these postcards simultaneously laud the wonders of railway travel to the island interior while inscribing new transportation hubs with nostalgia for an indigenous past.

Postcards sold near railway stations were crucial in establishing the modern tourist landscape of Hokkaido. Previous travel routes depicted in nineteenth-century maps were traversed on horse or on foot. The speed of train travel forever changed the tourist experience of space, as visitation became limited to those sites with railway station access. As a testament to this new configuration of frontier space, postcards like these stand as visual relics that embrace new tourist geographies while illuminating the specter of the indigenous village erased in the name of progress. This postcard set of seven was produced in order to educate a new sightseeing public about the Ainu linguistic origins of Hokkaido city names. The Ainu are relegated to the periphery—both literally and figuratively—as Japanese text is superimposed over native bodies in a crowded collage. This postcard set illuminates not only the emergent geographies prompted by train travel, but also ideologies informing the new tourist experience of native culture.

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