Demon, Wolf, and Robot The Nonhuman: Spirits, Animals, Technology Victoria, BC, Canada - September 21-24, 2018

Participants

(In alphabetical order. A single asterisk denotes a keynote speaker.)

*Barbara Rossetti Ambros

is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on issues in gender studies; human-animal relationships; place and space; and pilgrimage. She is the author of Women in Japanese Religions (New York University Press, 2015), Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012), and Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Early Modern Ōyama Cult and Regional Religion (Harvard University Asia Center, 2008). She is the co-chair of the Animals and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religions.

Title: Gratitude and Treasuring Lives: Eating Animals in Contemporary Japan

Abstract:

Over the past decade, an increasing number of publications and public events in Japan have been emphasizing that humans must rely on animal lives for food. The moral principle at the center of this discourse is gratitude. In modern Japanese Buddhism the meaning of repaying a debt of gratitude has shifted from an emphasis on liberating animals to consuming animals with gratitude. In other words, as meat eating has become normative in modern Japan, even among the Buddhist clergy, a sacrificial rationale has replaced anti-meat-eating discourses that have remained central features of a Buddhist identity in other parts of East Asia. The contemporary Japanese Buddhist discourse of gratitude envisions an interconnected chain of becoming that is sustained by animal lives and culminates in human lives. As animal bodies are consumed and transformed into human bodies, humans have the moral obligation to face this reality and express their gratitude.

Davinder L. Bhowmik

is an Associate Professor of modern Japanese literature and film at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests include prose fiction from Okinawa, disaster literature, particularly related to the atomic bombings, and environmental writing. Selected publications include Islands of Protest: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa (2016), Writing Okinawa: Narrative Acts of Identity and Resistance (2008) and “Temporal Discontinuity in the Atomic Bomb Fiction of Hayashi Kyôko” in Ôe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan (1999).

Title: Nature Decentered in Ōshiro Tatsuhiro’s Oh, Futenma!

Abstract:

The title story of Ōshiro Tatsuhiro’s short story collection Oh Futenma (2011) chronicles the postwar history of Futenma, a town in central Okinawa, infamous today for housing a US Marine Corps Air Base that presents a grave environmental hazard to the town’s residents. Ōshiro’s depictions of Futenma in the immediate postwar include vivid descriptions of a lush landscape teeming with insects, especially mosquitos. As time passes helicopters, whose shape call to mind mosquitos, begin to dot the skies of Futenma, making even air space off limits for residents to enjoy. This paper will show the ways in which the built environment of the military encroaches upon on nature and how this in turn impacts local culture, particularly traditional music and dance.

Michael K. Bourdaghs

is the Robert S. Ingersoll Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the College at the University of Chicago. His scholarship focuses on modern Japanese literature, culture, and literary theory. Major publications include Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Pre-History of J-Pop (2012, Japanese translation 2012) and The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Toson and Japanese Nationalism (2003). He is also a prolific translator of Japanese literature and critical theory, including Kojin Karatani, The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange (2014) and (co-editor and co-translator) Natsume Soseki, Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings (2009).

Title: Animal Figures in Natsume Soseki: Talking Around Property

Abstract:

This presentation is part of a project that reconsiders Natsume Sōseki’s fiction as creative responses to modern systems of property ownership—including legal codes, embodied practices, ideologies, and modes of knowledge. Animals proved an often complex case for modern property regimes. Does anyone own wild or stray animals? Do we possess domestic animals in the same way that we possess inanimate objects? Are human property systems a product of ‘civilization’ or are they rather a product of natural instinct and hence akin to practices of territoriality in other animals? As Sōseki explored the potential of fiction to imagine alternative modes of owning and sharing, he experimented with narratives about, and sometimes by, animals. I will look at I Am a Cat (1905-6) and “Hearing Things” (1905) to see not only how questions of property enter into the narrated content, but also how non-human narrating voices perform alternate modes of possession.

Hélène Cazes

is a Professor at the Department of French and the director of the Program of Medieval Studies at the University of Victoria. She teaches courses on French Literature, Graphic Novels, Literary Theory and Medieval Culture. She holds a doctorate (Literature of the French Renaissance, 1997) from the University of Paris Ouest-Nanterre and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Quebec in Montreal. She has been awarded the Award of Excellence in Research (UVic, Humanities, 2013) as well as the University of Victoria Leadership Award.

Her recent publications treat of friendship and early modern social networks, the beginnings of bibliography, history of medicine (16 th c. anatomy in Europe, Melancholy, Imaging and Imagining the Body, (Re-)inventing Childhood), history of the book and literature. She started this year a new research project, Perfecta, The perfection of the female body: anatomical discourse and the defense of women, 1500-1700.

Title: Simulating women? Dolls, puppets and slaves for sexual fantasies.

Abstract:

A recent legal suit has filled the French newspapers in April 2018: a “2.0 brothel”, advertizing on line, had opened its doors and rooms a few weeks earlier, selling time with compliant and intelligent women-like dolls in private spaces. Nothing news in the industry, but new questions asked by the activist lawyer about the status of women that is implied by the use of dolls, which would endanger real women and shared sex life. Legally, as the owner claimed to the journalists, there is no ground as dolls are objects, not people. Now, playing with simulated and simulating sexual partners brings forth questions not so much about prostitution — legal or not —, than about sexual fantasies and images of women, the dolls being both stereotypical and resembling duplications of real women.

The simplistic reduction of their anatomies, the careful and researched use of clothes, accessories and facial expressions, the offering of different voices and sexual behaviours, likens them to puppets and mannequins, rather than substitutes to partners. The enactment of sexual fantasies with toys, as documented by Agnès Giard and others, the simulation of interpersonal relationship evoked by Yuval Harari in Homo Deus, here seems related to the negation of female agency, outside of moral condemnations of prostitution or pornography. Female anatomy, long neglected by science and still evasive in the general discourse, has long been defined as a “lack” of organs, or, in the ancient Western medical discourse, as a “reversal” and “complement” of the male anatomy.

Looking at the dolls proposed and opposed in France this year, we propose to situate the controversy within a larger historical picture about the representations of the female body and their implications regarding the status of women, but also the status of real bodies. Do these dolls reveal a shared image of women? Or do they express a reaction against/to the newly acquired equal status of women and the legal interdiction of prostitution? The talk will connect newspapers coverage of the recent French legal suit, and Yuval Harari’s analysis with selected medical sources on female anatomy in the West (from Antiquity to modern times).

Maneesha Deckha

is Professor and Lansdowne Chair in Law at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include critical animal studies, animal law, critical food studies, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, health law, and reproductive law and policy. Her scholarship has appeared inAmerican Quarterly, Hypatia, Sexualities, the McGill Law Journal, and the Medical Law Review, among other venues, and has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She also held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law and Society at New York University.

