Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

David Joselit

Committee Members

Siona Wilson

Claire Bishop

Jonathan Reynolds

Subject Categories

Asian Art and Architecture | Contemporary Art | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology

Keywords

Transpacific, Video Art, Moving Image, Communication, Institutional Critique

Abstract

This dissertation is the first English-written study that narrates the development of video art through a transnational and inter-regional analysis of Japanese, Korean and Asian-American artworks from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, which played a central role in establishing video as a truly international visual language. My transpacific approach to video art contests nation-based studies of art history and challenges the transatlantic narrative of video art in Anglo-American art historical literature, which has focused on the relation between video art in Western Europe and North America. I articulate the Transpacific as a geopolitical and an intellectual model of interaction between American and East Asian artists. As a geopolitical model, the Transpacific refers to the postwar alliance of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea that was formed after 1945 to consolidate American economic and political influence in East Asia to contain the rise of communism in China during the Cold War. The library and gallery operated by the United States Information Service (USIS) and American Cultural Centers in Korea and Japan served as primary outlets through which Japanese and Korean artists accessed recent developments in contemporary art. The transpacific cultural exchange between American and East Asian artists in the postwar era was not uni-directional but mutual: East Asian video art drew considerable interest from American video artists when it was featured in exhibitions that travelled to the U.S. Although Japanese and Korean artists first learned of the possibility of using video as a medium for artistic expression through their contact with American video art, they created works that critiqued the idealization of American culture that circulated in Japanese and Korean television. They were also critical of the discourse of technological utopianism which they perceived as the undercurrent of American video art and sought to use the latest electronic technology of video to re-establish a connection with pre-modern pictorial traditions in their own countries.

I argue that Transpacific Video developed as a critical intervention in the history of painting, film, media culture, and political activism. Chapter 1 discusses works by Osaka-based artist Imai Norio which foregrounded the materiality of videotape and film stock by remediating moving image through the Japanese premodern aesthetic of “picture [e]”. Chapter 2 highlights the work of Korean artists Park Hyunki, Lee Kangso, and Kim Young-jin which arose as a critique of Korean monochrome painting [Dansaekhwa] by shifting the material support for painting from the canvas to a transparent sheet of glass, on which they directly applied paint, pressed parts of their own bodies, which were recorded on video. The Tokyo-based artist collective Bikyōtō REVOLUTION Committee (1971-1975) is the subject of Chapter 3. In response to what they perceived as a historical dead-end of modernism brought on by the failure of the Japanese student movement to stop the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1970, Hori Kosai, Yamanaka Nobuo and Hikosaka Naoyoshi created moving image works to shift the site of artmaking from “production” [seisaku] in the studio to “practice” [jissen] within the praxis of life, to critique the “internal institution” of art that arose during the process of creating and exhibiting art. Chapter 4 addresses the issue of communication through a comparative analysis of the Tokyo-based collectives Video Information Center and Video Hiroba, which emphasized a local-based model of “para-communication,” and Nam June Paik’s global model of tele-communication, which activated a cross-cultural exchange of video information beyond national borders.

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