Shojo Manga

I went to an exhibit today on Shojo (girls’) manga, hosted by Masami Toku, who does research on art education, especially concerning manga. I have corresponded with her for several years now, so it was nice to finally meet her in person.

The exhibit itself was fairly interesting, and had a nice cross-section of manga covers and pages spanning the past 50 years. There was a good sized crowd, and you could see the displays from outside on the street in downtown Chicago.

What particularly interested me was the underlying mentality of displaying manga pages on the wall like fine art. Putting them on the walls like this completely invalidates the Language perspective for these works, treating them solely as an Art bound work of aesthetic representation (albeit narrative). I’m also assuming that most people in attendance could not read Japanese, meaning that all semblance of multimodality was lost on them – reinforcing the images alone as aesthetic objects.

To this extant, it wholly removes them from the social context in which they usually appear. They did have some actual books on display, though they were kept under glass – meaning people couldn’t flip through them at all.

Of all print-culture visual languages, manga in Japan seem quite the paradigm example of using a Language over Art context. Seeing them pulled from that context and put into a dominantly Art setting was an interesting clash of these underlying cultural forces.


  • I went to an exhibition of Graphic design at The barbican in London -Communicate (‘″) – and experienced much the same thing. Graphics displayed like fine art out of context. It made it hard to look at – it seemed to me that reproductions in books of the work gave a much closer experience of the orginal than books, and ephemera neatly mounted behind glass.

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