Title: Critiquing Anthropocentrism and Human Domination over More-than-human Animals: An overview of animal ethics and animal rights perspectives in philosophy and law.

Abstract:

This talk will present an overview of various critiques in philosophy and law against anthropocentrism as a core organizing feature of Western societies and consider arguments in favour of assigning moral worth and legal personhood to more-than-human animals. Given their prominence, liberal theories rooted in utilitarianism and deontology will be emphasized, but the talk will also present the insights of the growing field of feminist animal care tradition and critical animal studies to consider their difference-based and intersectional perspectives in understanding and undoing the human domination of animals. The talk will discuss the continuities and discontinuities between various approaches advocating for more just interspecies relations as well as refer to notable legal developments in Canada and elsewhere that contest the dominant paradigm of animals as property in the law.

Devon Duncan

is a professionally trained dancer in classical ballet and traditional Japanese dance. She is currently completing her BA in Japanese studies at Portland State University, Oregon. Besides presenting an academic paper, she will also play the lead role in a performance at the conference of the kabuki dance play Yaoya Oshichi (Oshichi the Grocer).

Title: Descent into the Human: A comparative look at humans as puppets in classical ballet and Nihon Buyō.

Abstract:

My paper focuses on the representation of puppets in classical ballet relative to those in traditional Japanese dance, Nihon Buyō. Specifically, I compare such ballets as Coppelia, The Nutcracker, and Petrushka against works of ningyō-buri (human doll dance) Yaoya Oshichi and Honchō Nijūshikō. The portrayal of puppets and dolls on the ballet stage is often comical. They are shown as incomplete “others” who wish to rise above their emotions in order to become more human. In direct contrast, the characters of ningyō-buri are fated to become tragically inhuman as they are consumed by overwhelming emotion. In essence, the puppets of ballet serve to represent mankind’s struggle to attain self-actualization, whereas ningyō-buri shows a character enslaved by the power of intense emotion as the doll-like movements slowly unravel, allowing the character to descend into a deeper state of desperation and madness.

Peter Eckersall

is Professor of Theatre Studies and Executive Officer of the PhD Program in Theatre at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research interests include Japanese performance, dramaturgy and theatre and politics. His recent publications include: New Media Dramaturgy: Performance and New-materialism, co-authored with Helena Grehan and Ed Scheer (Palgrave 2017) and The Dumb Type Reader, coedited with Edward Scheer and Shintarô Fujii ( Museum Tusculanum Press , 2017).

Title: Atmospheres and non-human agency: dramaturgy and affect in recent Japanese theatre

Abstract:

Recent contemporary performances in Japan often shift in register from the dramatic to the creation of a new media dramaturgy. They seem to refuse narrative in favour of the production of uncanny atmospheres and the dramaturgy of affect. Theatre in terms of narrative (and the postdramatic decentring of this) in crucial instances is being replaced by ambient moments and uncanny ruptures. Non-human systems of visual effects, objects and atmospheres are central elements in this creative process. To this end, this paper will discuss Okada Toshiki’s interest in Noh Theatre and his invocation of ambient atmosphere as a way of addressing politics and existential questions for humanity. Other performance works will also be discussed that dramaturgically situate the notion of atmosphere in ways that reposition theatrical tradition in the contemporary moment. Thus, the paper will consider how contemporary performances often shift their registers and dramaturgy from a modern sensibility into something more like performance installation and performance that is not quite like, but perhaps better discussed, in terms of the framework of visual arts.

Agnès Giard

is an anthropologist, working on the industry of human affective surrogates (low-middle-high-tech) in the context of Japanese national depopulation. Her research tackles the consumption of emotional commodities – such as digital lovers or VR spouses – and the stigma attached to o-hitori-sama, single people who are held responsible for the falling birthrate. Her last book – Un Désir d’Humain – received a distinction from the ICAS Book Prize: it was selected as one of the “five best books published in France in the field of Asian Studies” in 2017. This book relates to “artificial life” systems, i.e. love dolls, framed into a symbolic system dealing with failure, lack and loss. She is associate researcher at Sophiapol, a laboratory dedicated to the socio-anthropology of emotion and social exclusion, at Paris Nanterre University.

Title: Weak robots and stupid dolls: Alternative nonhumans in Japan

Abstract:

Most of the robots are developed with the aim of helping people by taking over the Dull, Dirty and Dangerous tasks, known as the “3 Ds of robotization.” Soon it will be the 4 Ds, if we add the “Dear” tasks, with the development of social robots designed to create social bonding and display emotional reactions. Such social robots are usually designed to look like humans, to speak, to learn, to move their eyes, to play chess, etc., in order to optimize their so-called “efficiency” as social tools, which means that in the end robots should be able to do what humans do, and of course, do it better…

In Japan, a lot of social robots are not made to realistically mimic humans. On the contrary. In fact, many relational artifacts–downloadable girlfriends, holographic spouses, love dolls as well as robots–are made to look like useless toys, childish objects or stupid gadgets. This makes them particularly precious in human society, especially nowadays, in the ideological context of the empowered woman and the performant man.

I will discuss Japanese technological choices from my own specific field of research, which is the market of love dolls, often designed to look dumb. Why do they have empty faces and pets’ names? Is it because Japanese customers are “lacking some sort of emotional connection in their life” as some media state? Or because dolls’ users project their male sexual insecurity onto a pathetic female body? Exploring the reason why people engage in affective relationships with non-humans that are openly made to seem handicapped, unreliable or vulnerable should shed light on our own framework of thinking.

*Chris Goto-Jones

Educated in Cambridge, Keio (Tokyo), and Oxford Universities, Chris is Professor in Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at the University of Victoria. He is also a Professorial Research Fellow at SOAS, University of London, and a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for International Studies at Oxford University. He was previously Professor of Comparative Philosophy & Political Thought and Professor of Modern Japan Studies at Leiden University (The Netherlands). Recent publications include Conjuring Asia: Magic, Orientalism, and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge UP, 2016); The Virtual Ninja Manifesto: Fighting Games, Martial Arts, and Gamic Orientalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

Title: Towards the Virtual Ninja: Embodied Orientalism as Self-Transformation

Abstract:

Drawing on five years of surveys and interviews in Asia, Europe, and North America, this paper explores the extent to which (Japanese) videogames can be redrawn as technologies of intentional self-transformation akin to Martial Arts. The argument is that the disciplined iteration of virtual violence, mediated by a form of Orientalist ideology inspired by the bushidō tradition, creates the conditions of possibility for a unique interface between body, technology, and being that has the potential to transform the lives of gamers. One concrete implication of this is a radical re-evaluation of the impact of violent videogames in contemporary society.

