[Co-Sponsored with OPC] Reiko Tomii, “Thinking Operationally”

Please join us next WednesdayMay 15, at 4:45-6:45pm CTCWAC 152 for our next and very last VMPEA workshop of the academic year, co-sponsored with DoVA’s Open Practice Committee. This workshop features:


Reiko Tomii

Independent Art Historian and Curator


Who will be presenting the talk titled:

Thinking Operationally” 


Discussant: Tongji Philip Qian

Artist and Collegiate Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Arts, UChicago


This workshop will take place in-person only. Please see the abstract and bios for this workshop below.

We hope to see many of you there before the year ends!


Image Credit: Courtesy of Misa Shin Gallery, Tokyo.



The twin-book project that I launched in late 2022, “Thinking Operationally,” centers on the concept of “operation” as an integral part of art history. My starting point is a new definition of an artist labor, which in my definition consists of two parts, “expression” and “operation.” While the first type of labor, “expressions,” typically takes place inside the artist’s studio, the second type of labor, “operations,” concerns making their work public and, when necessary, building systems to support themselves and engage society outside the studio. By extension, I define “operation,” either by the artist and others, as a set of activities that generate channels or circuits through which the artist’s expression is communicated to society at large.

This view emerged from my close study of collectivism in modern Japan, which dates back to the last 19th century and continued into the 21st century. In fact, Japan serves as a counter reference point to the Euro-American idea of artistic autonomy, because artists’ group activities have been essential for advancing new art and for building new art systems in modern Japan.

Based on this conceptualization, I have envisioned the two-book project. The first is a one-year plan to write a small book, titled “Thinking Operationally,” in Japanese to outline the theoretical import of “operations” in modern Japan and examine seven topics including Gutai, artist-organized independent exhibitions, and Tokyo Biennale 1970. For this part, I have a publisher confirmed (East Press in Tokyo) and I am in the process of completing the first draft. The second is a five-year plan to follow the first, for which I am planning an English-language survey of 1960s art in Japan which will reconsider the role and place of “operation” by focusing on the exhibition history. Provisionally titled “Exhibition as Expression, Exhibition as Operation,” the book will explore the exhibitions as the vital site of communication and socialization of expression for artists as much as curators and museums. In doing so, the book will illuminate the crucial postwar decade when Japan’s contemporary art rapidly expanded in a dual drive of both a top-down push of institutionalization in the mainstream and a bottom-up urgency of the wilderness.



Reiko Tomii is an independent scholar and curator specializing in postwar Japanese art history. In 1988–92, she worked at the Center for International Contemporary Art (CICA), where her first project involved organizing a personal archive of Kusama Yayoi for CICA’s inaugural exhibition. Kusama’s first retrospective in the U.S. in 1989, for which Tomii collaborated with Alexandra Munroe, brought the Japanese artist back to New York and in retrospect launched Kusama’s ascendance to global super stardom. Since 1992, upon the closure of CICA, Tomii has worked as independent scholar. She collaborated with Munroe on the latter’s book published in conjunction with the exhibition Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky.

Curatorially, she worked with Queens Museum of Art in New York for Global Conceptualism, Tate Modern in London for Century City, and Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles for Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art, among many others. While widely published in the area of modern and contemporary Asian art, she has enjoyed working with younger and emerging scholars, and co-founded PoNJA-GenKon with Miwako Tezuka in 2003.

Tomii’s first monograph Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan (MIT Press, 2016) received the 2017 Robert Motherwell Book Award and was turned into an exhibition Radicalism in the Wilderness: Japanese Artists in the Global 1960s at Japan Society Gallery in New York in 2019. In 2020, she received the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Award from the Japanese government for cultural transmission and international exchange through postwar Japanese art history.

She is currently preparing for the publication of her second monograph, Thinking Operationally: Toward a Global Narration of Japanese-Type Modernism. Published by East Press in Tokyo, the book is her first monograph in Japanese and will serve as the foundation of her third monograph, to be published in English, provisionally titled, Exhibition as Expression, Exhibition as Operation: Japanese Art in the 1960s and 1970s.


