Visualizing Contested Memories of Wars and Desire for Peace in East Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Visualizing Contested Memories of Wars and Desire for Peace in East Asia
Stream: Art/Art History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Tomoe Otsuki, University of California, Berkeley, United States (organizer, presenter)
Hong Kal, York University, Canada (presenter)
Vicki Sung-yeon Kwon, University of Alberta, Canada (presenter)
Mina Kim, The University of Alabama, United States (presenter)
Soo-im Lee, Ryukoku University, Japan (presenter)
Brian Bergstrom, McGill University, Canada (chair, discussant)


Our panel centres on the affective images of the victims of wars in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. We will explore the questions of how these visual images represent and reflect war, what emotions they evoke, and how they create a connection between the viewer and the victims. On the one hand, we believe it is possible for visual images to compel the viewer to imagine the unimaginable suffering of the victims and form a community of memory. On the other hand, we are critical of the affective work such images generate to invoke a “universal community,” obscuring the peculiarities of each event and erasing the alterity of individual victims. Our panel points to this tension between the ethical possibility and the political exploitation of affective images of the victims of war, while considering the issue of intergenerational remembrance of cultural trauma.
Kal discusses how Korean artists seek to bear witness in the form of paintings to past traumas of the mass killing of civilians during the Korean War; Kwon delves into the issue of remembrance and apology by examining the statue symbolic of South Korea’s apology for the atrocities suffered by Vietnamese victims at the hands of Korean soldiers during the Vietnam War; Otsuki examines the political implications of centring the photographs of child victims in the representation of Japanese atomic bomb victimhood at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; Kim demonstrates new possibilities of visualizing traumatic memory and interaction between the images and the viewer through multimedia works of art; and Lee explores the notion of peace in East Asia.