Dr Fabio Gygi

was born and raised in Switzerland, but spent his formative years in Japan, Germany and England. After receiving an MA in European Ethnology and Japanese Studies from the University of Tübingen, he was awarded a PhD in social anthropology by UCL. Before joining SOAS he spent three years as an assistant professor of sociology at Dōshisha University in Kyoto. His research interests lie at the intersection between medical anthropology and material culture. He has worked on war experience and memory in Europe, hoarding and gender in Japan, and is currently investigating intimacy with insentient companions.

Title: The Insentient Companion Body Substitution (Migawari) and Queer Intimacy in Japanese Robotics

Abstract:

Contemporary Japan is sometimes described as a Latourian utopia where humans and non-humans, specifically robots, live and work together in harmony. This acceptance of non-human others is explained by anthropologists as stemming from an “animist unconscious” (Allison 2006) that allows people to attribute ‘life’ to robots and other man-made objects, a notion that is usually linked to the "Shinto universe” of "native animist beliefs" (Robertson 2010). Contrary to the darker tone of robot fantasies in the Euro-American tradition, this "techno-animism" (Block and Jensen 2013) turns technological objects into non-alienating allies.

Contrary to this religiously inflected narrative, this paper uses the cultural idiom of migawari (body substitute) to explore dolls and robots as extensions and substitutes of and for bodies. In this view, biological and technological bodies animate each other by swapping attributes. As robots are increasingly built for the care sector, they are designed to extend and replace ‘the human touch’ and thus enable queer forms of attraction, empathy, and intimacy. My argument is that instead of thinking of robots as independent non-human entities that will take over human workloads, we may want to envision them as tele-presences that stand in for other bodies to do the emotional work of intimacy and care.

Kazue Harada

is Assistant Professor of Japanese at Miami University in Ohio. She received a PhD in Japanese language and culture and a graduate certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on Japanese women’s science fiction and gender representations, and she is currently working on a book project on Japanese women’s science fiction and the representations of post/non-human in relation to gender and new approaches to feminism and science studies.

Title: Perceivable Radiation Kobayashi Erika’s Nuclear Project

Abstract:

Japanese science fiction manga artist/novelist Kobayashi Erika (b. 1978) illuminates the irony between the beauty and danger of radioluminescence of radium through Marie Curie’s life and the post-Fukushima environment. The invisibility of radioactive materials is presented in parallel to that of women and nonhuman entities. Kobayashi’s works illustrate radioactive isotopes become more visible through the senses in order to reconnect our lives with the ubiquity of radioactive materials. Her manga shows an alternative way of perceiving the invisible nonliving materials to rethink our coexistence with radioactive materials in the environment. This alternative can offer another critical view on the use of the nuclear energy. By drawing material feminist, Karen Barad’s concept of “intra-activity”—the enmeshment between humans and nonhumans and the blurred boundaries between objects and subjects, this paper will primarily explore the ways in which Kobayashi’s multimedia project: the novel Madamu Kyūri to chōshoku o ( Breakfast with Madame Curie, 2014), the manga Luminous (2013, 2016), and the CD Radium Girls 2011 (2012) demonstrates radioactive materials impact on human and nonhuman lives beyond time and space. It will also show how the humans can react differently if radioactive isotopes become perceivable.

Kyōko Iwaki

As of April 2018, Kyōko Iwaki is a JSPS post-doctorate researcher affiliated with Waseda University. Currently, she also gives lectures at Chuo University and Rikkyo University. Kyoko obtained a PhD in Theatre from Goldsmiths, University of London in November 2017. She was a Visiting Scholar at The Segal Center, The City University of New York until March 2018. Kyoko is a specialist in Japanese contemporary theatre, who conducts research at the intersection of sociology, critical race studies, affect theory, performance studies, critical theory, post-colonial studies, new materialism and animal studies.

For the past fifteen years, she has worked also as a theatre journalist, contributing to media outlets such as Asahi Shimbun Newspaper. She has lectured in numerous venues including Japan Foundation London, University of Arts, London, Chuo University and Meiji University.

She has also been working as an independent artistic advisor, contributing to organisations such as Festival/Tokyo and National Theatre Wales. She was appointed Associate Creative Partner of Kanagawa Arts Theatre in 2010. In 2015, she was appointed the Chief Director of Scene/Asia project: a pan-Asian researcher’s platform consisted of partners from five Asian regions. She has co-curated the Asian programme of Spielart Festival, Munich in 2017.

Her recent English and French publications include, Ushio Amagatsu: Des rivages d’enfance au bûto de Sankai juku (Paris, Actes Sud), Japanese Theatre Today: Theatrical Imaginations of Eight Contemporary Practitioners (Tokyo: Film Art Publishing, 2018 in Japanese). She has also contributed chapters to Fukushima and the Arts: Negotiating Nuclear Disaster (London, Routledge, 2016), A History of Japanese Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance (Routledge, 2018).

Title: Odd Beings of ‘Sympoiesis’ and Buddhist Relationality: Seeing Through Animals in the Post-Fukushima Theatre

Abstract:

Due to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in March 2011, Japanese were reminded, rather forcibly, that their lives are not just a humanist affair, but should be considered as a matter of coexistence with non-humans including, animals, insects and nature. Without any forewarning, the Japanese theatre makers, especially those young ones more susceptible to the consequences of spatiotemporal disaster, were forced to enter into what Donna Haraway calls the ‘Chthulucene,’ in which mortal critters are requested to stay in the troubling present and to survive by making ‘oddkin’ with non-human beings (Haraway, 2016). Based on numerous interviews and performance attendance, this paper argues how contemporary theatre-makers such as Matsui Shū, Ichihara Satoko, Miura Naoyuki among others, started to develop a Chthulucentric theatrical universe by imagining the humans through animals. In order to analyze their theatrical imaginations that resonate with various manga as well as shunga fantasies, I draw not only on theories of animal studies, post-human theories, and new materialism, but also deploy the counter-Cartesian philosophy of Watsuji Tetsurō and the concept of ‘relational origination’ of Dōgen.

Seth Jacobowitz

is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at Yale University. He is the author of the Edogawa Rampo Reader (Kurodahan Press, 2008) and Writing Technology in Meiji Japan: A Media History of Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture (Harvard Asia Center, 2015), which won the 2017 ICAS Book Prize in the Humanities. His current research is for a book on the prewar Japanese immigration to Brazil and the literature of Japanese overseas expansion. In addition, he is co-authoring a book on science and science fiction in prewar Japan with Professor Aaron W. Moore (University of Edinburgh).