Tongji Philip Qian is a multidisciplinary artist and the co-founder of TPQ Studio. As artist, he is interested in capturing the edge of an artistic practice through his idiosyncratic definitions of #speed, #labor, #internationalism, and #immigration. His art writing, on the other hand, studies movements commonly associated with Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, and Conceptual art. Tongji Philip Qian’s recent projects include “No-risk Hour” (2019–), “Neighborly Passport Keep Right Except to Pass” (2023), “Questionnairing Reality” (2021), and “Art Beside a Single Handshake” (2020). His work is housed in a number of public collections, such as the Asia Art Archive in America, Center for Book Arts, and the RISD Museum. Qian received his BAs in art history and mathematics from Carleton College and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Tongji Philip Qian is currently a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. 

In spring 2024, Qian launched the State VIII Project (2024-2027), an artist-run project space in Hyde Park, Chicago, USA, and the State VIII Project Artist and Writer Residency Program, a free-of-charge experience offering creative professionals uninterrupted time and space to consider their work.

Minori Egashira, “Meiji-Period Okimono and the World’s Fairs”

Please join us on Thursday, April 4, for the first VMPEA workshop of the spring quarter, taking place at 4:45-6:45pm in CWAC 152. Due to conflict with another event, this talk has been rescheduled from Wednesday to Thursday, so please note the day is different from that announced in the previous schedule. This workshop will be featuring:


Minori Egashira

PhD Candidate, Art History, UChicago


Who will be presenting the paper titled:

Meiji-Period Okimono and the World’s Fairs


For participants who would like to join us on Zoom, please register via this link. The abstract and bios for this event can be found at the end of this email.


~Hope to see many of you there!~




This project investigates the ambiguous genre of Meiji-period 明治時代 (1868–1912) okimono 置物 and their locus in modern Japanese sculptural history. Explicitly, the group of objects known as okimono seems to be treated as a more formal genre of sculpture unique to Japanese art in the Euro-Americas, while in Japan the category is comparatively less distinct. This project aims to answer this discrepancy, providing a means to see what happened when the Euro-American art categories were imposed onto Japanese aesthetic creations in the late 1800s.

This portion of the project, presented at the VMPEA Workshop, investigates okimono (and okimono-like objects) through the World’s Fairs. Taking into account artworks such as The Field Museum of Natural History’s The Monk Ikkyū (1892–3) by Okioka Eizō (n.d.)., the chapter argues that the term and genre okimono became “more canonized” in America (while the opposite happened in Japan) primarily through the Centennial Exposition of 1876, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 (the three expositions held in America during the Meiji period). Objects submitted to these expositions, such as those by Morikawa Toen’s 森川杜園 (1820–1894) and Suzuki Chōkichi’s 鈴木長吉 (1848–1919), will be examined as case studies.



Minori Egashira is a PhD candidate studying Meiji-period (1868–1912) sculpture and Japan’s artistic interactions with the world in modern and contemporary times. She received her BA in Art History from Wake Forest University in 2014 and her MA in Japanese Humanities from Kyushu University in 2017. Her broader interests include East Asian sculptural art and other three-dimensional objects, World’s Fairs, and investigating non-orthodox narratives of Japanese Art History. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Okimono: Rethinking Modern Japanese Sculpture and Related Objects”, investigates the ambiguous genre of Meiji-period 明治時代 (1868–1912) okimono 置物 (often defined as smaller sculpture-like objects with no function) and their locus in modern Japanese sculptural history.


She is currently teaching a course in tandem with the “Meiji Modern: Fifty Years of New Japan” (2023–2024) exhibition, which is now on view at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art. Please visit the galleries to learn more!

