The Art History of Transposition

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The “global” market and its discourse on art continue to base their selection of works solely on the trends of Western European art history. For example, it is notable that in the extremely local case of “Postwar Japanese Art History,” only the Gutai group and the Mono-ha artists have been noticed by the global market and referenced in criticism and research; this is only because these artists visually imitate Western European modernist art. Is it possible to speak of an “art history” that escapes this type of global cultural imperialism while remaining liberated from specific local discourses?

This essay presents the concept of an “art history of transposition,” which is a methodology that calls attention to cases where art is born out of mutual similarities, a shared topos, and shared political situations, regardless of country and era. For example, when Taro Okamoto visited South Korea for the first time in 1964, he superimposed the form of South Korean culture—created by the harsh political situation arising from the division of the Korean peninsula —onto the culture of Okinawa under American military occupation. In contemporary South Korea, the REAL DMZ PROJECT is an art project being carried out in proximity to the demilitarized zone. This is uncannily similar to the “Don’t Follow the Wind” exhibition that was held in the exclusion zone in Fukushima following the disaster. An “art history of transposition 2011” is a genealogy of art that can be found across the specifics of time, countries, and cultures.