September 2022 Message from the Acting Director

As we begin the new academic year, I would like to highlight some key events that the Sainsbury Institute has been involved in over the end of summer, as well as announce some new initiatives and events to look forward to starting from September.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself as I step in as the Sainsbury Institute’s Acting Director for 2022/23, for the time that Professor Simon Kaner is taking academic leave to focus on his research and publication on the Shinano River Project. My name is Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer, and I joined the Sainsbury Institute in 2018 as a lecturer in Japanese arts and visual cultures. My field of specialisation is postwar and modern Japanese calligraphy and avant-garde art, and you might have had a chance to get an insight into my work during our last Third Thursday Lecture in July, which was based on my recently published book Bokujinkai: Japanese Calligraphy and the Postwar Avant-Garde (Brill, Japanese Visual Culture Series 19, 2020). I have also been involved in launching the MA in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies with UEA in 2020 as a course director, and am now looking forward to welcoming our third cohort in a couple of weeks.

With August being a quieter month on campus, research activities turned to travel and online programming. Remaining mindful of the continuing COVID-related restrictions in Japan and across the world, we have been very grateful to be able to reconnect with partners and friends this summer. Starting from 1st August, our Online Summer Programme entered its third year, with colleagues Christopher Hayes and Oliver Moxham running a series of panel talks, networking events and livestream tours of tourist sites from Japan, focussing on the theme of  ‘Tourism and Heritage in Post-Lockdown Japan’. Professor Simon Kaner and Dr Ryoko Matsuba have also been spending time in Japan, with busy schedules working on their research projects and visiting partners and friends where possible – you can read more about some of Professor Kaner’s activities in this issue. I was also very lucky to resume my research activities, which were put on hold by the pandemic, and to reconnect with partners in the United States. 

Professor Simon Kaner visited The Nagawa Town Obsidian Museum.

This summer we also launched our Sainsbury Institute Undergraduate Essay Prize in Japanese Art History, and in this issue you can read an interview with Jiwoo Han, the winner of our inaugural prize. Jiwoo Han’s work merges visual analysis and psychology while looking at the legacy of a leading postwar Japanese photographer, Tōmatsu Shōmei. Many congratulations to Jiwoo Han and we are very proud to be supporting the new generation of scholars of Japanese arts.  

Turning from the past academic year to the next one, we are very excited about the future projects it will bring. We are grateful to the Ishibashi Foundation for generously supporting our Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures research initiative in which we will be taking the Sainsbury Institute’s research to a more digital focus, and in a series of pilot projects and workshops experiment with the ways in which digital tools and cutting-edge computer technology can assist in surveying, analysing, researching, and promoting Japanese arts. From 3D modelling to video archiving interviews and VR, our academics will be exploring new possibilities of employing methods of digital art history to research and scholarship of Japanese arts, learning from the resilience of the pandemic but also looking into the future era of information technology in the humanities. In the coming months, we will be updating you more about these exciting new projects and ideas that we are developing.

Dr Ryoko Matsuba helped Dr Kaneko Takaaki, Art Research Centre, Ritsumeikan University to digitise over 400 hangi woodblocks, previously owned by Ito Kyūkodō in Ueda city, Nagano during her time in Japan this summer.

I also am thrilled to share that this month a research group, led by SISJAC’s Dr Andy Hutcheson, is undertaking excavations and surveying at Arminghall Henge as part of the Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project. We are grateful for the overwhelmingly positive response we recently received following our call for volunteers in our last e-bulletin and to everyone who is taking part in the project. From henges in Norfolk to those in the South West, our next e-bulletin issue will also take a closer look at the upcoming exhibition ‘Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan’, opening at Stonehenge from 30th September 2022. Next month, we also look forward to the conference ‘Crosscurrents of Courtly Exchange’ related to the exhibition Japan: Courts and Culture, arranged by Royal Collection Trust in collaboration with the Sainsbury Institute. We will be announcing further details of this very soon so be sure to check back on our website for more information over the coming weeks.

This month, after a break in August, we look forward to restarting our Third Thursday Lecture series with a talk by Helen McCarthy which will focus on the exciting world of anime and manga fanzines.

I hope many of you will be able to join us for one of our online or in-person activities in September! With warm wishes for a productive and motivated start of the new academic year.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Acting Director

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