Namiko Kunimoto, “Feminism, Bourgeois Liberalism and Shimada Yoshiko’s Becoming a Statue of a Japanese ‘Comfort Woman’”

Please join us on Tuesday, February 27, for the next and last VMPEA workshop of this quarter, taking place at 4:45-6:45pm in *CWAC 156*. This workshop will be featuring:


Dr. Namiko Kunimoto

Associate Professor, Art History, The Ohio State University


Who will be presenting the paper:

“Feminism, Bourgeois Liberalism and Shimada Yoshiko’s Becoming a Statue of a Japanese ‘Comfort Woman’


Discussant: Dr. Chelsea Foxwell

Associate Professor, Art History, UChicago


*Please note the room change for this workshop.* For participants who would like to join us on Zoom, please register via this link. The abstract and bios for this event can be found below.


Hope to see many of you in the room before the quarter ends!


Image: Shimada Yoshiko, Becoming a Statue of a Japanese ‘Comfort Woman’ & The Tomorrow Girls Troop, Against Forgetting. Photograph by Qianwen Jiang.



This paper examines work by Shimada Yoshiko, the Tomorrow Girls Troop, as well as Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung, whose work likewise addresses inter-Asian colonialism and has drawn vociferous responses from various segments of the public. Specifically, I argue that Shimada’s performance work, Becoming a Statue of a Japanese ‘Comfort Woman,’ is not about revisiting a singular moment in time, but instead seeks to reveal how economic violence and social violence are ripple effects that share the same origin: specifically, a form of bourgeois liberalism that upholds patriarchy, attempts to maintain an image of societal unity, and disavows responsibility for the past.



Dr. Namiko Kunimoto is a specialist in modern and contemporary Japanese art, with research interests in diasporic art, gender, race, urbanization, photography, visual culture, performance art, transnationalism, and nation formation. She is the Director of the Center for Ethnic Studies at Ohio State University and Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art.

Her essays include “Olympic Labor and Displacement: Babel and Its Towers” in Review of Japanese Art and Culture, (2023), “Art in Transwar Japan” ThirdText (2022), Situating “Becoming a Statue of a Japanese ‘Comfort Woman:’ Shimada Yoshiko, Bourgeois Liberalism and the Afterlives of Japanese Imperialism” Verge: Studies in Global Asia, (2022) “Tsujimura Kazuko and the Body Object” in Asia Pacific Japan Focus (2021), and “Tactics and Strategies: Chen Qiulin and the Production of Space” in Art Journal (2019). Dr. Kunimoto’s awards include a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowship, Japan Foundation Fellowships (2007 and 2016), Ishibashi Foundation Fellowship (2021), a College Art Association Millard/Meiss Author Award (2017), and the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award (2019). Her book, The Stakes of Exposure: Anxious Bodies in Postwar Japanese Art, was published in February 2017 by the University of Minnesota Press and she is currently working on her next book, Urgent Animations: Afterlives of Japanese Imperialism in Transpacific Contemporary Art.


Dr. Chelsea Foxwell’s scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art.

Her work focuses on Japan’s artistic interactions with the rest of East Asia and beyond, nihonga and yōga (Japanese oil painting); “export art” and the world’s fairs; practices of image circulation, exhibition, and display; and the relationship between image-making and the kabuki theater.

A member of the Committee on Japanese Studies and the Center for the Art of East Asia, she is a contributor to the Digital Scrolling Paintings and the Reading Kuzushiji projects.

Mirae kh RHEE, “Collecting Crave: Curiosity Cabinets from Saxony to Joseon”

We are very excited to invite you to the next VMPEA workshop taking place TuesdayFebruary 13, from *5-7pm* at CWAC 152. This workshop will be featuring:


Mirae kh RHEE

Artist-Researcher, Museum für Asiatische Kunst and Ethnologisches Museum, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin


Who will be presenting the paper

“Collecting Crave: Curiosity Cabinets from Saxony to Joseon”


For those who would like to participate on Zoom, please register through this link. The abstract and bio for this presentation can be found below.