Title: Kawabata Yasunari’s “In Praise of Artificial Humans” and the “Fantasy of Artificial Humans” Issue of Shinchō (1929)

Abstract:

Beyond the modernist aesthetics embodied in Snow Country and earlier experimental works such as A Page of Madness and The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa, Kawabata Yasunari penned two short stories that participated in the prewar discourse of “artificial humans” ( jinzō ningen). This paper offers a reading of Kawabata’s story “In Praise of Artificial Humans” (Jinzō ningen wan) that appeared in the August 1929 issue of the Japanese intellectual journal Shinchō (New Tide) alongside contributions by the influential Shinseinen (New Youth) editor Koga Saburō and others. Just prior to the Great Depression, they explored the implications for an increasingly technologized world where, as Kawabata’s narrator laments, “even Goethe can’t hold a candle to a single engineer from the Westinghouse Electric Corporation which manufactures robots (jinzō ningen).”

*Laurence Kominz

is Professor of Japanese literature, theatre and film at Portland State University. His research specialty is Japanese drama, and he has taken performance lessons in Japan in noh, kyōgen, kabuki and gidayu bushi. He also directs kyōgen and kabuki plays in English, the most recent being productions of Chūshingura (2016) and Izumi Kyōka’s The Castle Tower (2017).

Title: Animal Spirits in Kyôgen—and what it means to be Human

Abstract:

While both noh and kyôgen feature animal spirits, kyôgen’s world is that of daily life in village Japan. Animals range from domestic (dogs, horses, cattle), to wild (monkeys), to uncanny shape changing foxes, badgers, mosquito and crab spirits. Wild and uncanny animals are anthropomorphic—aggressive, acquisitive, vulnerable, emotional, even altruistic. Some are enemies to humankind, but most are purer than humans in their feelings and intent. Even their non-human qualities—their hybrid animal-human appearances and special powers—show viewers what it is to be human. These plays are folk tales for adults. American students of Japanese literature recognize that kyôgen presents animals differently from any form of Western drama, and in play-writing assignments students have chosen animal-spirit characters for many of their plays. My presentation will focus on how to interpret animal spirits in several classic kyôgen plays (Tsurigitsune, Kazumo, Kani Yamabushi) and will contrast these yôkai with “higher order” spirits—focusing on the rambunctious Thunder God. I will briefly introduce the fusion of medieval satoyama Japan and a contemporary, youthful American ethos in two of the best plays by Portland State students—plays presented to the public in 2015, and 2016. Video & images will be used.

Professor Kominz will also be directing and performing in a two kyōgen and one kabuki dance play with several of his students at the Philip Young Recital Hall, UVic, on Saturday evening, September 22.

*Mari Kotani

is an award-winning translator and critic of science fiction, best known as the author of Evangelion as the Immaculate Virgin (1997) and Joseijō Muishiki: techno-gynesis josei SF-ron (Techno-gynesis: the political unconscious of feminist science fiction (1994). She is currently Chair of the PEN Women Writers’ Committee and a member of the Science Fiction Writers of Japan.

Title: Techno-gothic Romance between “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” and Cyborgs

Abstract:

Distinguished feminist critic Maleen S. Barr once pointed out that human beings in hardcore science fiction served as a metaphor for white male middleclass heterosexuality in western culture, while Aliens for the absolute other. Her perspective invites us to assume that the Japanese are a tribe of Aliens, and even that the Japanese women are doubly alienated. This is the reason why it’s interesting for me to interpret Japanese Aliens inhabiting post-human Japan.

Though hardcore science fiction is basically full of aliens, how did postwar Japanese SF writers grapple with this topic of Alien after importing the literary subgenre of science fiction from western countries? And how did the Japanese construct the concept of the Alien Other in pop culture?

I would like to speculate on these topics through exploring techno-gothic romance between a Japanese female monster and a male cyborg, with special emphasis on Kurozuka written by Baku Yumemakura and INNOCENCE directed by Mamoru Oshii.

*Thomas Lamarre

is a James McGill Professor in East Asian Studies and Associate in Communications Studies at McGill University. His research centres on the history of media, thought, and material culture. He has written on communication networks in 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan); silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen, 2005); animation technologies (The Anime Machine, 2009) and infrastructure ecologies ( The Anime Ecology, forthcoming 2018). He is co-editor with Takayuki Tatsumi of a book series with the University of Minnesota Press entitled “Parallel Futures,” focussing on Japanese speculative fiction. His current research on animation addresses the use of animals in the formation of media networks associated with colonialism and extraterritorial empire, and the consequent politics of animism and speciesism.

Title: Errant Naturalism

Abstract:

Discussions of the Anthropocene have tended to renew a very old and problematic stance toward humans and technologies: human beings appear to be both the (technological) problem and the (technological) solution to the contemporary ecological crisis. Such a stance ultimately privileges technological solutions, even as it posits the human as pharmakon — as the poison and the cure, the problem and the solution. Such a stance limits us to trying to determine the proper dosage of the human — how much of the human can the planet tolerate, in what amounts and at what intervals?

Without discounting the search for technological solutions, I would pursue another line of inquiry, one that aims at changing the ethical framework within which we response to the ecological crisis. Historically, Japanese literature, philosophy, and cultural formations present us with a variety of alternative ways of thinking about the relation between human beings and non-human beings, between life and non-life. Here, however, the problem is that these alternatives have too often been reduced to a traditional Japanese worldview in contrast with modern Western worldview, thus simplifying and undermining their potential contribution to contemporary.

To avoid such untenable oppositions between tradition and modernity, Japan and the West, I propose to turn to the emergence of naturalism in Meiji Japan, specifically the work of Shimazaki Tōson. I wish to reconsider his famous novel Hakai in light of the paradox implicit in the theory of natural rights: the very source called upon to uphold human freedom and equality, Nature, is open to diverse interpretations. What interests me about Tōson’s naturalism is its willingness to draw on a variety of interpretations of Nature, which discourages him from drawing a clear line between the human and the animal. I see in this ‘naturalist confusion’ not merely a failure to understand natural rights but a possibility to enlarge the ethical framework for thinking the contemporary ecological crisis in two ways. The first way is related to literary ‘personation,’ for it derives from the strange power of literature to explore ‘person’ beyond anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism. The second way might be called socio-naturalism, for it addresses the social and natural impact of assemblages of human animals and non-animals (such as herdsmen and cows, farmers and farmyard animals, hunters and wild animals) at a time when agriculture in rural Japan was undergoing massive transformations. The challenge of Tōson’s naturalism lies in its pursuit of both ways at once, which challenge I propose to address in this paper.

Colleen Lanki

is a performer, director, choreographer, educator, and lover of total theatre. She was based in Tokyo for many years studying Nihon buyō (Japanese classical dance) and noh, and working in contemporary theatre. She is the Artistic Director of TomoeArts, a company that specializes in Japanese performing arts and the creation of new dance-theatre works. She is currently working on her PhD at the University of British Columbia researching avant-garde playwright and theatre creator Kishida Rio. Recent projects: performing in Kishida’s FOUR LETTERS in Tokyo; directing KAYOI KOMACHI, a new chamber opera combining noh and classical music; and creating/performing the interdisciplinary performance piece WEAVER WOMAN. Ms. Lanki will perform two dance plays, the nō-shimai Ama and Hagoromo, a Nihon Buyō, for the performance at the Philip Young Recital Hall, UVic, on Saturday evening, September 22.

