Art of course is often more than just art. When the National Opera of Ukraine reopened in May, defying the thud of artillery and wail of air-raid sirens, it was a political and social statement as much as an artistic one. Less dramatically, public performances of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong have for decades contributed to the formation and perpetuation of a local identity.  

Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle, Victoria Vorreiter (Resonance Press, July 2022)
Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle, Victoria Vorreiter (Resonance Press, July 2022)

High in the mountains of the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar once knew no boundaries, lives a rich multiplicity of traditional peoples. Prominent among them are the Karen, Hmong, Iu Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, six distinct groups who have maintained their independence, identity, and worldview to a high degree.

It’s the 16th century, and the Ottoman Empire has just defeated the Mamluk Sultanate, conquering Damascus and Cairo, important centers of Arab learning and culture. But how did these two groups—Arabs and “Rumis”, a term used to refer to those living in Anatolia—interact? How did Arabs deal with these powerful upstarts, and how did Rumis try to work with their learned, yet defeated, subjects?

Textiles have long been used by various cultures and ethnic groups to convey socio-cultural and religious messages, which in turn can also reflect the community’s identity. Hmong embroidered clothing and textiles are a rich resource not just for understanding the rich culture of the Hmong people but for  textile knowledge generally and traditional needlework techniques.

The question as to whether fashion is art or there is art in fashion has long been disputed. If so, how would one define the art of fashion? Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy, presented by The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (SFMOMA), is a companion volume to the Beijing-based couturier’s 2022 exhibition showcasing her fine talent in fashion. Held at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the exhibition of couture costumes is a blockbuster on fashion in an art museum that casts an interesting light on why fashion aesthetics is a good reason to be considered for an exhibition in museums.

China's Millennial Digital Generation: Conversations with Balinghou (Post-1980s) Indie Filmmakers, Karen Ma (Long River, June 2022)
China’s Millennial Digital Generation: Conversations with Balinghou (Post-1980s) Indie Filmmakers, Karen Ma (Long River, June 2022)

The US-based independent film scholar and movie critic specializing in Chinese cinema, Karen Ma’s most recent work takes the form of creative and inspiring interviews with 7 young Chinese film directors, revealing new trends that are not fully acknowledged in Western scholarship. Many balinghou (born in post-1980s) filmmakers are grassroots artists from smaller towns or in rural China not formally trained at film academies.

Akira Kurosawa and Modern Japan, David A Conrad (McFarland, April 2022)
Akira Kurosawa and Modern Japan, David A Conrad (McFarland, April 2022)

The samurai films of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa are set in the past, but they tell us much about the present, as do his crime stories, romances, medical dramas, and arthouse films. His movies are beloved for their timeless protagonists and haunting vistas of old Japan, but we haven’t yet fully grasped everything they can teach us about modern Japan. Kurosawa’s directorial career began in 1943 and ended in 1993, spanning 50 of Japan’s most transformative years, and his movies evolved as Japan redefined and reinvented itself over that time.