A National Identity for International Display: Japan’s Hôôden at the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893
Hannah Sigur | Associate Researcher at IHA/NOVA FCSH
21 fevereiro, 17h
Sala Multiusos 2, Edifício I&D (piso 4)/NOVA FCSH
At the 1893 Chicago Exposition, Japan’s national pavilion—the Hôôden—along with the White City that surrounded it, apotheosized the values and aspirations of its day. What message does a building, of more than a century past and decades ago destroyed, have for us in 2019? It is as an object lesson in the malleability of fact in the service of dogma, of the visual to sway belief, and the law of unintended consequences: a cautionary reminder for our uncertain times.
Arguably the most remarked upon national pavilion at the most ideologically articulate fair of the exposition movement, the Hôôden’s success was all the more striking as the symbol of a sovereign realm whose racial and spiritual profile stood at odds with 19th century conventional wisdoms about the modern nation state. Indeed, while the thousands who viewed its graceful buildings and gorgeous interiors readily accepted it as “real Japan,” in reality its creators had constructed a fiction by which to manipulate opinion. Yet in doing so they did not defy the dogma of the fairs, but embraced it. In its elaborate, brilliantly executed and quixotically ambitious portrayal of Japanese identity the Hôôden made an exotic cloak, giving order and elegance to the jumbled message of political, social, cultural and economic arrival offered up by the fairs as a whole.