Out of sight: surrealism and photography in 1930s Japan

Stojkovic, J. 2013. Out of sight: surrealism and photography in 1930s Japan. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design https://doi.org/10.34737/8z1q4

TitleOut of sight: surrealism and photography in 1930s Japan
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsStojkovic, J.

"There is not a country in the world where the Surrealist voice found a faster response than Japan. From its origin (1924, date of the first Manifesto), until the war, there was no Surrealist activity in Europe that was not almost immediately reflected upon.", Breton, André ([1959] 2008). En guise de préface à l’anthologie surréaliste de Tokyo. In: Breton, André; Hubert, Étienne-Alain (et al.), Ouvres completes IV: Écrits sur l’art et autres textes. Paris: Gallimard, p. 1155. Regardless of André Breton’s insistence on how there was no Surrealist activity that did not have a response in Japan, the knowledge of Surrealist photography practised in the country during the decade between 1930 and 1940 remains ‘out of sight’ of the existing scholarship until the present day. Therefore, this thesis brings to the fore the significance of this practice, encircled by the multifaceted relations between Surrealism, photography and 1930s Japan, asking how can its historical condition be altered and written into the existing field of knowledge. Emerging and developing at a time of political oppression and military campaigning that led Japan into the Pacific War in 1941, Surrealist photography of this decade is an important case study into how photography can perform a critical role in visualising new and different strands of thought and action. As this photography was practised outside of a single Surrealist group, it played such a role by equally remaining ‘out of sight’ of the state censorship and maintaining a position in the marginalised space of the illustrated press. Such a position outside of a formal Surrealist group and on the margins of Japanese society is affirmed in this thesis through the notion of minor literature, characteristic for its deterritorialised, collective and immanently political character. These three defining characteristics enable construction of a minor historical framework through which Surrealist photography in Japan of the 1930s can be considered as of significant relevance to the discursive fields of Surrealism and History of Japanese Art. To argue for such relevance, this thesis is based on archival research of over a hundred photographs and offers a close reading of the main texts published with regard to Surrealist photography in the decade. It shows how regardless of its unorthodox position, Surrealist photography in 1930s Japan mobilised an extensive number of practitioners around the country, in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, and how they acted as a subversive force to the homogenised visual culture from within all the major categories of photographic practice developing in the decade.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.34737/8z1q4

Related outputs

Performance in Print: Channeling Tōmatsu Shōmei’s NO.541
Ross, J. and Stojkovic, J. 2018. Performance in Print: Channeling Tōmatsu Shōmei’s NO.541. Photography and Culture. 11 (2), pp. 181-196. https://doi.org/10.1080/17514517.2018.1467087

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