What’s on in February

February is always busy, the fierce end of summer in the southern hemisphere (weather wise!) and the prelude to teaching and other commitments of the University year…  I’ll be hanging out next week at the Spectres of Evaluation conference in Melbourne (do say hello if you’re there!), but here’s a few other events of interest being held in Australia and elsewhere throughout the next month:

Cultures of Sense, Cultures of Movement Conference

Jointly organised but the IAG Cultural Geography Study Group, the Australian National University School of Sociology and the Canberra New Critical Theory Group.
The Australian National University, Canberra
3-4 February 2014

Recent work in has sought to explore how it is through relations of sense and movement that human and non-human bodies, objects and places are created and transform. From the sensing and moving body at the heart of the ‘affective turn’, to the role that sense and movement play in the aesthetic appreciation of spaces, cultures and cultural activities, our lifeworlds are beset by relations of dynamism and adynamism, sense and nonsense that demand our critical attention.

Contemporary Publics International Symposium

Persona, Celebrity, Publics Research Group,
Deakin University, Victoria, Australia
24-25 February 2014

Researchers in media and communication, cultural studies, creative arts and visual ethnography, journalism and public relations, architecture and urban design; postgraduate students, educators, and emerging career researchers, are invited to attend a major international symposium held at Deakin University’s Burwood Campus

Non-presenting registrations close on 31 January 2014 (today!)
Further information here
Registration here

The College Art Association (CAA) 102nd Annual Conference

12-15 February 2014

Public Art Dialogue is again sponsoring a number of sessions at the CAA conference, including:

  • Public Art and its Role in Placemaking from an International Perspective

    14 February 2014, 12:30-2 pm
    Chairs: Marisa D. Lerer, University of Denver; Norie Sato, independent artist
    Speaker: Jack Becker, Forecast Public Art

  • Vandalism, Removal, Relocation, Destruction: The Dilemma of Public Art’s Permanence

    15 February 2014, 9.30am-12pm
    Chair: Erika Doss (University of Notre Dame)
    Yankees, Automobiles, and Other Hazards: Shattered Monuments and the Problem of Confederate Memory, Sarah Beetham (University of Delaware)
    Marking Memory: Ambiguity and Amnesia in the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews in Prague, Jenelle Davis (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
    Maintaining Problematic Public Art, Christine Young-Kyung Hahn (Kalamazoo College)
    Distant Stars, Black Holes, and Burned Out Sculptures: Media Obsolescence and the Trouble with Public Art, Julia E. Marsh (independent scholar)
    The Sordid Pasts of Public Art and How We Go About Protecting Them, Michele Bogart (State University of New York at Stony Brook)

Other CAA sessions of interest include:

  • The Countermonument: Thirty Years Later

    14 February 2014, 9.30am-12pm
    Chairs: Mechtild Widrich ( ETH Zurich) & Kirk E. Savage (University of Pittsburgh)
    Als Vençuts: A Precarious and Massive (Counter) Monument
, Remei Capdevila-Werning (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
    Against this Monument: Opposition to Designs for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
, Karen A. Franck (New Jersey Institute of Technology)
    Memorializing Civil War History?, 
Laura H. Hollengreen (Georgia Institute of Technology)
    Monument to Cold War Victory
, Stamatina Gregory (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
    Discussant: Patricia C. Phillips (Rhode Island School of Design)

  • Ethereal Permanence: The Lasting Legacy of Temporary Public Sculpture

    15 February 2014, 2.30-5pm
    Chairs: Brian E. Hack & Caterina Y. Pierre (Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York)
    Innovation and Inspiration: The Lasting Legacy of John J. Boyle’s Sculptural Program at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair in Karl Bitter’s Spirit of Transportation, 
Lacey Baradel (University of Pennsylvania)
    Material Constraints, Cultural Politics, and the American West: American Sculpture in Fin-de-siècle Paris, 
Emily C. Burns (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
    Monumental Sculptor: The Remington We Scarcely Know
, Karen Y. Lemmey (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
    Ephemeral Memories: The Case of Eight Temporary Monuments for the Festive Reentry of the Belgian Royal Family in Brussels in 1918, 
Leen Engelen (Leuven University)

Loitering with Intent – A Feast of Research

5-7 March 2014
Free registration.