Dances: nō-shimai Ama and Hagoromo

Description:

Ms. Lanki will perform two dance plays, the nō-shimai Ama and Hagoromo, a Nihon Buyō, for the performance at the Philip Young Recital Hall, UVic, on Saturday evening, September 22.

William Lee

is Associate Professor and Director of the Asian Studies Centre at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches courses on Japanese cultural history, theatre, and film. He has published a number of articles and book chapters dealing with Japanese theatre and Japanese folk performing arts, including, most recently, a chapter on premodern dramatic theory and criticism in A History of Japanese Theatre, ed. Jonah Salz (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Professor Lee has also studied and performed both kagura and the traditional comic performance art of kyōgen.

Title: When Gods Become Human, and Humans Become Gods: Masked Performance in the Folk Kagura

Abstract:

While the Japanese ritual performance art of kagura takes diverse forms, in many varieties of the so-called “folk kagura” ( sato kagura/minkan kagura) performers often don masks to play the role of local or popular deities (kami). In this way the gods are given a human form, unlike in most orthodox Shintō rituals, where the kami usually remain a mysterious, unembodied presence. The focus of this presentation, however, is not the gods per se but the performers who portray them and the effect their temporary deification has on the audience. For while the performers are locals and well known to members of the community, in the context of the kagura performance they are often able to project a vivid sense of godliness that inspires reverence.

There are, of course, commonalities here with other forms of role-playing and masked performance. An actor on stage, for example, is always and simultaneously both an actor and the role he or she plays. The same is true in other traditional Japanese performance types, including those which involve the use of masks, such as the noh theatre. In noh, however, masks are used primarily when performers (traditionally always male) represent women or ghosts. Even in the plays of the “god-noh” (kami n ō) category, it is difficult to forget that one is watching a professional performer, especially when, as is often the case, the actor first appears without a mask. In kagura, however, even though the performers are amateurs and known personally by many in attendance, audiences are more willing to forget this and accept them as gods and show them due reverence. In this presentation I shall attempt to demonstrate this unique quality of folk kagura through a selection of video clips and images drawn from my many years of documenting kagura performance.

Tom Looser

(PhD in Anthropology, U. of Chicago) is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at NYU. His areas of research include Cultural Anthropology and Japanese studies; art, architecture and urban form; new media studies and animation; and critical theory. He is the author of Visioning Eternity: Aesthetics, Politics, and History in the Early Modern Noh Theater , and has published articles in a variety of venues includingBoundary 2, Japan Forum, Mechademia,Shingenjitsu, Journal of Pacific Asia, and Cultural Anthropology.

Title: Cosmologies of Love and Nature

Abstract:

This paper assumes that the nonhuman is still in some sense a relation to the idea/category of the human. The fundamental question, then, is whether the human can operate this relation—whether the human really can open onto the nonhuman, and what the material conditions of that opening up would be. The paper will work off of reference points that are now well-known: this includes love, as an affective mode of relation that has been taken as the basis of social, political relation and transformation; Hatsune Miku as one of the emblems of a nonhuman form; and artificial intelligence as already a transcendence of human life. These elements will then be used as a means of more fundamentally questioning the ways in which we now can—or cannot—productively engage the category of the nonhuman.

Christopher Lowy

is a PhD candidate in Japanese Literature at the University of Washington. His dissertation examines the relationship between written language, script, and literature in contemporary Japanese-language literature. He is examining texts by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Inoue Hisashi, Yokoyama Yuta, Sakiyama Tami, and EnJoe Toh, among others. He has published articles and essays in literary magazines such as Eureka, and his translations regularly appear in the Genron journal of criticism. He was awarded a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, 2016–2017.

Title: A Whirlpool of Glyphs: EnJoe Toh and the Curse of Writing

Abstract:

In “Mojika,” or “A Whirlpool of Writing,” EnJoe Toh depicts the imagined experience of Yong, the fictional sculptor of the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. In one of the most striking sections, Yong, who has been charged with sculpting the enlightened form of the Emperor, is confused by the constantly shifting makeup of his character. The innermost portion of the glyph Ying 嬴 – the Emperor’s personal name – changes ever-so-slightly upon each viewing of the Emperor. It is, in a word, unstable (and thus unreadable). The realization Yong comes to, the “discovery” of the individual, is one mediated through written language. In this presentation I will discuss the relationship between EnJoe’s text and Nakajima Atsushi’s homophonous short story “Mojika,” or “The Curse of Glyphs,” the larger role of writing and script in EnJoe’s works, and the precarious role writing plays in any consideration of the non-human.

Melek Ortabasi

is Associate Professor and Director of the World Literature Program at Simon Fraser University. Her teaching and research interests include translation practice and theory, popular culture and transnationalism, and internationalism in children’s literature. Her latest book, The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio , was published in 2014 by Harvard University Asia Center. She is currently working on a comparative historiography of how children’s literature has traveled in translation. Incorporating materials primarily in Japanese, German, and English, the book is tentatively entitled “The World Republic of Childhood: Children’s Literature and Translation, 1870-1930.”

Title: Human in Spirit: Popular Visual Culture and the Republic of Supernatural Japanese Citizens

Abstract:

While folklore generally signifies premodern tradition, it has often been employed in the modern task of nation building. Expressed in a global proliferation of contemporary media adaptations, this paradox emerges most clearly in animated media. This essay explores the curious affinity of this technologically enhanced visual medium for the supernatural beings that animate Japanese folklore. From the whimsical landscapes of Studio Ghibli features to the augmented reality of Pokémon Go, Japanese visual popular culture is heavily populated by folkloric creatures. Unlike their traditional brethren, who functioned as allegorical representations of otherness, today’s supernatural citizens of Japanese popular culture act as avatars for the contemporary Japanese self in its reluctant confrontation with postmodern, postindustrial culture.

Cody Poulton

is Professor of Japanese literature and theatre in the Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Victoria, where he has taught for close to thirty years, and currently Visiting Scholar of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, UVic. Author of Spirits of Another Sort: The Plays of Izumi Kyōka (University of Michigan Press, 2001) and A Beggar’s Art: Scripting Modernity in Japanese Drama, 1900-1930 (University of Hawai’i Press, 2010), he is also co-editor of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama (2014) and editor of the forthcoming Citizens of Tokyo: Six Plays by Oriza Hirata (Seagull Books, 2018) and a translator of kabuki and modern drama for both print and stage.

