Superflatworlds : a topography of Takashi Murakami and the cultures of Superflat Art

Sharp, K 2006, Superflatworlds : a topography of Takashi Murakami and the cultures of Superflat Art, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Applied Communication, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Superflatworlds : a topography of Takashi Murakami and the cultures of Superflat Art
Author(s) Sharp, K
Year 2006
Abstract This thesis maps Takashi Murakami's Theory of Superflat Art and his associated artistic practices and works. The study situates Murakami and Superflat within the context of globalising culture. The thesis interrogates Murakami's art and the theory of superflat within the historical, social, and cultural contexts of their production-consumption in Japan, the United States, and Europe. The thesis identifies Superflat art and Murakami's work as actively participating in, and expressing, the cultural conditions associated with the 'global postmodern' and globalisation processes. The thesis employs a Cultural Studies theoretical and heuristic framework, utilising a range of contemporary critical theorisations on postmodern art, Japanese cultural identity and globalisation. This framework and approach are adopted in order to draw attention to ways in which Murakami and Superflat artic ulate and represent the fundamental contentions and dialogues that characterise contemporary globalisation processes. The tensions that are articulated in relation to the discursive construction of the concepts of art/commodity, modern/postmodern and global/local cultural identities.

Importantly, this research demonstrates the ways in which Murakami both participates in, and challenges, the conceptual distinctions indexed within the concepts of 'art' as an aesthetic expression and 'commodity' as an object of symbolic exchange in the global marketplace. It interprets Superflat as an 'expressivity' that challenges binary demarcations being constructed between art and commercial culture, and between the aesthetic-cultural identities of Japan and the West. This thesis problematises the meaning of Murakami's concept and aesthetic of Superflat art by drawing attention to these contestations within Murakami's works and Superflat which are generated as they circulate globally.

The thesis argues that Murakami strategically presents his work and Superflat art as an expression of Japanese identity which paradoxically also expresses the fluid imaginings of cultural identity available through contemporary global exchanges. This deliberate territorialising and deterritorialising impulse does not resolve the contentions emerging in globalisation, but rather amplifies them, exposing the key debates on the formation of cultural identity as an oppositional expression and as a commodity in global markets. The concept of 'strategic essentialism' is used as a theoretical lens in order to understand Murakami and Superflat's activation of these global processes. This research contributes a valuable case study to the understanding of cultural production as a strategic negotiation and expression of the flows of capital and culture in globalisation.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Applied Communication
Keyword(s) Art, Japanese--21st century
Murakami, Takashi, 1962-
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