Stockholm University of the Arts and the Society for Artistic Research invite artists and others interested in the field for an engaging exchange on research in the arts. During more than two days we will open a space to discuss, experience and share presentations and reflections about knowledge emerging from arts practices. One focus will be on artistic research education. With this feast we will celebrate the rich unfolding of research in the arts. Välkomna!

Invited artists include: Florian Dombois, Kristina Hagström-Ståhl, Paul Landon, Brita Lemmens, Tero Nauha, Poste Restante, Michael Schwab, Koen Vanmechelen, Magnus William Olsson, and Rasmus Ölme.


The Everyday Life of Public Art – Part 1

Or covering, moving, and removing

Artworks in urban public space inevitably become actors in all kinds of sanctioned and unsanctioned activities and interventions (think of photography, sitting, urinating, taking shelter, graffiti, political protest, yarn bombing, skateboarding, cycling, parkour…). Some of these activities receive more attention than others across various media, such as the popular press and/or academic publishing.

Burke and Wills Monument 10 June 2013 Burke and Wills Monument 10 June 2013

IMAGES: Charles Summers (1865), Burke and Wills Monument, Swanston Street, Melbourne. Photography: David Richards, 10 June 2013.

The act of temporarily covering Melbourne’s Burke and Wills Monument with crayoned messages and gaffer-taped posters (already removed in the images above), does seem to puncture the often-cited ‘invisibility’ of nineteenth century statuary. It potentially draws a different range of public comment than the same acts applied to walls and footpaths; momentarily drawing the historical object from its invisibility cloak into more obviously contemporary urban politics and debate. (Where, no doubt, it had always belonged, had we only been paying attention.)

The commemorative function of such monuments seems interlinked with common assumptions about stability or fixity; assumptions belied by the evident mobility of public sculptures – these are objects (like the Burke and Wills Monument) regularly moved around the city according to the exigencies of road and building construction, politics and taste.

Sculptures from the late twentieth century are just as amenable to relocation as conventional monuments (irrespective of any artists’ claims about the integral relationship between artwork and site )  viz. Ron Robertson-Swann’s peripatetic sculpture Vault (1978) in Melbourne’s CBD; Owen Broughton’s Steel Sculpture (1976) in Adelaide (removed from Rundle Mall in 1988 only to reappear twenty years later in Liberman Close/Ebenezer Place); or the impending displacement of Bert Flugelman’s Twin Spheres (1977) a few metres along the Rundle Mall.

…I confess to a mental image of these objects, with each act of transport, flickering in and out of perceptual space from some other, hyper space of overlapping field relations!

Perhaps Adrian Doyle was thinking something similar with his recent Empty Nursery Blue project, presented by Doyle’s Art in conjunction with RMIT’s Urban Laboratory, and the City of Melbourne. With a wry nod to the practices of both contemporary art and City Council anti-graffiti squads, Doyle spent Sunday 26 August spraying over the accessible surfaces of Melbourne’s Rutledge Lane with a custom mix of blue paint, effacing all traces of the street art for which the Lane is famous, and making strangely visible the (re-imagined) lane itself.

The project generated an immediate flurry of online reporting of images and text (including a time lapse animation of the transformation), with comments ranging from outrage at the arrant colonisation of a physical space assumed to be shared by a community of street artists, to appreciative accounts of experiencing the radically transformed environment, and sheer joy at the horde of street artists prompted to throw themselves almost immediately into re-claiming the empty canvas of the street. [See for example: ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, Arts Hub, The Age (26/8/13), The Age (31/8/13), Herald Sun, Artfido Blog, Invurt, Black Mark, among many more. A statement from Doyle can be found here.]

A less sophisticated approach to the act of “painting over”, or at least one that seems to have provoked no obvious (online) trace of dialogue, is demonstrated with another example.

