Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Western Sensibilities through Anime Object

Or Animé used in Fine Art (Present)

Animé, with
its own very heavy stereotypes and stigmas, is sometimes used as a tool by an artist. It avoids being the content by serving something loftier and more abstract. Its success hinges on assuming what the West recongnizes as "animé-ness" and what its implications are. The use of animé in the art can be mocking, or it can be of reverence to the media.

Pierre Huyghe and Phillipe Parenno's Ann Lee Project is well known for doing this. They purchased a retired animé character cel/design from a Japanese clearinghouse for $428, named her Ann Lee, and used her to create the collaborative exhibition "No Ghost, Just a Shell." Her visage became rendered in a wide variety of mediums, including CG 3D, animation, paintings, prints, posters, wallpapers, a neon light sculpture, and even fireworks. While the subject used was an animé character, and the title even referenced a well-known animé movie, the content has nothing to do with animé.

The work was about ownership and identity. Who was this girl, and what personality were they providing for her? What history? Who owns her? Ann Lee was a character with no name and no story, and now she was at the whims of fourteen artists, bought and used like a labor slave. They questioned the illegality of artistic deviations and modifications. When people are invited to change a character, who has no predetermined personality, to their own liking, is it their personality they're filling it with?

Animé only provided the subject, and people could view the work without any understanding of animé. This is directly opposite of the final kind of a
nimé art, the work that is very much about anime in both subject and content.

(Personally, I was not impressed by the project. I think the premise got a lot of hype, but in the end there was very little good looking work, and the message, while STATED a lot, didn't quite come through for me.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Anime Sensibilities through Fine Art Object

Or "Anime Revered Through Fine Art" (Past)
First, I'd like to talk about anime-style art gaining Fine-art status through legitimization.

Let's say that an artist is someone who groups things in order to create connections and new feelings and ideas. The past few years have seen an explosion in American comic and comic memorabilia exhibitions in the US. Galleries have staged numerous exhibits of actual comic artifacts, such as storyboards, original pages, and toys. As you can guess, the same has happened for manga.

In a Duchampian "If it's in the Gallery, it is art," manner, when the west puts your illustrations in a gallery, they supposedly gain the "importance" of fine art. But do they have to be something more than illustrations first?
Exhibitions like "Shoujo Manga:Girl Power" or "How Manga Took Over the World," seek to make fine art out of collections of memorabilia to talk about a social history. What does Shoujo Manga, as a trend, mean as cultural phenomena? What is the effect of Manga on the world? When you put all of Osamu Tezuka's work in one gallery, what is he saying about Japan and Culture? These questions, or rather, the answers generated by their respective exhibitions, are the work of art. The actual discreet objects never shake their "low art" status, but together, they add up to "high art."

So, manner number one in which animé-style art becomes fine art: Group it for Examination as a Cultural Phenomenon.

The only related exhibition I was able to attend was "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum New York. It examined comics artifacts from the 1950's onward. It was fascinating, as it depicted a change in American values, tastes, and tolerances over the years, as well as allowed for an appreciation of the individual comic artist's skills. It included work by Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Gary Panter, and Chris Ware.

Image Credits:
Both photos from the Tour of "Shoujo Manga: Girl Power" at

Animé in Fine Art: Introduction

All around the world, (I'm venturing a guess here) hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, are making "animé-styled art." Now, while I understand that there are many different styles of animé, for this lecture to proceed we have to agree that there is such a thing as animé-style: work that bears stylistic influences by Japanese animation.
From the Japanese mangaka industry professionals, to
aspiring German mangaka, to the American hobbyist or illustrator, we are inundated with animé-styled art as it pervades as a legitimate art influence in our cartoon shows, media, and even packaging and marketing. As animé and animé-style gradually emerges as a cultural phenomenon, it becomes a subject of serious discourse. When one tries to examine the effect of something (animé) on a culture (ours), we turn to the artists and writers, who take the topic and translate it into something we can react to: Words and Pictures.

I'm going to talk about the pictures.

It's not uncommon nowadays to find an animé character on the wall of a gallery somewhere in the United States. But with all the animé-styled art in the world, how does an animé-themed work of art avoid being just a niche style or fad? How is animé used in intelligent social discourse through art?

I propose three main sorts of methods by which animé finds itself part of the fine art world,
progressing to shorten the distance between anime-styled art— and fine art about animé.

For Fun, the following was my original Outline for the lecture. Since my audience is probably a younger crowd, I decided to make it a little simpler. In the end, I like these headings better.

1. Anime Sensibilities through Fine Art Object
-Yoshitaka Amano
-Osamu Tezuka
-Shoujo and Manga Exhibitions
"Shoujo Manga, Girl Power!"
"How Manga took over the world."

2. Western Sensibilities through Anime Object
-Pierre Hyuhe
Ann Lee Project

3. Cultural Sensibilies though Anime Objects
-Chinatsu ban
- Takashi Murakami

Image Credit
Left:"Animé Style"by me, Right: "Anime Art"
V by Mr. (His name is simply "Mr.") See him here.