Archive for September 18, 2005

Drawing Restraint 9 or Japan-o-philia

Will Oldham’s voice warbles in at an odd time here in Samseung-dong. Introducing Bjork’s score for her husband’s work Drawing Restraint 9, a japanese produced piece, it curtails a letter to General MacArthur thanking him for lifting a ban on whaling in Japan in the post-war years. It beckons the question: why did General MacArthur go so lient on the Japanese? While the Germans were written off and pieced up for being Nazis, MacArthur declared that the Japanese were mislead and asked the emperor to confess he wasn’t god on the radio. MacArthur’s history will always be complex, he was a general and fond of dropping bombs on civilian targets to interrupt supply lines and possibly to intimidate the enemy. Before the nuclear bomb was dropped, the U.S. spent a lot of time figuring out where to drop, and why. But to have a Japanese delcare fondness for MacArthur, especially in front of a Korean audience, is perhaps to put the last nail on his coffin.

Recently North Korean sympathizers have been rallying to have MacArthur’s statute removed from Incheon. In Korea MacArthur is praised for ending the japanese occupation of Korea and later saving it from Russia and North Korea’s advances downwards. But such histories are easily re-written, and recent documents show that MacArthur killed a lot of innocent Koreans in his quest to push back North Korea’s invasion (which had pushed South Korea’s troops all the way down to Pusan effectively occupying the entirety of Korea before MacArthur broke ground at Incheon). Historical documents aside, South Korea’s reluctance to admit to Foriegn aid is vast. Many deny the role the Japanese played in building Seoul’s main industries, or the ways it’s government mimmiced Japanese policy to aquire modenity (which is still coming here in Korea). Additionaly comic books down play the role of the Americans in the Korean war (one book I picked up features loose lipped negroes and cowardly caucasians braving it in a bunker while a South Korean solider pushes forward). The inability of Koreans to acknowledge the support they’ve received from the West (militarily or in foriegn aid) seems to be another part of what is a growing reluctance to admit to a need of the outside world. While Japan loves the West ardently collecting and stock-piling Western traditions in sell-able museums of music shops and clothing stores and China is at least open to it and developing a essential culture of arts and music in line with worldwide traditions, Korea remains remarkably aloof. It’s culture is more focused on Koreanizing the form, than appreciating the original. Cultural appropiation is hardly a bad thing, here on Drawing Restraint 9 Bjork and Barney take in Japan and push out a love letter focused in on that one moment, where Japan and American first established their relationship, through MacArthur. But appropiation can be many things and to appreciate and to abolish the original can both be achieved, Bjork’s music has a modesty, it borrows with out making claims to superiorty, Korean though often times sticks to rigidly to the original that it seeks to abolish it, Korean versions of gangster paradise haunt the airwaves pushing the original out simply due to language. It is ironic that where MacArthur’s work was most effective (Korea) he is the focus of hatred (a majority of koreans still seem to like him though), but in Japan where he could be reviled for any number of reasons he established the first acts of good will that would end 50 years later with an economic marriage that still stammers our culture to this day. Although granted Japan’s got it’s conservative colliations that still hate MacArthur too.

But when in that month that MacArthur spent with the Japanese, studying with them, did he come to a fondness he didn’t show much of the World? Why Japan? Drawing Restraint 9 takes place on a boat apparently. Bjork and Barney enter dressed as animals as Shinto wedding went. They then proceed to become whales while a sculpture melts. What in this mirrors MacArthur’s journey through Japan? Did he become the source of Japanese food? Well he did, he lifted a ban on whaling. In a way he became hunted by the Japanese and a slow subversion so did the U.S. so that today more of our culture resides in their shops than at home.

September 18, 2005 at 5:20 am 1 comment


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