10 - 26 February 2005
Run Girl Run
When I first began thinking purposefully about our relationship in Australia to Japanese illustration last year, I wrote about it in relation to a tsunami. Rather than recent events, further contemplation has left me rejecting this metaphor. Japanese illustration has entered our visual vocabulary far more covertly than that; repeats of the original series of Astro Boy defined the childhood television viewing habits in the 1980’s of my generation. Manga and anime are becoming increasingly popular in Australia and other traditionally western countries as a result. Japanese culture is undeniably attractive, seductive, and interesting, and our collective obsession with it has changed our visual and aesthetic languages and, whether related or not, we live in a society that objectifies and sexualises the feminine like never before.
I have spent the past twelve months creating work about the young Japanese woman and the Western and Japanese stereotypes of her that I have become too accustomed to encountering in Australia; girl not woman, cute yet violent, sexual and innocent. Run Girl Run is an exhibition of new acrylic / textile work on canvas that appropriates Japanese illustrations of women and presents them in a harmonious way with eastern and western craft and craft construction techniques such as embroidery and macramé.
Via the process of appropriation, the exhibition continues my efforts to subvert images originally made for erotic consumption by the male gaze (hentai) by introducing to the manga imagery craft elements and techniques inspired by Japanese textiles and traditional garment construction (silk embroidery, obi tie techniques, Geisha hairpieces) to my established practise of Painting and working with European stitching traditions (crosstitch, longstitch).
Canvas itself is a textile. Sewing through canvas - the foundation
of a Painting - achieves two things:
a.. The irreverent and once seamless surface is destructed, allowing
for a literal subversion of what is represented on its surface by
introducing fellow textile materials, and
b.. What is imaged (the Pop female form) can be given a new feminine
language by means of craft and textiles to directly address a female
gaze and audience in a discussion of female identity and female
Manga is often written about as a masculine medium; futuristic worlds
inhabited by machines, wars, monsters, and large-breasted girls.
In keeping with my work’s tradition, this work aims to challenge
this gendering by applying traditionally feminine craft activities
to manga’s visual landscape.
The running pose of the title work is sourced from a manga instruction book. Other works appropriate images from the teen manga Chobits, the ongoing tale of a poor, young, human man who lives in a world where expensive female robots are integrated into human life. When he finds a hot, abandoned robot in the garbage, he claims her for himself and teaches her how to behave like a human and discovers how she can behave like a robot.
Manga is coy. Similar to the way mainstream music videos incorporate sex and female sexuality to create female caricatures through dance moves and costumes, mainstream manga and anime has very similar sexual threads that run throughout and are immediately recognisable to an informed eye, yet these clues are subtle enough not to warrant censorship. In anime, sexualising the form of the female character and the girl character is normal. Another example is found in hentai (sexually explicit manga). The word is used largely outside of Japan in western countries as a covert signifier and another way that may challenge the medium’s supposed masculinity.
Japanese illustration seems to be inherently sexual and feminine even at its most violent or pornographic, probably a permanent influence of Edo. Abana-e (dangerous pictures) were pictures made by Edo fine artists as a kind of government-endorsed pornography. Shunga were sexually explicit images used largely within the boundaries of pleasure quarters as pornographic stimulants. Both “art forms” depict females in passive roles within scenes of sexualised violence. A distinction of Edo work is the high degree to which it drew on Japanese female femininity of the day and translated this to males (in kabuki theatre for example). It is said that the origin of Japanese feminism is found in the Edo period because the Edo period created its opposition. Japanese feminism is distinct from western Feminism, amusingly referred to by the Japanese as “fat feminism”.
Jessie Angwin 2005
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BLINDSIDE is supported by the City of Melbourne.
BLINDSIDE's projects have been assisted by the Australian Government
through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory
body, and by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the
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