Tag Archives: Giant Robot

Beaubourg 268: Understanding Contemporary East Asian Nihilism

17 Jan

beaubourg 268

Understanding Contemporary East Asian Nihilism
MW 1:10-2:30
Maxi Kim
Office Hours: Wed 3-4
 San Francisco
Email: maximuskim@hotmail.com

“When Bertolt Brecht saw a Japanese mask of an evil demon,
he wrote how its swollen veins and hideous grimaces ‘all betake /
what an exhausting effort it takes / To be evil.’ The same holds
for violence which has any effect on the system.”
-Slavoj Zizek

Course Summary

This course is designed to explore a certain nihilistic dimension in contemporary East Asia – the hikikomori phenomenon in Japan, the pitilessness in New Korean Cinema, the increasing influence of guangchang giant malls in China, etc, etc – through its art, texts, and films. We will begin by discussing issues of violence, utopia, and “evil” as they relate to the disavowed ghosts that haunt East Asia: North Korean totalitarianism, the psychic deadlocks discernible in otaku culture, the specter of the revolutionary Chinese future from the first sentence of The Communist Manifesto. In Jonathan Romney’s May 2006 Artforum article on the South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, Romney makes a series of observations about Park’s oeuvre. His stories evoke “absurdity, futility, inevitability: Park’s characters are, as it were, always destined to shoot themselves in the head, and although it will always be the right head-the one that hurts-it will also be the wrong one, for all action in Park’s universe is doomed to catastrophe.” It is precisely against this background that this course will pay particular attention to the nihilistic moments when the Absolute appears in all its “absurdity, futility, inevitability:” from Park’s last man who discovers that familial piety is an illusion, to Kim Jong-il’s obscene familial investment in the figure of the Leader; from the extremely fragile cognitive mapping cultivated by Takashi Murakami’s Tokyo Girls, to the subversion of the cyborg-comic mode of existence guaranteed by Giant Robot; in all of these examples, we will hopefully see how the implicit reference to some traumatic kernel keeps the dream of a utopian universe alive.

Suggested Texts
Michael Zielenziger, Shutting out the sun: how Japan created its own lost generation
Kim Jong Il, On the Art of the Cinema
Dai Jinhua, Cinema and Desire: Feminist Marxism and Cultural Politics in the Work of Dai Jinhua
Ryu Murakami, Piercing
Banana Yoshimoto, NP
Chun Sue, Beijing Doll
Guy Delisle, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Hyok Kang, This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood

Course Requirements
– Faithful attendance / meetings and office hours negotiable
– Regular weekly readings
– Take-home Midterm Creative Project / Essay
– Take-home Final Creative Project / Essay

General Policies
1. Attendance: Absences may be offset with meetings and office hours
2. Deadlines: Creative assignments are due at the beginning of workshops. Constructive criticisms only; the group will not tolerate personal attacks. Workshops will not accept any papers more than one week late.
3. Format: All essays must be typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins, paginated and stapled (please do not use folders or report covers). Feel free to use MLA format as outlined in MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (fifth edition).
4. Office hours: All students are greatly encouraged to visit me during my office hour throughout the quarter. If you are unable to visit me at this time, please feel free to contact me so we may arrange an alternate time to meet.

Schedule
2/22 Shutting out the Sun; after class optional screening of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Bright Future (2003)
2/24 Shutting out the Sun; after class optional screening of Tekkonkinkreet (2007)
3/1 Workshop
3/3 Workshop
3/8 On the Art of the Cinema; after class optional screening of Paprika (2007)
3/10 On the Art of the Cinema; after class optional screening of The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)
3/15 On the Art of the Cinema; Workshop
3/17 Workshop
3/22 Cinema and Desire
3/24 Cinema and Desire
3/29 Piercing
3/31 Piercing
4/5 Piercing & NP; Midterm due
4/7 NP
4/12 NP & optional workshop
4/14 Beijing Doll & optional workshop
4/19 Beijing Doll
4/21 Pyongyang & This is Paradise!
4/26 Pyongyang & This is Paradise!
4/28 Workshop
5/3 Final paper