Title: Where Life Ends: Hirata Oriza’s Sayonara

Abstract:

As a member since 2006 of the faculty at Osaka University Hirata Oriza has collaborated with roboticist Ishiguro Hiroshi on a number of theatrical productions using robots and androids. These productions have served both as platforms for robotics research into the dynamics of human-robotic interaction and the burgeoning field of social robotics in Japan as well as experiments in direction and dramaturgy using nonhuman agents in theatrical productions. I will focus here on their collaboration Sayonara, a short work first staged in 2010 that portrays a woman facing the end of her life in dialogue with a poetic android. Its sequel, commissioned in commemoration of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, features the android in dialogue with a serviceman sent to transport her to recite poetry as liturgy for those who died in the disaster.

Andreas Regelsberger

is Professor of Japanese Studies at the Trier University, Germany since 2014. Research and teaching areas focus on Japanese theater (especially puppet theatre and contemporary performance studies). From 2012 to 214 he was assistant professor of Japanese culture and history at Western Michigan University. His publications include: Fragmente einer Poetologie von Puppe und Stimme: Ästhetisches Schrifttum aus dem Umfeld des Puppentheaters im edozeitlichen Japan (Munich 2011) and ed. with S. Scholz-Cionca: Japanese Theatre Transcultural: German and Italian Intertwinings (Munich 2011). He also is an active dramaturge and translator for Japanese theatre productions.

Title: Puppets and automata in Edo period theatre

Abstract:

Puppet theatre (Jp. ningō jōruri and later bunraku), today considered one of the classical theatre genres of Japan was seen by contemporaries a means of mass entertainment. The puppets developed from rather simple stick and hand puppets into highly sophisticated theatre puppets that needed three puppeteers to be manipulated. They began to include mechanical gimmicks, which would allow them to open and close their eyes, move their fingers, or to morph into a demon. For a short time in the mid 18th century automata, fully automatic figures attracted the audience’s attention. In my paper I will have a look at this part of early modern puppet theatre history in Japan by having a closer look at the relation between the technical and mechanical development of puppets on stage and how these changes were reflected in the respective plays.

Jennifer Robertson

is Professor of Anthropology and the History of Art at the University of Michigan. Her seven books and over eighty articles and chapters address a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from the 17th century to the present, including nativist and social rectification movements, agrarianism, sex and gender systems and ideologies, mass and popular culture, nostalgia and internationalization, urbanism, the place of Japan in Anthropology, sexuality and suicide, theater and performance, votive and folk art, imperialism and colonialism, eugenics and bioethics, and robotics. Her publications have been translated into German, Finnish, French, Hebrew and Japanese. She offers graduate and undergraduate courses on anthropological history, theories and methods; non-western colonialisms; art, identity, and anthropology; bio-art; robot-human interaction; image-based ethnography; mass and popular cultures; ethnic diversity in Japan; sex, gender and sexuality; and Japanese culture and society, among others.
Robertson is currently writing and editing articles and books on the cultural history of Japanese colonialism, eugenics, bio-art and contemporary art, ideologies of "blood," and service robots in Japan and elsewhere. Her new book, Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation (University of California Press) was published in Fall 2017.

Title: Robots and Reincarnation: Intersections of Technology and Spirituality in Japan

Abstract:

Best known for his theory of the Uncanny Valley, the pioneer roboticist Mori Masahiro also wrote a book on the “Buddha-nature" of robots. The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer's Thoughts on Science and Religion (1974) confronts Buddhist themes such as the notion of ego as if they were engineering problems. Following the Lotus Sutra, Mori invokes a Buddhist robo-ethics, arguing that those engineers who recognize that a Buddha-nature pervades them as well as their robots are able to design "good machines ... for good and proper purposes." This paper juxtaposes Mori's ideas with the recent appearance in Japan of robot priests and robot funerals in addition to the emergence of a "New Age" Buddhism that includes the re-embodiment of robots and signals a transhumanist ideal in which reincarnation is understood as a means of extending the non-transient self in order to complete a yet unrealized mission in this life.

*Edward Scheer

is Head of School of Art and Design at UNSW, Australia. He is author, co-author and editor of more than 10 books in the area of performance and new media including most recently New Media Dramaturgy (Palgrave, 2017) with Peter Eckersall and Helena Grehan and William Yang: Stories of Love and Death with Helena Grehan (New South Press, 2016). He was President of PSi, Performance Studies international, from 2007-2011 and a member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts (2013-2015).

Title: Stelarc in the Air (The flight of the Posthuman)

Abstract:

To write about Stelarc is also to engage with robotics and with concepts such as Post-humanism, cybernetics and, especially relevant to the later work, digital culture and performance. These discourses open up the significance of his opus for a contemporary readership but there is always an aesthetic excess to his work which is not exhausted by these terms. He is as much an artist making works of art as a designer of technical systems but whose aesthetic value is never secondary to the design principles he is exploring. He is at the same time an artist deploying the most fundamental of tools, his body, in the construction of the aesthetic situation and an experience designer, experimenting with diverse platforms for embodied being in the world. So this paper will provide a diversity of frames to engage in a meaningful way with Stelarc’s multimedial practice.

Timon Screech

, Professor of the History of Art, SOAS, University of London, is the author of a dozen books in English and Japanese on the arts and cultures of the Edo Period.

Title: The Living Image

Abstract:

Since early times in East Asia there have been tales of images that come to life. The feat is attributed to the creative power of the maker. The first such stories were about dragons, that is, forms that we cannot know. Then tales were made about painted tigers, horses, or people. Commenters considered what might happen to such images. A dragon would dissipate into air, but how could a painted animal or person continue its life within the human world? Would encountering once-painted entities be thrilling or terrifying? Should they be negated, returned to the status of picture, and if so, how?

This presentation will discuss such issues in the context of the Edo Period—a time of vast picture-making in paint and print, and also a time when European mythologies of artistic production entered Japan.

Nicole Shukin

Nicole Shukin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, Canada, and member of the interdisciplinary graduate program in Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT). She is author of Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Minnesota 2009) as well as a range of articles on capitalist culturenatures that explore nonhuman animals in relationship to technologies of cinematic affect, pastoral power, biosecurity, precarity and resilience, and the cultural politics of climate change.

Title: “Unforgiving Animals: Defying the Spirit of Neoliberal Resilience after 3/11”

Abstract: Looking at how life manages to bounce back (or not) after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Fukushima involves engaging with the politics of hope in Japan, especially hope in forms of nonhuman resilience which promise to dutifully repair and restore devastated life-infrastructures. Yet what if the nonhuman not only fails to dutifully restore normalcy in the nuclear ruins but, more fractiously, appears to defy a neoliberal spirit of resilience that disasters like 3/11 awaken and even demand of the living. The exclusion zone around Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactors in Fukushima is littered with dead robots that have failed to overcome radiation and rubble in the on-going search for missing fuel rods. But it is also teeming with wild boars that have bounced back with a vengeance in the zone. Far from helping to repair and restore conditions of life in the region, the boars present a form of excessive survival that arguably challenges a neoliberal spirit of resilience which seeks to reconcile life with the deadly risks of nuclear – and other – regimes of power. Reading the wild boars in Fukushima as unforgiving animals that defy the healing or reconciling roles increasingly expected of the nonhuman is suggestive of the potential that the nonhuman can go “on strike” against the affective and material labour of reproducing the lethal dominants of capital and of the human. Indeed, the radioactive boars in Fukushima recall a long cultural history in Japan of vengeful spirits or mononoke that pursue retributive justice for ecological and social wrongs.

