Friday, January 8, 2016

Panel: Kimono Wednesdays: A Conversation @ MFA

Sign held by counterprotester in support of Kimono Wednesdays
July 15, 2015

Please see my original post for background: Monet's La Japonaise Kimono Wednesdays at the MFA.

Update 2/1316: Video of the panel is now available on the MFA's YouTube channel. I am working on my response and hope to have it posted in another week or so.

Update 2/4/16: I just received word from the MFA that although the Remis Auditorium is sold out, they will have an overflow room. This information will be posted to the event page shortly.
A limited number of first-come-first-serve free tickets for a live-feed in the Museum’s Riley Seminar Room will be available starting at 12:30pm on Sunday in-person at the MFA. For MFA members, proceed to the Remis Box Office to pick up a live-feed ticket. For non-members, visit any ticket desk for a free admission ticket and then proceed to the Remis Box Office to pick up a live-feed ticket. 
Update 2/3/16: Tickets now seem to be available again. ... and they're sold out again.
Update 1/30/16: The panel is now "Sold Out."

Yesterday the MFA announced that they will be hosting "Kimono Wednesdays: A Conversation", a panel discussion on the Kimono Wednesdays protests of last summer and the issues raised by the protests (Facebook event page here, but make sure you register for tickets on their website). The panel will be recorded and posted to their YouTube channel a few days after the event.

Last year The Boston Globe reported that it would be a symposium "developed with input from MFA audiences, on art history and traditions of representation." I had been told that it would present the topic of representation broadly and would not be focused only on Asian art and that the MFA was planning the event on their own. They apparently decided to go in a different direction. Here is a statement I received from the MFA:
"The MFA recognized that in order to foster an inclusive and open dialogue around the issues raised by “Kimono Wednesdays,” all perspectives needed to be welcome, including those critical of the MFA such as Decolonize Our Museums (DOM). DOM and the MFA held in-person meetings, phone calls, and e-mail exchanges throughout the fall and early winter, with DOM advising the MFA on speaker choice and the event’s structure. Additionally, input was sought from other internal and external individuals and communities." – Jasmine Hagans, Curator of Lectures, Courses, and Concerts, Museum of Fine Arts
Those who have been following the story since the beginning will recognize the names of three of the panelists: Dr. Elena Tajima Creef and Xtina (Christina) Huilan Wang were on the AARW/NAPAWF panel last September (the promised audio recording and transcript are not available but I wrote about it here Update 1/28/16: audio recording is now available without transcript) and Ryan Wong was on the Hyperallergic panel in Brooklyn last October (archived here).

Kimono Wednesdays: A Conversation

Date & Time
Sunday, February 7, 2016
1:30 - 3:30pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium (Auditorium 161)
465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115

Admission is free but tickets must be reserved. The auditorium seats 380. Note that if you order online you will be required to set up a login on the MFA's website. If you don't want to do that you can also order by phone or in person.

Moderator: Elena Tajima Creef, professor of women’s and gender studies, Wellesley College
Jasmine Hagans, curator of lectures, courses, and concerts
Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director
Reiko Tomii, independent scholar; co-director, PoNJA-GenKon
Xtina Huilan Wang, Decolonize Our Museums
Ryan Wong, writer and visiting scholar at New York University’s A/P/A Institute

Last summer, the MFA offered programming focused around Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise,” with the goal of exploring the painting with visitors, as it documents both Monet’s interest in Japanese art and his reaction to the fad of “Japonisme” in Paris. Reproduction kimonos made in Japan for a Japanese audience were available for visitors in Boston to try on, an experience intended to engage them both with the garment and Monet’s rendering of it. The framing of the event through a Western lens sparked protest, counter-protest and much conversation and debate about issues including Orientalism, racialized iconography, institutional racism, representation of minority groups, and cultural appropriation.

How can institutions such as the MFA be more accountable to their publics? Who speaks for whom? Following an hour-long panel discussion, moderated by Elena Creef and featuring Xtina Huilan Wang, Reiko Tomii, and Ryan Wong, we invite you to join us in an informal dialogue: we want to hear your opinions and thoughts. We invite you to critically shape this conversation with all comments, ideas, and questions welcome.

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  1. "How can institutions such as the MFA be more accountable to their publics?" Huh?

    I'm nisei and I was fine with the thing. It was from NHK for pete's sake. If anyone, I feel like the French could have more to complain about, but I didn't hear anything from them.

    1. I take that sentence to be an acknowledgement that the MFA accepts that they let down a segment of the public with their Kimono Wednesdays programming. Though as far as I understood it from observing the protests, reading the commentary online, and talking to people and the MFA, it was only a small minority of Asian Americans and allies (mainly white) who were angry with the programming. Many (though not all) JAs and Japanese supported KW with the Japanese being more likely to support it, of course. I think NHK's involvement was key in that though even if the MFA had come up with it all on their own I imagine most Japanese would have still supported it since they don't have a conception of the whole "white supremacy" framework.

      I talked to one Frenchman and a French American who I believe may have grown up in France or spent time there. Neither were upset by it. Jean-Noël Lafargue told me:

      "Even if I'm french, I don't feel like owning Monet's art, you know, it belongs to the whole humanity."

      Which I thought pretty well summed up how we should approach sharing art from our own cultures with people from other cultures.

  2. Hi Keiko,

    I am interested in reading your response to the panel discussion. Do you know how much longer until you are finished?

    1. Hi beneficii!

      I'm not sure but it's going to be a while. Having some housing chaos right now so I don't think I'll be able to finish until that's resolved. I'm also doing far more research than I had planned on and still not done talking to everyone.

    2. Gotcha. Anyway, I do appreciate your work and I think it's interesting to read up on.

    3. Thanks! Will let you know when it's up.