~We hope to see many of your faces in CWAC 152~



Image: Choi Chul Lim, Incheon Art Platform



RHEE’s artistic project invites us into the long history of the collector and collections from both East Asia and Western Europe. The artist’s interest in princely collections coupled with the critical examination of European acquired ethnographic objects takes us along the historical path of Jesuit priests who landed in the Portuguese colony of Macao to journey to the Beijing court of Ming Dynasty, the site of cultural exchange with Joseon Korea in the 17th-18th century. Interrogating presentation and collection practices of the male ruling elite and examining works from collections that extend from the famed Green Vault in Dresden to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the artist fashions her own Wunderkammer. Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-16th century Europe as repositories for wondrous objects but gradually appeared in 17th-18th century Qing China and Joseon Korea in the form of Chinese treasure boxes (Duobaoge) and Korean still-life genre painting of books and the scholar’s room (Munbangdo). This project is not just an intervention into the European, patriarchal, and colonial collection but a reinvention of the Korean version, called Munbangdo. From this jumping off point, RHEE collects objects from her network and communities, which are presented in various forms including drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, and augmented reality, engaging in hybrid analog and digital installations. Presenting objects in forms other than the original evokes the Confucian values of austerity and humility, since Koreans did not publicly display their collectibles, preferring painted screen portrayals. New forms of representation also imagine a new aura of objecthood to rethink beyond the Walter Benjamin argument that the artifact loses its aura through reproduction, and instead offering a unique way to experience aura beyond local, national, and geopolitical boundaries.



South Korean born social practice artist (이미래/李未來) Mirae kh RHEE’s transracial life experiences led her to work between the United States, South Korea, and Germany, where learning foreign languages, code-switching, and cultural traditions and customs continuously inform her artwork. Through the lens of transnational feminism, she creates complex research-based Gesamtkunstwerk(e) that tell autoethnographical narratives. RHEE received her MFA in Studio Art at the University of California-Irvine, where she was a Graduate Studies Diversity Scholar and Jacob K. Javits fellow. As the current Artist-in-Residence at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst and Ethnologisches Museum, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, she is preparing for a solo exhibition. In 2025 the project will be on view at the Residenzschloss (Dresden Castle) as part of the Transnational Academy of the Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden. www.mirae-kh-rhee.com.

Chelsea Foxwell, “Photography/Realism/War: The Case of the First Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95”

We look forward to welcoming you to the next VMPEA workshop, with a very special presentation by the department’s own and director of the Center for East Asian Studies, Professor Chelsea Foxwell.


Professor Foxwell will be presenting on Photography/Realism/War: The Case of the First Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95.

The respondent will be Dr. Joel Snyder, Professor Emeritus on the History of Photography and Film.


The workshop will be held in Room 152 of the Cochrane Woods Art Center on Wednesday, February 7th from 4:45 to 6:45 PM. This will be an in-person talk.


Please see below the flyer, abstract, and bio for Professor Foxwell’s presentation.

And, as always, we look forward to seeing you there!


The first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) was the first Japanese war with embedded photographers to document the conflict. The crisp photographs, once they had been developed and printed in Japan, seemed to testify to what an Illustrated London News reported called the “essentially modern and business-like method” of the Japanese offensive. [1] Shortly after the war’s conclusion, the Japanese government sent a monumental hand-woven tapestry to the Aoi Matsuri (Aoi Festival) to the widow of the Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham, the American diplomat who had facilitated the treaty negotiates with Qing China. While the tapestry and the surviving corpus of war photographs might seem to represent opposite ends of the spectrum of art of the Meiji era (1868-1912), together they help us evaluate the truth claims and political agendas of late nineteenth-century Japanese art.
[1] ILN quoted in Rhiannon Paget, “Imagery of Japanese Modern Wars in the Western Media,” in Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan (St. Louis Art Museum, 2016), 57.
Chelsea Foxwell’s scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art. Her work focuses on Japan’s artistic interactions with the rest of East Asia and beyond, nihonga and yōga (Japanese oil painting); “export art” and the world’s fairs; practices of image circulation, exhibition, and display; and the relationship between image-making and the kabuki theater. A member of the Committee on Japanese Studies and the Center for the Art of East Asia, she is a contributor to the Digital Scrolling Paintings and the Reading Kuzushiji projects.
Joel Snyder is Professor Emeritus of the History of Photography and Film in the University of Chicago’s Art History Department. Publications of his range from the essays to book publications, and interests of his include the history of photography, theory of photography and film, history and theory of perspective, Medieval and Renaissance theory of visions; critical theory, aesthetics, and the theory of representation. He was the Co-Editor of the journal Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences.

