Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

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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Course // Asia in America (St. Olaf College)

COURSE INFORMATION

Asia in America
ASIAN STUDIES 123 | St. Olaf COllege

DESCRIPTION

This interdisciplinary course introduces the field of Asian American Studies. We will engage with multiple cultural and historical productions of Asia and America, with a specific focus on popular visual culture, art, literature, and film. Critical analysis of topics such as ethnic/cultural identities, citizenship(s), media/pop-cultures, body images, sexuality, and adoption will be explored through the practices of different Asian communities in the United States. Students can expect to encounter interactive in-class activities, films, presentations, and field trips. Also counts toward Chinese, Japanese, and Race and Ethnic Studies majors and the Race and Ethnic Studies and International Relations concentrations.

Photo: Noguchi Museum. They explain, “Sculptor Isamu Noguchi tried many times to build a playground in New York City, but one never came to fruition. One of his ideas, called Contoured Playground, is shown here as a plaster model.”

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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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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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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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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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Presentation // The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The Shôjo and the Indigenous Body: Representations of Ainu Woman in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993-2008,” paper delivered on the “The Shôjo Body as Indigenous, Ubiquitous, Balletic and Beautiful” panel at the 67th Annual Midwest Conference for Asian Affairs (MCAA), Metropolitan State University (October 19-20, 2018).

ABSTRACT

With the 2014 release of Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), a puzzle-platformer developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, academics and gamers alike have begun to examine the potential for video games to explore native culture as a form of both entertainment and interactive storytelling. In Japan, where its indigenous Ainu minority was recognized as recently as 2008, the relationship between the Japanese and Ainu population remains strained. This paper investigates the role of representation in creating an accessible version of indigenous culture repackaged for the Japanese mainstream. Focusing on Ainu sisters Nakoruru and Rimururu who are featured prominently in the fighting game Samurai Spirits (1993–2008), this paper examines battling indigenous shōjo heroines as virtual ambassadors of culture. While these two characters are marked as Ainu through their clothing and relationship with nature, their indigenous identity is often secondary to their portrayal the shōjo, or “young girl” archetype. In conversation with the work of Sharalyn Orbaugh, this paper questions how the archetype of the “busty battlin’ babe” translates when dealing with the bodies of Ainu women. I argue that Ainu-ness is represented as a form of narrative excess that the character can don as a costume and remove just as easily. By analyzing Nakoruru and Rimururu’s official representation in the franchise, in addition to fan interpretations as presented in self-published comics (dōjinshi) and the erasure of their Ainu backstory upon import to the United States, this paper negotiates various representations of indigenous Otherness against the backdrop of Japanese racism and indigenous activism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Website Redesign // Art History That (WordPress)

CITATION

Hamlin, Amy K. and Karen J. Leader. Art History That. Not yet released.

DESCRIPTION

I received a design commission from Amy K. Hamlin and Karen J. Leader to redesign the website for their initiative Art History That, a project that curates, crowdsources and collaborates on the future of art history. The logo was designed by graphic designer Yer Moua (alumn of St. Catherine University) and the website is built using WordPress.

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Course // Ways of Seeing (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

Ways of Seeing
ARTH 1150 | St. Catherine University

DESCRIPTION

“The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.” John Berger made this claim in 1972, when he published a thin, but hugely influential book called Ways of Seeing. This course intends to bring Berger’s statement – and the insights of his book – to bear on our own experiences of art, history, and visual culture in the early 21st century. An introduction to the history of art and visual culture, this course considers local and global case studies that implicate images, image makers, and viewers. These are explored according to themes that cut across historical and geographical boundaries, themes that include, but are not limited to visual culture and ideology, beauty and art, the female body and the male gaze, iconoclasm, piety and religious spaces, museums, popular and consumer culture, and social change.

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Course // Global Japan: Art, Anime, & Visual Culture (St. Catherine University)

COURSE INFORMATION

Global Japan: Art, Anime, & Visual Culture
ARTH 2994 | St. Catherine University

DESCRIPTION

This course considers the global trajectory of Japanese art and visual culture from 1945 to 2016. From sushi to karaoke to martial arts, Japanese goods have permeated US markets. This class seeks to understand this phenomenon in the realm of art and visual culture through the analysis of diverse material including advertising, animation, comics, film, graphic design, installation, mascot culture, painting, photography, popular music, and street fashion. Grounded in art historical and visual studies methods, with supplementary readings from anthropology and media studies, this class will investigate issues such as the overlap between comics and contemporary art; Japanese and American approaches to animation; and the influence of Japanese graphic design on product packaging. The course will proceed thematically to address issues of nationalism, race, gender, domesticity, consumer culture, subculture, environment, minority representation, and the post-human through lecture and discussion, individual and group work, and film and video screenings. Our goal will be to critically interpret the role of Japanese art and visual culture in an increasingly interconnected world.

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