“Should Museums Welcome Parody?”

15 01 2012

"Should Museums Welcome Parody? Lords of the Samurai: The Legacy of a Daimyo Family," by Morgan Pitelka.  Early Modern Japan, vol. 19: 2011That’s a question posed by scholar Morgan Pitelka in a review of the book Lords of the Samurai: The Legacy of a Daimyo Family published in the journal Early Modern Japan in 2011.

The book itself was published by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and accompanied the same Lords of the Samurai exhibit which inspired our critical intervention.

The review explicates cultural politics otherwise elided, duly noting the issues raised in the rich dialogue generated by the intervention.

As long as museum exhibitions and catalogs are not subject to the same processes of peer review and academic criticism as other forms of scholarship, they should be open to—and indeed welcome—informal and if needed anonymous critiques of the sort orchestrated by Majime Sugiru and his band of merry artist-activists. Because in the end, the complicated and at times heated conversation about history, identity, and representation that can be traced through the websites, interventions, blogs, and even radio shows related to the Lords of the Samurai exhibition adds up to one of the more significant and compelling English-language critiques—albeit in the form of online hypertext—of the politics of museum displays of Japanese culture.

A pdf of the entire review is available here.

Museum still simmers 9 months later

23 05 2010

LA Times logo

As reported in today’s (May 23, 2010) LA Times, our intervention has left a lasting impression on the Asian Art Museum’s director Jay Xu:

However, mention of last year’s public brouhaha around the same time sends him simmering.

When their “Lords of the Samurai” exhibition opened, a guerrilla collective launched a spoof website criticizing its promotion of the “gentleman warrior myth,” as well as the exotic fantasy of the East . . . (Read full article here) Read the rest of this entry »

‘East Meets West’ at City College on May 4

29 04 2010
East Meets West at CCSF

Click for PDF of Presenter Series schedule

Our communications director Majime Sugiru (asiansart.org) will be appearing at a speaker event at City College of San Francisco on Tuesday May 4, along with UC Santa Cruz professor emerita Judy Yung, starting at 11am.

Sugiru will present a talk “East Meets West: Undoing ‘The Oriental’ through Socially Engaged Art,” and Yung will speak about her forthcoming book Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America.

CCSF Rosenberg Library

Click for map


CCSF Ocean Campus

Rosenberg Library, Room 304

Tuesday May 4,

11am – 12pm  Majime Sugiru

12pm – 1pm  Judy Yung

FREE and open to the public

google map


Public Lecture at UC Berkeley on March 9

2 02 2010

At the Institute of East Asian Studies

Institute of East Asian Studies“Lord It’s the Samurai: Socially Engaged Art and the Cultural Production of Orientalist Hysteria”

DATE:    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TIME:    4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

PLACE:    IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor (Fulton/Oxford @ Kittredge: map)

FORMAT:    Lecture

SPONSORS:    Center for Japanese Studies

Event Description

Majime Sugiru serves as communications director for the Asians Art Museum, a guerrilla art collective that creates public and online ‘cultural interventions’ as a means of challenging dominant (mis)representations of Asian visual culture in the Bay Area. Their latest project integrates Japanese Studies scholarship with art in a parody of last summer’s blockbuster “Lords of the Samurai” exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Read the rest of this entry »

How we made “Not Art”

24 11 2009

By Majime S.

[This is a follow up to the preceding blog entry:  Censored by de Young Museum]

[Addendum added Wed 10:43am 11/25:  see below]

It’s come to our attention that the museum’s line is basically that what we installed was not what had been accepted by the jury, and that serves as justification for all that followed.

Contract. (Click to enlarge)

However, we followed museum protocol to a tee, frequently communicating proposed changes to them, all of which were met with approval.  The contract I signed with the museum states “if any changes occur before the show, you must contact the exhibition designer,” which is exactly what I did at every major step of the creative process, and at no point along the way were any red flags raised.

For those interested in the process, here’s how it went. Read the rest of this entry »

Censored by de Young Museum

23 11 2009

[UPDATE 11/24/09:  Please go here for our expanded story and lots of pictures.]

[UPDATE  June 2011:  This project has been detailed in a new book, The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First Century Museum, edited by Janet C. Marstine, in a chapter on “Museum Censorship” by Christopher B. Steiner .]

By Majime Sugiru

At the event we announced in our previous blogpost at the de Young Museum last Friday night, our art work was CENSORED by administrators at the de Young Museum, working in concert with their counterparts at the Asian Art Museum.

Consider the following:

1.  This was an open call juried show.  Our work was selected by the de Young’s jury, and I was invited to show our work there.  Six weeks passed between the time of the invite, and the day of the show.  During that time there was no indication from the de Young of any problem with our work.

The whole point of our submitting this project to show in a one-night art event at this museum was to be able to present “institutionally sanctioned institutional critique,” and once approved, that’s how we promoted it. We were impressed that they chose to invite us because we thought it showed a real openness to being part of a discourse around issues of representation and museum practice and an admirable willingness to be play a constructive role in honest civic dialogue on the part of a major city-funded museum.

So we thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Critic Kenneth Baker’s review

22 09 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“A new genre in contemporary art, usually called ‘institutional critique,’ got started in the 1960s. It often takes dry, strident forms, as the term may suggest. But not in the case of ‘Lord It’s the Samurai,’ an unusually inventive online critical parody of the Asian Art Museum’s “Lords of the Samurai” exhibition, which closed over the weekend.”  Read more.

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