By Charlotte Karp
The Museum of Anthropology is hosting new exhibition, Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, curated by socio-cultural anthropologist, Dr. Fuyubi Nakamura. Produced in various materials and styles — from calligraphy and painting to digital and mixed media — the words presented in the exhibition are physical traces of time and space, embodying what is ephemeral and what is eternal in our life.
“We leave traces of ourselves throughout life, be they visible or invisible,” says Dr. Nakamura.
“Words, whether spoken, written, imagined, or visualized, are traces unique to humans. Some words disappear while others remain only in memory or leave physical traces as writing or text. These traces are the theme of the exhibition.”
Dr. Nakamura has worked with the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society on other events and wanted to showcase the large collection of Asian works at the MOA, which makes up about 40% of the museum’s total holdings. Although Vancouver is home to a large population of Asian heritages, Dr. Nakamura says that she does not think Asian arts and cultures receive the level of attention they deserve. “Even among Asian communities, they organize things mostly independently (for example, Chinese culture centres), rather than doing something more collectively or professionally. This exhibition is a way to enhance the understanding of the diversity of Asian arts and cultures from different periods and places.”
Traces of Words includes palm leaf manuscripts from Southeast Asia, graffiti art from Afghanistan, Chinese calligraphy, and Qu’ranic manuscripts. The MOA also worked with teamLab to create multimedia components so that viewers can experience and sense (rather than read and translate) script in new ways, and gain an appreciation for the cultural significance of Asian writing beyond legibility and comprehension.
“Artwork transforms writing — a form of communication that is often looked through rather than looked at — into visualized and materialized words,” adds Dr. Nakamura. “Viewing and feeling these works is like listening to songs in a foreign language we may not understand — we can still appreciate the lyrics because there is more to them than the meaning of the words.”
This unique presentation is experiential, incorporating the viewer’s individual senses and interpretations to generate conceptual understanding of the exhibition as a whole. It’s the first of its kind for the MOA and not to be missed.
Traces of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia runs at the Museum of Anthropology until October 9.Museum of Anthropology