Contemporary art in Japan and cuteness in Japanese popular culture
This thesis is an art historical study focussing on contemporary Japan, and in particular the artists Murakami TakashL Mori Mariko, Aida Makoto, and Nara Yoshitomo. These artists represent a generation of artists born in the 1960s who use popular culture to their own ends. From the seminal exhibition 'Tokyo Pop' at Hiratsuka Museum of Art in 1996 which included all four artists, to Murakami's group exhibition 'Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture' which opened in April 2005, central to my research is an exploration of contemporary art's engagement with the pervasiveness of cuteness in Japanese culture. Including key secondary material, which recognises cuteness as not merely something trivial but involving power play and gender role issues, this thesis undertakes an interdisciplinary analysis of cuteness in contemporary Japanese popular culture, and examines howcontemporary Japanese artists have responded, providing original research through interviews with Aida Makoto, Mori Mariko and Murakami Takashi. Themes examined include the deconstruction of the high and low in contemporary art; sh6jo (girl) culture and cuteness; the relation of cuteness and the erotic; the transformation of cuteness into the grotesque; cuteness and nostalgia; and virtual cuteness in Japanese science fiction animation, and computer games.