[Co-sponsored with RAVE] Alan Longino, “Return to Character: Morita Shiryu and Work of the 1960s “

This Wednesday, October 25 at 4:45 PM, the RAVE and VMPEA workshops together will be hosting their first collaboration of the year in Room 152 of the Cochrane Woods Art Center (the Home of Art History).

The presenter will be Alan Longino (Ph.D. student, Art History) discussing the work of the calligrapher Morita Shiryu (b. 1912, d. 1998).

Presenting his working paper, Return to Character: Morita Shiryu and Work of the 1960s 

The session’s respondent will be Cole Gruber (Ph.D. student, Art History).

For attendees on ZOOM, please register at the link below and use the password given. https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0rc-2oqz0oHtSbsPEbL0xMxL4b1ahKArQ4#/registration

Password: 000000

We look forward to seeing many a visage there, and look forward to hosting you for more RAVE & VMPEA collaborations throughout the year.



The work and practice of Morita Shiryu—one of the founders of Bokujinkai, editor of the group’s long-running journal, Bokubi, and pioneering philosopher on avant-garde calligraphy—is difficult to pin-down. One of Shiryu’s primary goals was to elevate calligraphy to the level of abstract art being practiced in his time, such as Abstract Expressionism in New York of Art Informel in Paris. This paper looks at a critical point in the history of the artist’s work—the late 1950s to early 1960s—when his style and beliefs around calligraphy slowly turned away from the desire for abstraction and back to the formation of character-based writing. The field of research around his work at this time ties this shift to a growing dissatisfaction with artists in the West, and the limited understanding of Zen philosophies embedded in the work of calligraphy. However, while the stylistic shift in the work is apparent at this time, I argue that due to the philosophies and materials utilized and developed by Shiryu in the 1950s the work became even more progressively avant-garde, and that by developing new compound mixtures with which to paint, he was not only able to tackle even larger format works—such as multi-paneled screens—but that he was able to draw out the temporal qualities of language across these large-scale works. In this effort, he was able to imbue new dimensions into calligraphy, and by doing so achieved an abstraction of characters and language that was even more pronounced than in previous work.


Alan Longino is a Ph.D. student focusing on postwar Japanese conceptual art and global contemporary art. His research considers the artist Yutaka Matsuzawa (b. 1922 – d. 2006, Shimo Suwa) and the artist’s approach to a dematerialized practice that was hinged upon a system of quantum physics, non-Zen Buddhism, and para-psychology. In 1988, Matsuzawa published his Quantum Art Manifesto, which set out directions, instructions, kōans, and other meditations for the reader to consider their connection to art on a quantum level. This manifesto was the culmination of the artist’s decades-long practice that focused on making the “invisible, invisible” (Tomii, 2016), and is the central focus of his dissertation.  In addition to his research on Matsuzawa, he has also produced shows on the artist’s work at Yale Union (Portland, OR, 2019), and Empty Gallery (Hong Kong, 2021) in collaboration with the independent art historian and curator, Reiko Tomii.

