Miryam Sas – University of Copenhagen

Miryam Sas, University of California, Berkeley and Centre des Études et de Recherches Comparatistes, Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle

Moves Like Sand: Collective Practices and Site-Specific Critique in Japanese Contemporary Art 1960s to the Present

Recent media theories have increasingly attended to the problem of “infrastructure”—that is, how structures of power come to be inscribed in urban landscapes and environments; how existing media forms (such as the structures and generic expectations of documentary film and photography, the temporal frames of television) shape modes of living and understanding experience; and more recently how the unseen frames of software and internet hardware affect the often uninterrogated “climate” or “changes in the air” in which we have come to live.

This paper outlines the argument of a book in progress about these problems of infrastructure as manifested in Japanese contemporary art, drawing examples from late 1960s intermedia art,  1970s site-specific photography events, and post 3-11 sculptural installation. Through site-specific critique and new modes of engagement with local space, artists in each of these distinct moments engage in a subtle but powerful rethinking of the frameworks of community past and present.

Miryam Sas is Professor of Comparative Literature and Professor of Film and Media at the University of California, Berkeley, with specializations in Japanese literature, film, theater, and dance; 20th century literature and critical theory (Japanese, French, English, German); and avant-garde and experimental visual and literary arts.  She is spending the year as a visiting researcher at the Centre d’Études et de Recherches Comparatistes (CERC) at Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle. She received her undergraduate degree in Literaturesumma cum laude (French and English) from Harvard University and a joint PhD in Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures from Yale University. Sas is the author of two books, Experimental Arts in Postwar Japan: Moments of Encounter, Engagement, and Imagined Return  (Harvard, 2010); and Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism (Stanford University Press, released in 2001), and numerous articles in English, Japanese, and French on subjects such as Japanese futurism, cross-cultural performance, butoh dance, intermedia art pink film and Japanese experimental animation.  She is currently working on a book on media theory and intermedia art in Japan, Media Acts: Infrastructure, Potentiality, and the Afterlife of Art in Japan, for which she has been awarded a UC President’s Research Fellowship in the Humanities.