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 Post subject: Japanese Swords as Art: out of context?
 Post Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:57 am 
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I would like to bring this discussion to the table, but before we begin this thread I would like to remind everyone that this is an international forum, and that our #1 rule here is gentlemanly conduct at all times.

Please respect the opinions of others. Please state your own opinions respectfully. We are hoping for academic discussion, rather than a slanging match or finger pointing.

In recent years, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum held the exhibition 'Lords of the Samurai', a collection of items from the Hosokawa collection. The exhibition was met with disapproval from some groups for its over romantic ideal of samurai and samurai history. This romanticism of the samurai is said to remove it from its original context and is referred to as I understand it 'orientalism'. This term also covers other aspects of studies of Asian culture that are seen as racist as they are too stereotypical in their approach. I am sure I will be corrected of my mistakes, and when I am I will edit this introduction accordingly to reflect the proper explanation of 'orientalism'.

To illustrate the feeling towards (particularly) swords, and samurai, recently someone (who remain anonymous) commented about this page, and the associated facebook page,

"Still nothing on how they were used. . . and other historical context." http://www.asiansart.org/


The link is to a website that parodies the Asian Art Museum's (SF) publicity posters for the 'Lords of the Samurai' exhibition.

In an effort to acknowledge your concerns, and no longer ignore this point of view, we now warmly invite anyone associated with this site, or anyone who supports for a friendly open discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Swords as Art: out of context?
 Post Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:21 pm 
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Hi Paul, It may help to create parameters within which 'orientalism' exists. Perhaps, " Orientalism may be defined as the imitation of Eastern (Asian) culture, which embodies its' art in this context, within Western culture". This can lead to stereotypical representation of a specific Asian culture which can have derogatory connotation, but, not necessarily so. As well, there can be indigenous revisionism which could be considered in the same light, that is, orientalism. There is misrepresentation of 'samurai' in Western literature and art as well as in some Eastern literature that has a nationalistic fervor or that which looks backwards to the 'good old days' when personal roles were better defined. Western literature has many examples of such and are of the 'romantic' genre. 'La Mort d'Artur' for example. They usually depict an ideal and are moral parables. So, some good and some bad derived thereby. John


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Swords as Art: out of context?
 Post Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:23 am 
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Hi John,

Thanks for joining the discussion. I was hoping for someone who was in opposition to the museum's exhibition would explain the parameters from their point of view. Unfortunately, as of yet, no one is taking advantage of the opportunity given to them to state, and discuss their thoughts. As I am planing to have a sword exhibition in SF at sometime, I would like to know what they would find acceptable and unacceptable in such an exhibition. Obviously, I would like to produce an educational exhibition that does not exclude any viewers.

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Swords as Art: out of context?
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 3:30 am 
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i can certainly appreciate the point of the critique as it applies to something like the movie "the last samurai." and it would seem that a museum should strive to present history as factually as possible.

on the other hand, the recent thanksgiving holiday reminds us just how much revisionist history is out there, and how we incorporate myths into our account of past events all the time.

i saw the exhibit and wasn't struck by anything that seemed overtly fictional, unless the argument is that most available written accounts of the samurai in history are wildly inaccurate. i did find this article (linked in the site) pretty interesting though, and i suspect many parts of it are correct and worth keeping in mind...

https://webspace.yale.edu/anth254/restr ... _Mouer.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Swords as Art: out of context?
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:18 am 
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I haven't attended the exhibition, but it is a trend these days of either idealising a historic period or condemning it, judging it by our own standards and way of thinking. The later is more popular nowadays as everybody tries to say something new and "shocking". Sometimes, a purpose is hiden behind the revisionistic approach to the past. Obviously, this negative approach to history is in my opinion definately wrong, as it loses objectivity. On the other hand, idealising the past is an ancient trend just as old as humanity. It seems that it satisfies some kind of psychic need and is thus a bit more kosher, but still the loss of truth lies here as well.

On a subjective and personal basis (descenting from a place with a long history) I 'd say undocumented revisionism is irritating, because I am fed up with personal opinions presented as facts just to make noise or to advance their own agenda.

On the other hand an exhibition is what the name says. You put some objects and a small description. I do not see why the items must be commented either idealising or condemning their historic period. The demand for commentary in an exhibition is a fanatic and narrowminded approach.

These are my 2 cents, but I 'd really like to read the "other" point of view, although I doubt they 'd be watching such kind of fora as this...

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