Taylor Chisato Stewart, “Shibata Zeshin & The Construction of Kogei”

The workshop for Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia is thrilled to jump into this calendar year, as we have a number of great presentations both from students & faculty within the university and from visiting speakers.
Starting this year off, Wednesday, October 11, is the Art History Department’s own, Taylor Chisato Stewart.
She will be presenting on Shibata Zeshin And The Construction of Kōgei.
The workshop will be held in Room 152 of the Cochrane Woods Art Center, from 4:45 to 6:45 PM CT.
Shibata Zeshin, Three Men Looking at Framed Lacquer Drawing (Edo, c. 1850)
Album leaf; lacquer on gold paper
4 3/4 x 3 1/2 in.
When he was born, Shibata Zeshin’s (1807–1891) native Tokyo was still called Edo. Trained in both painting and the laborious process of making lacquered objects, he came to invent several cutting-edge techniques in the lacquer medium, including a method of painting the viscous material—famously difficult to manipulate, even on three-dimensional surfaces—on paper while still maintaining its structural integrity. Despite the flurry of scholarship and museum activity that has surrounded Zeshin’s work for over a century, and that most of his extant works were created in the Meiji period (1868–1912), he is often relegated to a retrospective role in the vein of “the last true Edo-period craftsman.” A large amount of the Zeshin scholarship is concerned with his technical innovations in lacquer and his relationship with the Shijō school of painting. The referential and self-reflexive, perhaps modernist, streak that permeates his practice goes relatively understated.
I will examine a selection of Zeshin’s works, mainly lacquer objects, in relation to the conceptual (and linguistic) changes enacted by Japan’s imperial government concerning the category of “craft.” Uprooting previous notions of the status of and separation between mediums like painting, sculpture, and craft, the Meiji government created the word kōgei—a sort of portmanteau of the characters for “craftsmanship” and “art”—in its project to promote Japanese arts to an international audience. I argue that, far from being a lingering traditionalist, Zeshin often addressed such changes to his profession through clever visual and material play. I will also consider the word sōshoku, loosely meaning “decoration.” Sōshoku was an archaic compound that the new government adopted in response to foreign commerce. I believe that much of the self-reflexive quality of Zeshin’s work can be attributed to his interactions with these new, and volatile, concepts of craft and decorative art.
Taylor Chisato Stewart is a Ph.D. student studying art history at the University of Chicago. Her primary area of research is modern Japanese painting and decorative arts (early Meiji period). She is interested in issues of stylistic hybridity, Japanese exported self-identities and art extremities. She received her BA in English and art history at Vassar College, where she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the nihonga painter Kano Hōgai and eccentricity as a framework for artistic identity. Outside of her studies, her writing has appeared in Orientations. She also served as an assistant to contemporary artist Rirkrit Tiravanija in his capacity as art director of Okayama Art Summit 2022.

Anthony Stott, Nov 18

Please join us tomorrow for the fourth VMPEA workshop of this quarter, featuring:

Anthony Stott

PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Comparative Literature, UChicago

“Context After the End of Monumental Public Space: Toward an Archipelagic Reimagining of Urban Resistance in the Theory and Design of Isozaki Arata”

Discussant: Zhiyan Yang

PhD Candidate, Art History, UChicago

Friday, November 18, 2022

6:00–8:00 pm CT, Zoom

Zoom Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/j/99126706613?pwd=WUhpT1JxQjR2bHB3Zjd5VFIzNlVWZz09 

Please note the unusual date and time. This is a remote event.

**There are pre-circulated paper and slides for this workshop. You can find them in the other post with password “context”.

★Co-Sponsored by Art & Politics of East Asia workshop★


Jacques Derrida questioning Isozaki Arata and Asada Akira after Isozaki and Asada’s joint-presentation at the Anyone conference on May 11, 1991.