Doug Slaymaker

is professor of Japanese at the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on literature and art of the twentieth century, with particular interest in the literature of post-3.11 Japan, and of animals and the environment. Other research projects examine Japanese writers and artists traveling to France. He is most recently the translator of Furukawa Hideo’s Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure (Columbia University Press). He is currently a Japan foundation Fellow at Meiji University and is also completing a translation of Kimura Yusuke’s Sacred Cesium Ground and Isa’s Deluge.

Title: What the Animals do not Know

Abstract:

Non-human animals have appeared with surprising frequency in Japanese fiction following the triple disasters—earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown—of March 11, 2011. I focus on two vectors in that fiction: the representation of non-human animals, and the representation of disaster. One motivator for the experimental activity of writers may be because the fictional representation of animals gets at some of the basic issues in writing fiction, issues that have been thrown into relief in the attempts to write after 3.11, issues that push the boundaries of what is representable, or should be attempted in representation. Can one represent animal interiorities? Can one capture the reality of disaster? This presentation focuses on a number of post-3.11 works that is concerned with what the animals seem to know—that something profound has changed their landscape—and what they do not know—what that something is. How can such things be communicated, represented?

Dr Yuji Sone

is a lecturer in the Department of Media, Music, Communication, and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University in Australia. Yuji is a performance researcher, and he initially trained with the experimental theatre company Banyu-Inryoku in Japan. He teaches theatre and performance studies courses with an emphasis on praxis, in relation to cultural studies and media studies. His research has focused on the cross-disciplinary conditions of technologised performance. He is the author of Japanese Robot Culture: Performance, imagination, and modernity (2017), which examines the Japanese affinity for the robot through contemporary performing robots.

Title: Robot Shaman: Techno-mediation of life and death in 21st century Japan

Abstract:

This paper discusses media artist Etsuko Ichihara’s recent work Digital Shaman Project (since 2015). It is a conceptual art piece that suggests a new way to mourn the dead in Japanese society. Using Pepper robots, which are advanced interactive humanoids, Ichihara brings the folk religious practice of Itako into the twenty-first century. Itako are blind female shamans who act as mediums to communicate with the dead. Ichihara’s robot shaman wears a mask depicting a dead person’s face that has been generated through 3D scanning. Pepper is programmed to replicate the deceased’s vocal and gestural mannerisms. Reflecting the Buddhist belief that it takes 49 days for the spirit of the dead to travel to the next world, Ichihara’s robot Itako communicates with people for 49 days, then ceases to function. I will examine the implications of Ichihara’s work for the emergent uses of robot technology in relation to religious practice and the spiritual in Japan.

*Stelarc

is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. During the 1970s he lived and worked in Japan, developing long-term relations with artists there. He has used medical instruments, prostheses, robotics, virtual reality systems, the internet and biotechnology to engineer intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. He explores alternate anatomical architectures with augmented and extended body constructs.

Title: Phantom Flesh, Hyper Humans

Abstract:

The body and the human are unstable constructs. The dead, the near-dead, the brain dead, the yet to be born, the partially living and synthetic life all now share a material and proximal existence, with other living bodies, operational machines and executable and viral code.

We are now dissolving into circulating data streams of detached bio-data – embedded in vast machine systems of computational calculation, artificial and alien cognition. The monster is no longer the obsolete stitched up meat body, but the system that sucks the self into virtuality. What it means to be human is perhaps not to remain human at all at a time of digital contamination of the body’s microbiome.

Bodies become end-effectors of extended operational systems. Fractal Flesh. Heads are amputated and reconnected, excess limbs become accessible remote manipulators, and senses are out-sourced online. We see and hear with eyes and ears elsewhere. Bodies become hosts for multiple and remote agents. Phantom Flesh proliferates. An alternate anatomical architecture.

Phantoms become increasingly physical. Phantoms not as phantasmatic, but as phantom limbs. Phantoms flicker on and off as glitches in biological time. In the liminal spaces of proliferating Prosthetic Bodies, Partial Life and Artificial Life, the body has become a floating signifier.

The Hyper-Human is a chimera of hyper-links. Incessantly reconnecting, reconfiguring and reimagining itself. It is neither here nor there but appears and disappears all-at-once, everywhere else – scaled-up, speeded-up, performing cinematically, editing and perceiving itself by pausing, rewinding and looping into self-referentiality.

*Takayuki Tatsumi

’s major works include: Cyberpunk America (Keiso, 1988; the 1988 Japan-US Friendship Commission’s American Studies Book Prize), Full Metal Apache: (Duke UP, 2006; the 2010 IAFA Distinguished Scholarship Award), and Robot Ghosts, Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime (U of Minnesota P, 2007, co-edited with Christopher Bolton and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay). He won the 5th Pioneer Award (SFRA) in 1994 with the collaboration essay with Larry McCaffery “Towards the Theoretical Frontiers of ‘Fiction’: from Metafiction and Cyberpunk through Avant-Pop "(1993),” and the 21st Japan SF Grand Prize in 2001 with his edited anthology Japanese SF Controversies:1957-1997( Keiso, 2000).

Title: Ghosts in the City: Towards the Aesthetics of the Cyber-Picturesque

Abstract:

In order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the anime version of Akira, I would like to speculate upon the extraterritorial significance of post-apocalyptic ruins in cyberpunk, especially focusing upon the transpacific interactions among the works ranging from William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrows Parties (1993-1998) in the 1990s, Ryuji Miyamoto's photo book Kowloon Walled City and Project Itoh's post-cyberpunk masterpiece Genocidal Organ (2007).

*Tawada Yōko

is a celebrated poet, novelists, essayist and dramatist who writes in both Japanese and German. Winner of the Akutagawa Prize, the Yomiuri Prize, and the Tanizaki Prize in Japan, she is also the recipient of the Goethe Medal and the Kleist Prize in Germany.