Bell St Mall 8 June 2013  Bell St Mall 8 June 2013

IMAGES: entrance to the Bell Street Mall, West HeidelberG, MELBOURNE. PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID RICHARDS, 8 JUNE 2013.

At the entrance to the Bell Street Mall in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg West stands a family of three sculptural figures, probably made of cast metal and lately re-imagined through the simple application of paint as colourful and perhaps playful landmarks for the shopping centre.  Set amidst nearby neighbourhood renewal schemes of State and local government, the mall itself is the focus of a yet-to-be-implemented Urban Development Framework and Master Plan.  The mall is currently awaiting its own transformation while continuing to provide a range of goods and services to local residents, including an important meeting space for a lively Somali community.

The Housing Commission of Victoria designed the Mall in 1954-56, at the same time as the nearby Olympic Village, as a shopping centre for its Heidelberg estate. Regarded today as Victoria’s first “American style, drive-in shopping centre”  [Heritage Victoria (2008) Survey of Post-War Built Heritage in Victoria: Stage One, prepared by Heritage Alliance, North Melbourne, p 229], it was envisaged at the time as a shopping centre that would explicitly  “accommodate today’s traffic” by incorporating a central, open-air mall restricted to foot traffic, with surrounding areas set aside for off-street car parking. When it was opened in 1956, the Argus newspaper lauded the shopping centre’s “simple lines”, the shop “fronts designed and fitted by Silverwood and Beck”, as an example of “how plain, utilitarian planning can be attractive“.

I’ve found no documentation (yet) of the Mall’s sculptural entrance figures (other than the image shown below, taken prior to their latest coat of paint), but I’m inclined to think they arrived in 1956 together with post-war modern, cost effective and functional shopping centre design. [***NB See comments/replies below – sculpture has been attributed to Tuncay Tanyer, commissioned in 1997 by the City of Heidelberg as part of the Bell St Mall Entrance Design Strategy.]

Bell Street Mall Sculptures

IMAGE: Tuncay Tanyer (c.1997), The family, BELL STREET MALL, WEST HEIDELBERG, MELBOURNE. Source: National library of australia pandora web archive (City of Banyule council, 2011)

If there was ever a plaque or sign in the Mall indicating the artist or manufacturer of these figures, it has long disappeared (removed perhaps as a gesture to Australian artists’ moral rights legislation?).

In any case, the covering of these figures with new paint at some date clearly indicates their re-purposing – away from likely assumptions about the cultural sophistication that artwork would lend a suburban shopping centre in the 1950s (at the peak of national and international scrutiny brought by the Olympic Games) and towards more immediate concerns about the centre’s changing local uses and users.

It marks the effective decommissioning of the original artworks, not by physically removing them but by transforming them instead into new objects (that in this case are themselves probably only marking time before a new vision is overlaid). I’m speculating of course, in the absence of data. However, this family of objects seem equally absent from the documented plans for the mall. (…Please do get in touch if you can add to or correct any information about the history of these sculptures!)

The decommissioning of public artworks is not uncommon, although more usually conceived as physical dismantling or removal, after some lengthy period of tenure in a fixed location.  An example of decommissioning now playing out in Melbourne demonstrates an unusually rapid turnover between artwork installation and removal for an artwork not conceived as temporary or ephemeral, one occasioned by a public backlash against the work and the commissioning agent (the City of Darebin).

[For comment and images, see: Crikey (The Urbanist 15/8/13), Crikey (The Urbanist, 20/8/13), The Age (20/8/13), The Herald Sun (20/8/13), Herald Sun Leader (14/8/13), Herald Sun Leader (15/8/13),  Victoria Walks (Facebook), Mysterious Metal Pyramids of High St Northcote (Facebook), Esther Anatolitis (Twitter), Black Mark, etc ]

In brief, the Darebin City Council purchased an art installation for a section of High Street, Northcote, as part of a wider streetscape beautification scheme, along with new street furniture and landscaping, and in conjunction with tram works along route 86. The artwork, designed and manufactured by Syrinx Environmental, consisted of a strip of patterned galvanised steel, folded into raised, angular shapes and laid out along the road’s new, raised median strip.

