One of the shows we are planning for next year is an examination of Japanese culture and how this is used in the West. Specifically, we want to examine how the symbols and signifiers of culture are appropriated and re-imagined outside the traditional context. For example, the artist Hush, whose street art mixes elements of British culture, where he grew up and elements of Japanese culture and manga, where he worked as a toy designer.
With these ideas in mind, I only recently came across this fascinating Triple Canopy article, Brown Skin, Blue Masks (warning, there’s some very interesting points, but a few gnarly pics) about Palestinians who have dressed up as Avatar’s Na’avi to plead their desperate situation and to use the signifiers of pop culture to draw more attention to their struggle.
Considering how divisive Avatar was, with more than a few accusations of borderline racism in the film, it’s surprising that this is the image the Palestinians have chosen to adopt. Perhaps it’s a simple case that the movie was extremely popular so this would be a way of making their cause visible and recognisable to people all over the world. But when you consider that Avatar is about a conflict over native lands, where the Na’avi are being evicted for, essentially, a fuel stuff, some quite obvious and poignant parallels can be drawn. The article forms a shrewder and considerably more educated dialogue than I can muster at half two in the morning, and is well worth a read.