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Remediation and Material Culture in an Art-themed Stamp from 1960s Japan
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Heidelberg University, Germany
In 1962, an art-themed stamp was released in Japan featuring a detail of a female dancer from an early-seventeenth-century folding screen designated as National Treasure: ‘Merrymaking under the Cherry Blossoms’ by Kano Naganobu. The stamp was assembled in a collector’s item together with an envelope printed with a photograph of the corresponding detail of the original screen, as well as the silhouette of the same dancer impressed in red ink with a custom-produced stamp. This material assembly problematizes two main issues: on the one hand, the mechanisms of art canon formation and perpetuation as they intersected with the institutional objectives of Japan Post at a time of enhanced national sentiment. Another issue is the often undiscussed material dimension of these phenomena: the practice of stamp collecting involved complex processes of reproduction and reception of works of art that complicate ideas of copy and original. The latter is particularly relevant in the context of the East Asian tradition of copying. A material culture approach to such collector’s items catalyses their meanings both diacronically and sinchronically: they encapsulate the overlapping materiality of printed media in contemporary Japan, they instigate fresh views on the initial materiality of the source image in early modern Japan, and they prefigure the interplay between authenticity and simulation in the digital age. Through its study case, this paper also shows that the process of remediation occurs outside its initial digital media context, has distinct cultural declinations and needs to accommodate the material dimension of visual media.