While counter-narratives appeared, along with evidence of a lack of local consultation by the Council in selecting and installing the work, a discourse of safety prevailed in published comment on the piece, entrenching the work as spiky, pointed and dangerous to the life and limb of cyclists and pedestrians. Just over one week after it was installed, Council voted to remove the work altogether.

(I can’t help but wonder if complaints about that work might have been as much about the increasing range of barriers appearing in Melbourne streets to impede pedestrians and cyclists from moving freely across the road except at controlled points, as with the new, raised platform and fenced tram stops across Melbourne.)

Call for Papers: The Countermonument — 30 Years Later

[Source: Humanities and Social Sciences Net Online]

Session chairs Kirk Savage (Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh, ksa@pitt.edu) & Mechtild Widrich (Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich, mwidrich@alum.mit.edu) are seeking papers on the theme of “The Countermonument – 30 Years Later” for the 102nd conference of the College Art Association (CAA) to be held in Chicago, February 12-15, 2014:

At the turn of the 1990s, James E. Young defined the countermonument as “a monument against itself”—an antiauthoritarian, ephemeral, interactive memorial practice. Heralded as a postmodern break with grand narratives in public art, the term embraced phenomena of the previous decade as physically disparate as Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Art Spiegelman’s comics. What these works shared was an emphasis on personal, non-didactic engagement: the self, emotion, and even self-reflexivity were enshrined in commemoration. Since then countermonuments have gained an institutional niche.

From a distance of thirty years, it is now time to reconsider the proclaimed break with tradition: Can a monument that questions its own authority be politically effective? Does an individualized, corporeal approach to the past open up or foreclose history? How can a state commissioned memorial avoid instrumentalization? Papers may address key theoretical terms and debates as well as monument case studies.

To participate, email both of the session chairs before 6 May 2013 with: an abstract of no more than two double-spaced, typed pages; a letter explaining speaker’s interest and expertise in the topic; a CV;  and, the CAA participation proposal form (see here).

Mapping indigenous inclusion and exclusion in urban public spaces

Gavin tells me that his PhD is now available for download:

Gavin Malone, 2012, Phases of Aboriginal inclusion in the public space in Adelaide, South Australia, since colonisation, School of the Environment, Flinders University


‘Post-colonial’ Australia is evolving its identity and sense of self but reconciliation with its Aboriginal peoples remains politically and culturally unresolved. This reconciliation has been a national objective since the 1990s. Reconciliation is a multi-faced process to achieve the equitable inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in all aspects of contemporary society and for non-Aboriginal Australians to embrace Aboriginal people and their history as a valid and valuable part of the Australian nation and recognise their claim to sovereignty prior to colonisation. One way a nation, or people, presents itself and its history is through the cultural artefacts it places in the public space. This contributes to cultural identity at both civic and personal levels. Social inclusion or marginalisation is also reflected in the public space and historically Aboriginal people and culture have been largely excluded from it. Whilst a casual walk around the streets of the main cultural precincts and streets of a city may reveal some recent Aboriginal representations, little is documented on what may actually exist.

In Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, this also appears to be the case with a limited number of Aboriginal representations apparent in the public space. But there has been no research to fully establish what exists. This research overcomes that lack by investigating and documenting the extent and manner of Aboriginal public space inclusion in greater metropolitan Adelaide. In all, 143 monuments, memorials, public artworks, public space designs, community artworks and commemorative and interpretive markers, collectively called Aboriginal Cultural Markers, have been located and documented through this research.