The expulsion of protestors from Shinjuku Station West Exit Plaza in 1969 conventionally marks the end of monumental public space as a site for urban protests in Japan. Departing from this moment, this chapter explores the wanderings of the architect and theorist Isozaki Arata (1931–) in search of new sites for urban resistance. Isozaki builds on his earlier work on the environment and the cybernetic city to theorize this urban resistance as an alternative context that constructively short circuits the urban network, and he terms this “extra-context.” Putting into dialogue scholarship from across media studies, architectural theory, and urban history, I contend that Isozaki adopts extra-context not only to disrupt the unrestrained and homogenizing flows of information networks under globalization but also to oppose a transparency between built space and the environment as epitomized in imperialist architectural projects of the interwar period. Drawing on Isozaki’s writings in “Japanese-ness” in Architecture (Kenchiku ni okeru “nihonteki na mono,” 2003; first partially serialized in Critical Space between 1998 and 2000) and especially his extensive collaborations with the critic Asada Akira (1957–), I furthermore show how tracing Isozaki’s design via extra-context discloses a shift in his approach—from the eclectic citation of global forms in projects of the 1980s like Tsukuba Center, to the archipelagically derived performance halls of the 1990s. I thus aim to expand the critical possibilities of Isozaki’s work by attending to how the tethering of extra-context to the archipelagic resonates with and defies ecocriticism and other related discourses that explore the relation between ocean and media.



Anthony Stott is a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Comparative Literature who specializes in contemporary Japanese literature, media, and thought. His dissertation considers formations of artists and intellectuals around the preeminent Japanese-language journal of theory and criticism Critical Space (Hihyō kūkan, 1991–2002) through the lens of critique and its limits.

Zhiyan Yang is a doctoral candidate specializing in the history of modern and contemporary East Asian Architecture. He is currently completing a dissertation on post-socialist architecture through the lenses of architectural media and cultural production, including exhibitions, journals, history surveys and its intersection with contemporary visual culture and art. He received his BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2013 and MA from the University of Chicago in 2015. Zhiyan served as a researcher and overseas liaison of the Contemporary Chinese Art Yearbook Project spearheaded by Peking University and the University of Chicago since 2015. He has also previously interned at Xu Bing Studio in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Yan Yang, April 20

The recording of this event could be found HERE

Speaker: Yan Yang 

(Assistant Professor of Art History, Music and Art, Borough of Manhattan Community College CUNY)

“Tracing the Formation of a National Style: Yamato-e from World Fairs to Wartimes”

Discussant: Minori Egashira (PhD Candidate, Art History, UChicago)

April 20th, 2022 (Wednesday), 4:45 – 6:45 pm CT, Remotely via Zoom 

Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. The password to this zoom session is “yamatoe

Tale of Genji Picture Scroll, Sekiya Chapter. 12th century. Tokugawa Art Museum

Abstract: How does a national style come into existence? Does it form through a consensus by a panel of experts or in some other way? Although yamato-e has been characterized as a national style of Japanese art since the 1930s by Japanese art historians, what led to this codification? This presentation examines primary sources produced before the 1930s, from government-sponsored exhibitions intended to teach a foreign audience about Japanese culture at World Fairs, to Japanese texts about surviving works of art that are celebrated as extant examples of yamato-e such as the Tale of Genji Picture Scrolls, in order to trace the formation of yamato-e as the pictorial embodiment of the Japanese national style.


Yan Yang received her B.A and Ph.D degrees from Yale University. After teaching at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and at Kyushu University in Japan, she is currently at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. Her primary field of interest in Japanese art historiography and epistemology. She has published on the 20th-century codification of the concept of Japanese art known as yamato-e. This presentation is an extension of a larger project that explores the formation of yamato-e before the 20th century.

Minori Egashira is a PhD candidate studying under Dr. Chelsea Foxwell at The University of Chicago. Her research focuses on Meiji-period (1868–1912) sculpture, and Japan’s artistic interactions with the world in modern and contemporary times. Her broader interests include East Asian sculptural art and other three-dimensional objects, World Fairs, and investigating non-orthodox narratives of Japanese art history.