In Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868), the growth of urban audiences and new popular entertainments from kabuki theater to travel tourism developed in tandem with new printing technologies. This resulted in the rise of new forms of visual culture—including color woodblock prints and printed textiles—that could be mass produced, transformed, and consumed.
Subsequently, photography and electronic media have fostered the global spread of Japanese popular visual culture, including manga, anime, cosplay, and subcultural fashion. This spread across different technologies, eras, and cultures has produced an incredible diversity of material—reproductions, appropriations, reverse-importations, parodies, remixes, and tributes. At the same time, the central themes and motifs—sports, fashion, and fighting, along with fantasies of all kinds—have remained remarkably consistent.
These themes and media technologies are integrally linked with the human body: as subject, maker, performer, viewer, and consumer. Bodies represented in 18th-century prints, 19th-century photographs, and 20th-century anime cels are seen taking similar actions, from gazing in mirrors to exchanging blows. These bodies can be read variously as objectified or self-actualized; as violated, celebrated, or liberated; as objects of pure, popular consumption or as nuanced critiques of consumption itself.
Guest curators Christopher Bolton, Professor of Comparative and Japanese Literature, Panalee Maskati ’20, Eron Rauch, artist and critic, Diana Tolin, World Cosplay Summit Alumna and Coordinator, Wei (Maggie) Wu, MA ’19, with Lisa Dorin, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Contemporary Art
Watch videos of the artists and curators here.
Download the exhibition publication here.
News & Press
Beatrice Moyers, Professor Bolton and Minneapolis College of Art and Design professor discuss visual culture and cosplay, Williams Record, February 16, 2022
William Jaeger, Japanese anime cross-currents at Williamstown exhibit, Times Union, February 1, 2022
Paul Joseph, 7 events to visit in Massachusetts this February, New England Magazine, January 19, 2022
Christopher Marcisz, ‘Repro Japan’ examines technology’s lasting impact on Japanese popular culture, Berkshire Eagle, January 13, 2022
‘Repro Japan’ Exhibition On View At WCMA, iBerkshires.com, December 10, 2021
Yuchan Kim, Review: ‘Repro Japan’ examines Japan’s contributions to pop culture, Williams Record, November 2, 2021