CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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KONDO, Takako
Question of Transparency: Whereabouts of Translational Dissonances in World Art History

Session 7 Translation and Change

Leiden University, The Netherlands


Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, establishing world art history has been urged by a growing critical awareness towards the West-centrism in the discipline of art history. Although this new art history strives to transpose from an excluding mode of a disciplinary undertaking to an inclusive practice to embrace artistic productions from “non-Western” countries and regions, the Western notion of “art” as the underlying conceptual premise has unchangeably been deployed. In this paper, Takako Kondo takes issue with the extended deployment of the notion of “(Western) art” to artistic productions from Japan as ideology.

In world art history in the field of contemporary art, the notion of what Kondo calls “contemporary art ideally pertaining to Japan” becomes constructed as a “Japanese version of ‘contemporary art.’” She argues that it generates through a homogenizing scheme provided by “the regime of translation” as Naoki Sakai brings forward. Through translation, a Japanese term 美術 [bijutsu] is presupposed as an equivalence of the term “art” in English, even before it is addressed. Thereby, a conceptual and epistemological incommensurability that 美術 [bijutsu] bears becomes unperceivable. In order to find a way to resist the regime of translation, Kondo examines the historical background of how the Japanese term was coined in the Meiji era, and seeks to expose the translational fissure between 美術 [bijutsu] and “(Western) art.” 

KONDO, Takako

Takako Kondo is a Ph.D candidate at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) of Leiden University in the Netherlands. Currently, she is also engaged in as an international collaborative researcher of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto, Japan. A native of Tokyo, she holds an master’s degree in fine arts from Tokyo University of the Arts. In the Netherlands, she obtained an Master of Arts in Art History with a specialization in modern and contemporary art, and as well as an Master of Arts cum laude in Art Studies from the University of Amsterdam. As an advisor, interpreter, and translator, she has been involved with various projects on contemporary art from Japan in the Netherlands. Her dissertation entitled “Art beyond Japan: Contemporary Art in the Politics of Translation” is a cultural-political investigation of knowledge production of “contemporary Japanese art” since 1945.