Title: A reading from Memoirs of a Polar Bear

Abstract:

Ms. Tawada will read excerpts from Memoirs of a Polar Bear, an imaginative rendering of a polar bear living in Berlin Zoo. A profile of Tawada and her novel is given in a recent article in The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/30/magazine/yoko-tawada.html

Dr. Kristof van Baarle

Baarle is resident dramaturg with Kris Verdonck / A Two Dogs Company. He is also doctor-assistant at the University of Antwerp (BE) and teaches at Ghent University (BE). His recently finished PhD research focuses on posthumanism in the contemporary performing arts, from the perspective of the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben and the work of Kris Verdonck. Kristof has published about these topics in several articles and book chapters, among others in Performance Research and Screen Bodies, and is co-editor of Performance and Posthumanism (Palgrave Macmillan,2018, forthcoming). As a dramaturg, he also works with Michiel Vandevelde and various others. Kristof is co-editor of the Belgian performing arts journal Etcetera.

Title: ...everything has already happened. Ghosts from the future: An artistic-dramaturgical research on the convergences between the work of Samuel Beckett and Noh-theatre.

Abstract:

The work of Belgian theatre maker and visual artist Kris Verdonck is centered around the question of the blurring of the boundaries between the subject and the object, the human and the nonhuman. Objects increasingly ‘lead their own lives’ and this is one of the reasons why human subjects are increasingly objectified and dehumanized. During a four year research trajectory, Verdonck and his dramaturg Kristof van Baarle delve into two artistic sources to further feed, deepen and develop this central issue. On the one hand, the oeuvre of Samuel Beckett and on the other the Japanese noh theatre, and more particularly their potential convergences are what is at stake in this long-term study, and also in this co-presentation. Through working with musicians, robots, performers, inflatables – that is, through a practical artistic and dramaturgical research – we seek to understand where Noh and Beckett have common ground and what this common ground might be and mean, and, in turn, how it informs the state of being of these robots, performers, music, and installative structures. What do the dramaturgy and practice of Beckett and noh theatre tell us about our contemporary human condition? In an age of technological omnipresence, of populist politics and ecological catastrophe, have we all become ghosts in a performance that is actually already over – a main feature connecting Beckett and noh (Takahashi 1982)? What is a life, a being, ‘free’ from existential necessity, rendered radically unheimlich, unzeitlich – unhomely, untimely – and how to translate this into a theatrical form? In this presentation we will unpack how Beckett and noh theatre connect to each other and to the work of Verdonck and share some first findings.

Kris Verdonck

studied visual arts, architecture and theatre and this training is evident in his work. His creations are positioned in the transit zone between visual arts and theatre, between installation and performance, between dance and architecture. As a theatre maker and visual artist, he can look back over a wide variety of projects. Recent works include UNTITLED (2014), a solo creation for the Spanish dancer and performer Marc Iglesias, explores the phenomenon of the liberated figure, the performer who is thrown into theatre in a limited way as if by a mechanical construction. ISOS (2015), a 3D video-installation based on the world and characters from the apocalyptic science-fiction novels of J.G. Ballard. IN VOID (2016) is an installation circuit about human absence. Conversations (at the end of the world) delved into the work of Russian writer Danill Kharms in the context of the end of the world. Currently, Verdonck is preparing a choreographic performance in collaboration with ICK Amsterdam, Something (out of nothing), dealing with humanity’s spectral existance in an increasingly catastrophic environment. Something (out of nothing) will be the first performance created within the frame of a four-year research trajectory into the work of Samuel Beckett and noh theatre. More information can be found on his company’s website: http://www.atwodogscompany.org/en/

Title: ...everything has already happened. Ghosts from the future: An artistic-dramaturgical research on the convergences between the work of Samuel Beckett and Noh-theatre.

Abstract:

The work of Belgian theatre maker and visual artist Kris Verdonck is centered around the question of the blurring of the boundaries between the subject and the object, the human and the nonhuman. Objects increasingly ‘lead their own lives’ and this is one of the reasons why human subjects are increasingly objectified and dehumanized. During a four year research trajectory, Verdonck and his dramaturg Kristof van Baarle delve into two artistic sources to further feed, deepen and develop this central issue. On the one hand, the oeuvre of Samuel Beckett and on the other the Japanese noh theatre, and more particularly their potential convergences are what is at stake in this long-term study, and also in this co-presentation. Through working with musicians, robots, performers, inflatables – that is, through a practical artistic and dramaturgical research – we seek to understand where Noh and Beckett have common ground and what this common ground might be and mean, and, in turn, how it informs the state of being of these robots, performers, music, and installative structures. What do the dramaturgy and practice of Beckett and noh theatre tell us about our contemporary human condition? In an age of technological omnipresence, of populist politics and ecological catastrophe, have we all become ghosts in a performance that is actually already over – a main feature connecting Beckett and noh (Takahashi 1982)? What is a life, a being, ‘free’ from existential necessity, rendered radically unheimlich, unzeitlich – unhomely,

Brian White

is a PhD candidate in the University of Chicago’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Title: Japanese Science Fiction and the Autogenic Subject

Abstract:

In Tobi Hirotaka’s 2009 short story “Jisei no Yume” (translated in 2012 as “Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds”), a near-future extrapolation of Google’s text-recognition algorithms produces both the storyteller and its subject. Tobi asks us to consider the possibilities if everything humankind had ever recorded in language were collected, stored, and translated into every possible language. In other words, he presents a narrative of and by Borges’s “Total Library,” here rendered as the textual character Imajika.

This paper will read “Jisei no Yume” as an instance of a non-human (indeed, actively anti-human) model of subjectivity in the hopes of discovering a space in which the text can “speak itself.” I intend with this reading to start thinking about a methodology in which we ask what a text can say wholly independent of anthropocentric humanism, a question that has broader implications for the practice of media studies.

X. Jie Yang

, Professor, School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures, University of Calgary. He received Doctor of Letters from Kyoto University, Japan in 1989. His research mainly focuses on medieval Japanese literature, especially picture scrolls. Publications include Oni no iru kōkei (Living with Demons), Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2002; Dejitaru jinbungaku no susume (An Invitation to Digital Humanities), edited with Kazuhiko Komatsu, Hiroshi Araki, Tokyo: Bensei Shuppan, 2013; "A Miracle at Morihisa's Execution", Lovable Losers: The Heike in Action and Memory, edited by Mikael S. Adolphson & Anne Commons, University Of Hawai'i Press, 2015.

Title: They Behave Beyond Human: The Twelve Zodiac Animals in Medieval Painting

Abstract:

In medieval Japanese literary and art works, the "non-human" formed a unique genre. A relatively large number of titles, from fictional stories to picture scrolls and books, were repeatedly produced and fondly enjoyed. Among them, Scroll of Twelve Zodiac Animals (Junirui emaki) was especially attractive and full of wit.

These questions are frequently asked: What was the theme of this scroll? Where did the energy of the creation come from? How was it received by the readers? Obviously, answers have to be approached through the time and the context. This presentation attempts to start such a journey by exploring the medieval tradition in visual expression and its achievement between the authors and their readers. The digital environment rapidly developed today has provided a great means of support to make this research possible.