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as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly


ink on paper

as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly is a series of paper weavings that considers the relationship between appropriation and diasporic Japanese femininity. Each piece incorporates textual passages woven into photographs of the artist’s face and images of the ‘modern girl’ — a 1920s media trope that characterized young Japanese women as copying European fashion, vernaculars, body language, and ideologies. 

perhaps they were so convinced of what they were that they began to look the part (1) contains passages from Night Picnic, a short story by the Japanese sci-fi writer Izumi Suzuki that was translated and re-published in a 2021 collection titled Terminal Boredom. In the story, a family of aliens learn about humanity through pop culture, archival videos, newspapers, and other cultural refuse. They are so successful in reading and learning from these artifacts that they take on the appearances and behaviours of humans. There is an emphasis on gender roles in the story, as a sister was once a brother until she read up on girlhood and transformed herself. 


while remaining a detail it fills the whole picture (2) and as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly (3) reference Roland Barthes’ idea of punctum — the idea that details accidentally captured in photographs can reach out to ‘prick’ viewers. In his 1980 book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Barthes writes that punctum stays with viewers in memory, and that remembering is sometimes a more direct way of knowing than seeing. Through their weaving, Cleave wonders if memories can contain punctum, and about the usefulness of such a sensation to diasporic individuals. 

analogue to the notion of woman as disorderly (4) contains passages from Miriam Silverberg’s 2007 essay The Modern Girl as Militant (Movement on the Streets). Silverberg locates the modern girl within feminist movements, labour movements, and other Meiji and Taisho-era efforts to restructure Japanese life. She reads the modern girl as a text that circulated via early forms of mass publication, including newspapers and women’s magazines. Cleave’s weaving posits the modern girl as a mode of knowledge production and dissemination, while wondering how her disruptiveness translates to contemporary diasporic Japanese experiences. 

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