Dealing with Disasters through Art: Japanese Artists and Their Strategies

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 17 November, 2022
6:00pm GMT - 7:00pm GMT

Image: With the permission of the National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura, Japan


Online lecture, via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
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Professor Hans Bjarne Thomsen (Section for East Asian Art, University of Zurich)

About the Talk

The main focus of my talk is to show how art responds to disasters. Japan has been exposed to all kinds of disasters over the past centuries, including earthquakes, tsunamis, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, catastrophic fires, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, world wars, and so on. I would like to explore how Japanese artists have responded to such events and how art can sometimes dramatize catastrophes, make them easy to digest, filter them through humor and other emotions, and even help heal trauma and pain. Over the centuries and into the present, Japanese artists have responded by creating a wide range of innovative solutions for dealing with disasters.

About the Speaker

Hans Bjarne Thomsen was born in Japan and spent his youth in Japan and in his native Denmark. He received his Ph.D. in Japanese art and archaeology from Princeton University and taught at the University of Chicago before becoming Chair of East Asian Art History at the University of Zurich in 2007. He has published widely and worked closely with a number of museums. For the current year 2022, he co-curated the Surimono exhibition in Geneva and the exhibition on Japanese and Chinese art at the ETH, and co-edited the Linien aus Ostasien: Japanische und chinesische Kunst auf Papier (Imhof, English and German versions, 2022) and the China and The West: Reconsidering Chinese Reverse Glass Painting (Brill, 2022). In 2019 he received the Order of the Rising Sun for furthering the cultural bonds between Switzerland and Japan.


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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.