International Symposium 2005 "Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues"

"Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues"

International Symposium2005

"Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues"

September 10, 2005 (Sat.) 10:30-17:30

September 11, 2005 (Sun.) 13:00-18:00

Venue: The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo

Organizer: The Japan Foundation


The Japan Foundation will hold an international symposium, in conjunction with the exhibition, "Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues," to be held at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. In this symposium, we will discuss how Cubism was received and developed in Asian countries, including Japan.

Cubism is an art movement that emerged in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century to mark a turning point in the history of modern painting. It has profoundly influenced the methods and structure of pictorial representation in subsequent artistic developments throughout the world. Asia has not been an exception. Cubism was introduced into different regions at different times and under different conditions. Although this seminal movement was initially received as a privileged sign of Western modernism, its implications were transformed and complicated during the process of reception in Asia.

The objective of this symposium is to reexamine the multiple histories of that reception, placing importance on the empirical art historical findings on the subject, but expanding its academic terrain. We aim to extend our discussion beyond tracing local stylistic developments of the movement, to include inherent social and cultural issues in the background. In doing so, we would be able to establish the foundation for the further study of the reception of Western modernism in Asia.

One of the key goals of this event is to bring together a group of scholars from different Asian or non-Asian countries and for them to take this opportunity to share and compare the results of their research, which, to this point, had been accumulated individually, so as to gain a comprehensive view of modern Asian art history. We hope to encourage an approach that leads to attaining a global perspective, against views based on simplified "West versus Asia" dichotomy or theories that distinguish Asia as unique. Now that Asian contemporary art is attracting a great deal of attention, it is more important than ever to understand its art historical background. The discussion on the theme of Cubism would generate a forum for Asian researchers to compare and examine Asian art from their own perspectives, overriding the conventional discourses based on the binary opposition of submission and adaptation. We have arrived at a stage where Asia specialists could approach the complex process of assimilation and appropriation in a more theoretically challenging fashion.

This will be the fifth in the series of international symposiums that examine the art in Asia. We hope you will take this opportunity to join us for a stimulating discussion.

The Japan Foundation


Date: September 10, 2005 (Sat.) 10:30-17:30
September 11, 2005 (Sun.) 13:00-18:00
Venue: The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo
Admission: Free; Capacity: 200
Japanese/ English simultaneous interpretation available
How to sign-up:

Please send your name, address, Tel/ Fax nos., occupation, date(s) of participation by fax or post.
* First-come-first-served basis.

For signing-up & inquiries, contact: Arts Dept., Visual Arts Div., The Japan Foundation
Attention: Furuichi/ Hoashi


DAY 1: September 10, 2005 (Sat.) 10:30-17:30

Session 1: Metropolis / Transnationalism
10:30-10:40 Opening by the Organizer (The Japan Foundation)
10:40-11:00 Keynote Speech by Tatehata Akira
Session 2: Post-Colonial Situation
11:00-13:30 What were the routes by which Cubism arrived in Asian countries and how did it spread? In order to explain the mechanism by which Cubism was disseminated across national boundaries, the discussion in this session will focus on the role played by international hub cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Santiniketan. Cities are sites of education and encounter. They are points of transit and places where many kinds of power intersect, and they provide nourishment for new art movements. Subjects of discussion will be proposed from various points of view, based on concrete case studies, in order to explore a vision of an art history that involves movement and interaction, transcending the conventional art history based on national histories.

Moderated by Mizusawa Tsutomu

  • Presentation- 1: "Evaluating Cubism in Japan in the 1930s――Modernism, Academism, and America" (Omuka Toshiharu)
  • Presentation- 2: "Cubism in the Paris of the East" (Shen Kuiyi)
  • Presentation- 3: "The discursive space of 'Asian Cubism'" (John Clark)
Discussion / Q & A
13:30-14:30 Lunch Break
14:30-17:00 The reception of modern art in Asia has always been ambivalent. On the one hand, it has been seen as a symbol of individualistic aesthetic ideas and a mode of liberation from the old system within particular countries. On the other hand, because it is imported from the West, it has been criticized by subsequent generations as a reactionary tendency reflecting a colonial mentality. In an environment that fluctuated between these two extremes, the Asian Cubists experimented in many different directions, developing their own versions of Cubism that could not have been imagined in Europe, where it had its source. In Europe, Cubism was an urban form of art, but for certain reasons it was applied to rural landscapes in Asia. Although it represented modern individualism, it was used to portray religious imagery. In some cases, it became a style for declaring freedom of expression in opposition to old ways or systems. In others, it was used to comment on the tragic consequences of war and technology. In different countries and regions, it was influenced and transformed by particular political and ideological forces, and this situation must be examined from different angles with regard both to style and to the politics of its interpretation. In this way, we hope to stimulate a debate that will clarify the issues attending cultural transformation in the process of modernization and decolonization in Asian countries.

Moderated by Hayashi Michio

  • Presentation- 1: "Art and Culture in The Third Space ―The Case of Indonesia" (Jim Supangkat)
  • Presentation- 2: "Translucent Traces of People: Peasant and Proletariat in Philippine Cubism" (Patrick D. Flores)
  • Presentation- 3: "Nanyang Modernism: Between Idealisms" (Ahmad Mashadi)
Discussion / Q & A

DAY 2: September 11, 2005 (Sun.) 13:00-18:00

Session 3: Body / Gender / Color / Decoration
13:00-15:00 In this session, the discussion will be based on an analysis of the formal characteristics of Cubist works in Asia. This does not mean, however, that a "formalist" approach will be adopted. Rather, the purpose of this discussion will be to determine the configuration of forces that gave rise to these formal characteristics. Female figures, both nude and clothed, were common. The use of bright colors and decorative treatment of the pictorial surface were more common in Asia than in Europe. Transparent grid patterns were found across national boundaries. There were many works with an extremely high vertical or long horizontal format. In adopting Cubism, painters struggled in their own varied ways to obtain a modern eye and to digest this art style and make it their own. Considering the results of Session 2, the participants in this session will look carefully at the evidence left by these artistic struggles and deal with the common theme of determining the role of Cubism in forming the artistic identities rather than simply as a problem of style.

Moderated by Matsumoto Tohru

[Break] Discussion / Q & A
15:00-15:30 Break
Session 4: Narrative / Myth / Religion
15:30-17:30 A representative characteristic of Cubist styles in Asia was that they were applied to works of art with subject matter from religion, myth, or local folklore. Simply stated, it might be said that this was a diversion of Cubism to narrative iconography. Considering that Cubism in the West emerged through an exploration of anti-narrative painting, this application can be described as an adaptation of Cubism that denies or betrays its original intention. Thinking about why it developed in this way should be a useful way of bringing out the special features of the reception of Cubism in Asia. One issue that is likely to emerge from this discussion is the common characteristics of Cubism where it emerged as a secondary tendency in regions other than Asia, including Europe. With respect to formal issues, for example, there may be a discussion of how the multi-faceted treatment of the pictorial surface in Cubism was diverted to narrative expression. Or more broadly, we may want to discuss what type of narratives tended to be the subject matter, or which social classes formed the audience. The discussion will undoubtedly lead to issues that are completely different from those in the European context. We hope that the debate in Session 4, building on the achievements of Session 3, will lead to more universal horizons.

 Moderated by Tsuji Shigebumi

[Break] Discussion / Q & A
17:30-18:00 Wrap-up by Hayashi Michio

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