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Research Postgraduate Seminar

New Technology, Old Memories: The “Ghosts” in Kubota Shigeko’s Video Art

Date: 3 March 2022 (Thursday)
Time: 4:30-6:00pm
Zoom Link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/99410373665?pwd=QU1KSUNFcGo4VVJCdVBHUDJNSTVUUT09
Zoom Meeting ID: 994 1037 3665 | Password: 675270
Speaker: Karen Yuan Cen, MPhil candidate, HKU


This seminar focuses on the New York-based Japanese artist Kubota Shigeko (1937-2015) and her pioneering video art. Originally trained as a sculptor, Kubota took up newly developed video technology in the 1970s and was among the first of her generation to exploit its creative potential as an art medium. As a woman artist burdened by male dominance in the Japanese art world, she found opportunities in new technology that had not yet developed a gendered art historical discourse. In the following five decades, Kubota used video to explore innovative means to exert her presence in the male-dominated art scene. This seminar looks at how Kubota used new technology to engage with the past. She used this to articulate her position in the history of contemporary art. In her own words, she describes video as a “ghost” and asks, “Can we communicate with the dead through video?” In many of her works, she makes visible the traces of the deceased and those from her old memories. Through a close reading of selected works, I examine the diverse approaches she developed with video and how she used them to channel dialogue with the past. I highlight how her exploration might have contributed to the rise of video art at a time when video’s legitimacy as an art medium was still debatable. In addition, her work will also serve as a point of entry into a broader discussion of the intersecting histories of gender, art, and technology in Japan since the 1960s, which I will explore in future studies.

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