Having established what exists, interpretation of the data can then take place to better understand the historical exclusion, and gradual inclusion of Aboriginal people in the public space; how and when any change occurred, who was involved and the manner of representation. This research traces the inclusion (or exclusion) of Aboriginal people and culture in the public space from the colonisation of South Australia in 1836 to the present. It identifies six distinct phases, which link to broader historical and social periods or events, in the evolution of representation: The Silence (to 1960), Breaking the Silence (1960 to early 1980s), Aboriginal Voice Emerges (early 1980s to early 1990s); Community, Culture and Collaborations (early 1990s to present); Kaurna Country (mid 1990s to present); Kaurna Management and Determination (yet to occur).

The phases documented reflect: the gradual and ongoing decolonisation process; a nation coming to terms with its treatment of Aboriginal peoples through Reconciliation; an evolving self-determination by Aboriginal people; and movement towards control of cultural production and self-representation by Aboriginal people in the public space and the evolution of a bi-cultural cultural landscape that has a distinctive Aboriginal presence.

There are still considerable gaps in the geographic and cultural spread of Markers and there is much more to be achieved to provide a visually and culturally strong Aboriginal symbolic presence in the city centre and urban areas. I therefore make recommendations on themes, locations and processes to help guide future commissioning of Markers. The Markers form an identifiable collection of public artworks, albeit in diverse locations and under diverse ownership.  I make recommendations on the curation of this collection.

Keywords: Adelaide, Kaurna, public art, cultural markers, public space, cultural representation, reconciliation, social inclusion

Men in Bronze (3), Tokyo

Also hidden away amongst the summer foliage is the statue of Prince Arisugawa Taruhito (1835-95), created in 1903 by Ōkuma Ujihiro and originally located in front of Army General Staff buildings. In 1962 it was relocated to the Arisugawa no miya Memorial Park. The name of the park marks the Arisugawa no miya branch of the imperial household, which ended with the death of Prince Arisugawa no miya Takehito in 1913. The site had been donated to the Tokyo metropolitan authorities for use as a public park in 1934 by a younger half-brother, Prince Terunomiya Nobuhito who had an interest in children’s recreation and education. The park was handed over to the Minato ward municipal authorities in 1975.


I suspect I may have now exhausted the surviving equestrian statues of Meiji imperial military leaders in the city centre, but will keep you posted!

Sven Saaler, a historian based in Tokyo, suggests that Japan’s first commemorative bronze depiction of a person seated on horseback is the 1898 statue of Lord Mouri Tadamasi in a park in Yamaguchi (in western Japan). Saaler’s personal website includes fascinating images documenting the drawings and prospectus soliciting funds for the Yamaguchi commission, the regulations of the organizing committee, local reporting of the event and subsequent postcards.

More generally, Saaler offers a fantastic resource for historical and contemporary research (or browsing) with an online collection of images of pre- and post-war Japanese statues drawn from photographs, postcards, and lithographs.

I believe that an independent organisation, the Japan Institute for the Survey and Conservation of Outdoor Sculpture may have undertaken, or at least proposed, a comprehensive survey of outdoor sculpture in Japan, but am yet to track down any details. The Institute was founded in June 1997 “by sculptors, conservators, conservation scientists, staff of local government organizations, and art historians… to prompt local government and other organizations that own outdoor sculptures throughout Japan to appropriately manage these works that are often neglected in their current conditions” (Tanaka Shuji).

If undertaken, the survey would provide an interesting complement to the 1999-2001 national survey of memorial monuments by Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology (partly reported on by Hirochika Nakamaki in 2005 in the English language book chapter Memorial Monuments of Interrupted Lives in Modern Japan: From Ex Post Facto Treatment to Intensification Devices).

I’ll spare you further listing of the other prewar men in bronze around Tokyo I’ve discovered (for now at least) but suffice to say there are more!

And I think I’ll also have to leave you wondering for now about the abundant evidence of postwar taste in smaller scale, mainly female, neo-classical nude figures in stone and bronze that seems to have largely replaced commemorative statuary in the urban landscape. (See a discussion of this in the 1993 article by Aoi Shimizu, Sexism in Tokyo’s New Public Art: Preliminary Results from Field ResearchMiddle States Geographer vol 26.)  While this trend overlaps the arrival of outdoor abstract sculptures in city streets and building foyers, not to mention landmark urban development projects incorporating “signature”, site-specific artwork, and everything else in between, the continuing preponderance of figurative, especially nude, sculpture always strikes me as remarkable – its a feature that Julian Worrall, an academic at Waseda University suggests is related to the importance of the Nitten art organization, its annual exhibitions, and influential reach and patronage.

