Adrian Favell: Before and After Superflat: A Short History of Japanese Contemporary Art, 1990-2011 (2012)

21 November 2017, dusan

“Any discussion of Japanese contemporary art inevitably leads to the pop-culture fantasies of Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and the other artists of the Superflat movement. But Japan as a whole has changed dramatically after stumbling through a series of economic, social and ecological crises since the collapse of its ‘bubble’ economy in the early 1990s. How did Murakami, Nara and Superflat become the dominant artistic vision of the Japan of today? What lies behind their imagery of a childish and decadent society unable to face up to reality? Written by a sociologist with an eye for sharp observation and clear reportage, Before and After Superflat offers the first comprehensive history in English of the Japanese art world from 1990 up to the tsunami of March 2011, and its struggle to find a voice amidst Japan’s economic decline and China’s economic ascent.”

Publisher Blue Kingfisher, Hong Kong, 2012
ISBN 9789881506412, 9881506417
246 pages
via author

Reviews: Janet Koplos (Art in America, 2012), Ashley Rawlings (Art Space Tokyo, 2012), David Cozy (Japan Times, 2012), Modern Art Asia (2012).



Masha Gessen: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012)

7 September 2014, dusan

Handpicked in 1999 by the ‘Family’ surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, with very little governmental or administrative experience beyond having served as deputy mayor of St Petersburg, seemed like the perfect choice in the eyes of an oligarchy bent on moulding the president’s successor to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as with ruthless efficiency Putin dismantled the country’s media, wrested control and wealth from the country’s burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Within a few brief years, virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave. As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her horrifying and spellbinding account of how this ‘faceless’ man manoeuvred his way into absolute – and absolutely corrupt – power will stand as a classic of narrative non-fiction.

Publisher Riverhead Books, 2012
EISBN 9781101560600

Video interview with the author (52 min, Sydney Writers Festival, May 2012)
Review (Luke Harding, The Guardian, 2012)
Review (Anne Applebaum, The New York Review of Books, 2012)
Review (John Ehrman, Studies in Intelligence, 2014)


MOBI, (2)

Winnie Won Yin Wong: After the Copy: Creativity, Originality and the Labor of Appropriation: Dafen Village, Shenzhen, China, 1989-2010 (2010)

16 December 2013, dusan

“Since 1989, Dafen village in Shenzhen, China, has supplied millions of hand-painted oil-on-canvas paintings each year to global consumer markets. Accused of copying Western masterpieces, and spurred by the Chinese party-state’s creative industry policies, Dafen village’s eight thousand painters have been striving to become original artists. Simultaneously, conceptualist artists from outside Dafen village have engaged with the creative alienation of Dafen painters, by purchasing their labor in works of appropriation art. This study examines the discourses of creativity, originality, and appropriation that frame Dafen’s painting production, and sets them against an ethnography of flexible work in the South Chinese painting trade. It explores the myriad ways in which Dafen village lends itself to intellectual and aesthetic explorations of the separation of painting labor from conceptual labor, as enacted in both modernist and postmodernist framings of artistic authorship.

The study begins by charting the historical categorization of Chinese ‘export painting’ and the emergence of the ‘painting factory’ as a cultural imaginary of Sino-Western trade. It then examines the political stakes of ‘creativity’ as constructed in Dafen television propaganda made by the national and local party-state. Then, turning to a single Vincent van Gogh-specialty workshop and the transnational wholesale and retail of van Gogh trade paintings, it theorizes the relationship of ‘craft’ to modernist authorship and signature style. Finally, it scrutinizes cosmopolitan conceptual artists’ and designers’ collaborations with Dafen painters, exploring the ethical and aesthetic terms of universal creativity raised by the Dafen ‘readymade’. Establishing continuities between Dafen production and the making of ‘high’ art while challenging their putative antinomies, this study shows how the ideology of individual creativity undergirds the cultural industry policies of the local party-state, the consumer demand for authentic craft, and the appropriation of labor in contemporary art.” (Abstract)

Thesis, Ph. D. in History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture
Dept. of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010
Supervisor: Caroline A. Jones
410 pages