This exhibition is a satellite exhibition to the major exhibition, Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia at MOA from May 9 to October 9, 2017. The satellite exhibition at Irving K. Barber Learning Centre is a display of Asian materials from the Asian Library and the Rare Book and Special Collections. This exhibition is displayed at the second floor foyer of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from Monday, May 1 to Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
This innovative exhibition explores how words mediate our first encounters with different cultures when they appear incomprehensibly ‘all Greek’, or as the French say, ‘du Chinois’. Regardless of how globalized our image-world might seem, languages and scripts continue to refer to particular cultural locations. If we are unable to read them, however, written words present a purely visual encounter. The exhibition examines the cultural significance and artistic representations of Asian ‘word’ and ‘writing’ by focusing on its visual and material presence. We leave traces of ourselves throughout life. Words, whether spoken, written, imagined or visualized, are traces unique to humans. Some words disappear while others remain only in memory or leave physical traces as writing or text. These traces are the theme of this exhibition. Writing, especially calligraphy, has been revered as an aesthetic form, and has played an important social and political role in diverse Asian traditions ranging from Buddhist texts in Pali to Islamic and Chinese calligraphy. This tradition of scripting continues to have an impact on contemporary artists as well. By treating words themselves as material culture, not merely as texts, this unique exhibition focuses on writing as an anthropological undertaking and invites us to reconsider our relationship with words, image, and objects. Is calligraphy ethnographic or art?
Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura
This exhibition is developed from two previous exhibits curated by Nakamura, which are based on over 15 years of research on contemporary Japanese calligraphy (Ephemeral but Eternal Words: Traces of Asia, Canberra, Australia 2010 and Traces of Time, Traces of Words, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2011). Anthropology has historically neglected the study of literate societies, and this neglect is reflected in the limited collection of written objects in anthropological museum collections. MOA is no exception but has some items. With an aim of challenging the boundaries between art, artifact, writing and text, the exhibition will consist of loaned items from other institutions, private collections and/or artists or new commissions in addition to using items from the MOA and UBC library collections.
April Liu is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow for Asia at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC. She completed her PhD in art history at the University of British Columbia in 2012, with a specialization in Chinese art history of the late imperial to contemporary period.
Since 2011, Liu has worked as an instructor in the Critical and Cultural Studies Department at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, teaching courses on Asian art, visual culture, and global modernities. Her current research interests include Chinese print culture, contemporary Asian art, and the visualization of heritage and memory amongst Asian diasporas.