I have been asked to do my best to explain this:
love to tell you about the ironic subtleties included to mock the upper
crust of Japanese society, the unique use of tools to create images
that remind one of the transience of life, the hidden meaning of the
work which delves into existentialism and the wonders and amusements of
the floating world.
Nope. It's a fart battle. That's all.
Sure, there are a few little interesting tidbits. Feel free to check
out the rest of the scroll. It makes me very nostalgic. I remember
being small and having to trek out to the library and get special
permission to go to the back room which smelled of dust and dead
caterpillars and appeared to be coated in as much, and painstakingly
search for the texts I needed and ever-so-slowly wind through the
archives on a big machine that displayed them to me so my grubby little
hands didn't destroy the precious originals, all the while the room
becoming even more swelteringly hot and choking me. I hated it until I
had to do the same thing for a project recently, and was reminded how
much I enjoy the smell of old things.
The university archive
these images are from is done in roughly the same process, except for
now we can all use the internet from the comfort of our own homes. I
wonder after the people who would need to look up this scroll for reference.
I can smell this one, too. This is an old scroll I do not want to smell.
this is not an exclusive subject matter in any way. Fart battles are
actually a thing in Japanese art of this time. Several artists actually
did their own interpretations of the most ludicrous and powerful farts
you'll ever see, everyone from the extremely famous Utagawa Kuniyoshi to a revered Buddhist monk and philosopher.
more interpretations, like this one, remain anonymous. To some extent,
the fart battles were a response to the encroaching Westernization of
Japan, which I've discussed a few times before. As Western influence
began to seep into everyday society, and Japan was declared crude,
distasteful, base and barbaric, many traditional Japanese things were
adjusted or done away with entirely to appease the discerning eyes of
the Western world. Brothels were closed, pleasure districts dwindled,
geisha were temporarily forced to cease activity until the West could
figure out what it was that they did, kabuki plays were infused with
Christian morals, and art was, to some extent, censored. Glorifying
nudity and peasant life was crude, it was decided.
So, in a way,
the fart battles appear to be a kind of protest, depicting men in court
hats doing the most vile and odious things imaginable, their genitals
and hind-parts fully exposed and flapping in the wind, farting openly at
one another as noble ladies look on with interest and swoon after the
most noxious of fumes.
I can't think of a more disturbing and
downright hilarious way to fully embrace the whole absurd idea of
Japan's inferiority. "We Japanese are a simple and vulgar people with
no regard for your manners? Well, take a look at THIS!"
there is one man who produced some fart scrolls who did not wish to
remain anonymous. In fact, fart battles are almost synonymous with
him. Many anonymous works are accredited to him, or said to be "in the
style of" him, and he in fact produced not one, but several fart battle
scrolls of varying degrees of obscenity.
I've never really done
an artist spotlight before, even though I have heavily mentioned and
featured the work of Yoshitoshi, and showcased Sekien a few times in my
entries on yōkai. But since I'm here, I think I will expand the entry
to show you some pictures and tell you a bit about my other favourite Japanese artist.