Monday 3 June 2019

the kimono debate goes on elsewhere...

soundtrack for today, Peak Twins, Water

The kimono cultural appropriation debate in the sewist community has generated enough fuss to have been picked up by the Guardian Newspaper, and a journalist published this piece

Stitch Up

Meantime this was published in Selvedge Magazine

Kimono Refashioned

The article was written to promote an exhibition of the same name to open at the Cincinnati Art Museum later this month.

Cincinnati Art Musuem

28 June - 15 September 2019, Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive

I suppose it's quite likely there will be protestors there as there were at the Museum of Fine Arts when this debate seemed to kick off in 2015 with the opening of the show "Flirting with the Exotic".

The focal piece was Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise” (1876) painting of the artist’s wife. She was depicted surrounded by fans, wearing a blond wig and a bright red kimono. Visitors were given the opportunity to put on a kimono similar to the one depicted in the painting, and encouraged to pose for photographs and share those images on social media using the tag “‪#‎mfaBoston‬!”

The MFA’s Deputy Director said “the idea was to give visitors a ‘tactile experience’ with the kimonos made in Japan ‘to understand and experience the painting in a new way’.”

However the result was an angry backlash from Japanese residing in the USA and people of Japanese-American heritage.

Monets La Japonaise

Reaction to MFA "Flirting with the Exotic"

Later in the year and into 2016 the MFA engaged in a series of public discussions with representatives from the Japanese and Japanese-American community.

Apology from Museum of Fine Arts


I go back to my contention in the "Orientalism" blog published 2 days ago that this is less an issue about an unacceptable cultural appropriation than a FEMINIST ISSUE arising from the angst felt by women of Japanese-American heritage who believe they have been objectified and sexualised through the tradition of Orientalist art. I absolutely agree, it is true.

Patriarchy is everywhere, women are colonised everywhere. 

Starting from the late 1960s there is an excellent body of academic work where feminists deconstructed the "male gaze". It has been very succinctly explained how images of women in all cultures and throughout history have been generated from masculinist hegemony. In Japan, like everywhere, there is a rich tradition of pornographic imagery of women. Even when the depictions weren't blatantly pornographic, in the everyday pictures of society, depictions of women are always to be seen and understood in subjective relation to the men or the labours they are doing in the picture. As with everywhere, the pictorial representations of men are full of signifiers that they are powerful, independent, courageous and doing meaningful acts in the world.

So I continue my solitary campaign maintaining that the kimono controversy is a specious argument. Time wasting and irrelevant. The wrong people are being attacked and shamed. 

To date, I have been actively sidelined and ignored in the debate so irrelevant is my contribution considered. Never mind that, I have no interest in either fame or infamy! For me the usefulness I find affirming is to create this archive of information, research and opinion that might be a reference for somebody else one day.

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