[PS I’ve updated the lost date/sculptor in my earlier post Men in Bronze (2).]

Men in Bronze (2), Tokyo

(Men, horses, and a dog in bronze actually…)

Other pre-war western-style commemorative statues that survive in central Tokyo include that of Prince Kitashirakawa, bronze cast in 1903 by the artist Shinkai Taketarō (1868-1927). Hidden among trees near the Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art in Kitanomaru Park, facing the Imperial Palace, Michael Lucken notes this statue originally stood nearby at the entrance to the barracks of the 1st and 2nd Imperial Guard regiments (Remodelling Public Space: The Fate of War Monuments 1945-48).

Close by, at the northern entrance to Kitanomaru Park is also the equestrian statue of Prince Ōyama Iwao (for which I am yet to determine a date or sculptor!). [UPDATE: according to the Chiyoda Tourist Association, this was erected in November 1919 and was also produced by Shinkai Taketarō.]

Continuing the theme of imperial military leaders astride horses that find themselves in heavily treed locations, is the statue of Prince Komatsu no Miya Akihito in Ueno Park, sculpted by  Okuma Ujihiro and dedicated in 1912.

Okuma also sculpted the 1893 statue of army officer Ōmura Masujirō at Yasakuni Shrine, founded in 1869 to enshrine the souls of those who fought and died for the Japanese Government. (Although not named Yasakuni until 1879).  Ōmura is reputed to be Japan’s first cast bronze statue in the Western style. Like Lucken, Julie Higashi also stresses that the statue is remarkable for having survived intact and in its original location since 1893 (see ‘The Spirit of War Remains Intact: the Politics of Space in Tokyo and the Yasakuni Shrine’, in Stefan Goebel and Derek Keene eds. Cities into Battlefields: Metropolitan Scenarios, Experiences and Commemorations of War, 2011).

Higashi notes that Ōmura is also remarkable for the symbolism of its location. Positioned at the centre between two gateways that lead to the Shrine, the statue sits between the shrine and the Imperial Palace, reflecting loyalty to a State firmly anchored in the Imperial throne (p 206).


The third such important statue in Tokyo’s landscape (along with those of Kusunoki Masashige and Ōmura Masujirō) is that of Saigō Takamori at Ueno Park. The sculptor is Takamura Kōun and the statue was dedicated in 1898.


Both Saigō and Ōmura are commemorated as having sided with Imperial forces during the civil war that led to the Meiji restoration. Saigō is shown with his dog, a feature that led to particular controversy at the statue’s unveiling in 1898. According to Aaron Skabelund in Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan and the Making of the Modern World (as reviewed in the Japan Times), Saigō’s favourite dog happened to be a Western breed. The criticism heaped upon an early model of the dog for its similarities to a Chinese breed, however, led the sculptor to recast the dog with “pointy ears” to look suitably Japanese…

Skabelund notes that the dog’s Chinese appearance was seen as a, “stain on the dignity of the newly canonized national hero [and] bore ugly traces of a popular chauvinism that the Sino-Japanese War had recently stirred into a frenzy.”

A similar tale of anxiety about national identity is associated with the representation of Hachiko, the dog first immortalised at the entrance to Shibuya  station in 1934. Hachiko (an Akita dog, a breed from the north of Japan), famously waited every day at Shibuya station for the return of his master from work, continuing to wait for another nine years after the man’s death. A series of newspaper articles and publications  led to the story being used as a popular example to children about faithfulness, even becoming a national symbol of loyalty to the imperial institution.

