The museum used as a promotional logo a helmet and armor from the Hosokawa collection, perhaps banking on the ensemble’s reminiscence of Darth Vader. The image may also have sparked local memories of the 1985 “Spectacular Helmets of Japan,” one of the most popular shows in the museum’s history.
The Web “intervention” by a local artists’ collective called Asians Art Museum, whose members remain anonymous, tricked out the samurai helmet with Mickey Mouse ears, to deride the museum’s stab at Disney-like mass appeal.
Their redesign also added a human nose, alluding to hyperlinked text that explains a practice carried out by 16th century Japanese invaders of Korea. To certify their subjection of the Korean population, the samurai cut off noses en masse and shipped them home packed in salt.
Behind the parody’s Mickey Mouse helmet rises a mushroom cloud, insinuating a grim linkage between the samurai ethos, modern Japan’s imperial hubris – which justified the atomic bombings from an American strategic perspective – and America’s ongoing effort to steer world affairs by military means.
Further passages in the Web intervention expose unseemly samurai practices such as pederasty and misogynistic violence.
To the riposte that they minimize the glory of the artworks displayed, the parodists write in a blog post: “we have great appreciation for objects in the Hosokawa collection; we’re simply arguing … that to deny… context from a warrior culture such as this one, particularly for an audience largely unfamiliar with that history, is to effectively aestheticize violence, knowingly, in a time of war.”
I’m sorry, but this is just being a dick. I’m sure if I wanted, I could deconstruct the Korea galleries of the Met or Smithsonian in terms of slavery, peasant exploitation, Confucian misogyny and the mass slaughter of Catholics. In fact, you could play this game with the art of just about any nation.
(HT to reader)