Saito Hirokichi, the self-appointed promoter and guardian of “purebred” Japanese dogs, raised funds for the original statue and insisted on depicting Hachiko with both ears upright, arguing this is how a pedigree should look. The artist refused and Hachiko’s floppy left ear was immortalized. (Japan Times)

Hachiko is an example of a statue that was recycled for its metal during World War II. However, a committee formed after the war to sponsor its return, commissioning the son of the original artist to recreate the sculpture.  Hachiko returned to Shibuya in 1948.

Men in Bronze, Tokyo

A change of pace from my recent events listings..

Leaving Melbourne’s gloomy weather behind at the beginning of this week, I’d been looking forward to a change of scene. Of course, I’d forgotten how terrible the summer weather can be in Japan, necessitating that every walk involves water bottles, sunscreen, hats and sun umbrellas – not to mention the ever handy towel for (politely) wiping off the accumulating sweat. As I plan to do a lot of walking around Tokyo this month, this has been a rude reminder!

One focus of my wandering is Tokyo’s many parks and gardens (and the artworks therein). While many include the ubiquitous vending machines dispensing drinks and ice creams, alongside toilets and shaded seating areas, I suspect its only the tourists to the capital (foreign and Japanese) who are crazy enough to be walking around gardens in the middle of the day… (Formal garden spots often include “rest centres” as a welcome refuge from the weather, offering postcards, souvenirs, and airconditioning.)

A trip to the Imperial Palace East Gardens (a gated park with restricted opening hours), and more especially the Outer Gardens, however, does highlight the importance of parks to the local population. At the end of the working day, as the heat of the sun dissipates, a steady stream of people emerge …not that you can tell this mind you, from my photo below of the statue in the Imperial Palace Plaza (Outer Gardens) taken at 5.30pm, and looking suspiciously devoid of humans, like most documentary photos.

According to Thomas Haven’s fascinating history of Japanese public green spaces, Parkscapes, the Imperial Palace Plaza (1889) along with Ueno Park (1876) were the chief public ceremonial spaces for events designed to gain public support for the Sino-Japanese (1894-5) and later Russo-Japanese wars (1904-5), linking state ambitions with the spiritual regulation of the citizenry. However, new parks also became the venues for popular rallies and anti-government demonstrations concerning issues ranging from rising rice prices to labour relations and voting rights.

Ueno was designated a public park in 1873 and formally opened by the Meiji emperor in 1876. The Palace Outer Garden, however, was “formally created in 1940 to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the country’s founding”, and only designated a national people’s park in 1947 under the Allied Occupation (Havens, p125).

The mounted bronze statue shown below is of Kusunoki Masashige, a celebrated 14th century samurai, noted for his devotion to the Emperor. Given the location and the era in which the park was created, its presence is just what you would expect to find. It’s made more remarkable, however, by the story that Michael Lucken tells of the survival of this sculpture (and others like it) in Remodelling Public Space: The Fate of War Monuments 1945-48  (in Sven Saaler & Wolfgang Schwentker eds, The Power of Memory in Modern Japan, 2008):

By the 1940s Japan’s parks and public places were well furnished with European styled commemorative statues. In 1943, when the government  decreed the withdrawal of all bronze statues as a symbolic effort towards encouraging metal collection  (not unlike the removal of historic fencing and railings for the war effort in the UK),  9,236 bronzes were registered. Of these, only 279 were marked for retention. Add to this situation the policies of the postwar occupying forces directed towards separating state and  religion, which led to a series of ministerial directives on the question of funeral ceremonies and commemorative monuments.  In Tokyo,  a Commission of Inquiry of the Removal of War Monuments decided upon the destruction of about twenty statues that had survived the metal cull of 1943, mostly (but not entirely) military heroes associated with the Russo-Japanese War; deciding to spare sculptures representing the Imperial family or relating to the imperial system.  Kusanoki Masashige is one of these, and one of the very few prewar statues in Tokyo that has remained intact and in-situ.

Thumbnails: Photographer,  Ruth Fazakerley, 18 July 2012.
Kusanoki Masashige (1893-1900), bronze; sculptor Takamura Kōun

Kusanoki Masahige Statue  Kusanoki Masahige Statue