Yokohama Triennale Spotlight: Paul Jacoulet
4 September 2020
Paul Jacoulet's art was widely devoted to depictions of Indigenous peoples from across the places that Japan colonised in Asia and Oceania, notably in Japan's pre-war Nanyō Guntō ('South Sea') islands of the North Pacific Ocean, which would later be occupied and administered by the United States during and after the Pacific War.
Left to right: Paul Jacoulet, Basilio, Young Boy of Saipan Holding Seashells, Marianas (Present-day Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, U.S. territory) (1934); The Song of the Waves, Ponape, East Carolines_ (Present-day Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia) (1936). From the collection of Yokohama Museum of Art. Courtesy Yokohama Museum of Art.
A collection of prints on view at the Yokohama Museum of Art as part of Episōdo 4: Institute for Tropical and Galactical Studies, my contribution to the 2020 Yokohama Triennale (AFTERGLOW, 17 July–11 October 2020), were primarily sketched by the artist between 1929 and 1932 during his travels to Chuuk and Yap (in present-day Federated States of Micronesia) and Saipan (in present-day Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas).
Jacoulet's intricate figures combine techniques of 18th-century Ukiyo-e woodblock printmaking with European-Orientalist artistic conventions and exoticism, as well as an accompanying anthropological gaze. In some instances, the sexualisation of the subjects being portrayed is evident and the eroticisation, particularly of the male body, is recurring.
The Chamorro people—the largest indigenous population of the Mariana Islands (present-day Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)—are depicted in some of Jacoulet's prints.
Having mixed ancestry and influences from over 200 years of Spanish colonisation, both German colonists (1899–1914) and Japanese colonists (1914–1945) treated the Chamorro as 'racially superior' and 'civilised' in comparison to the other indigenous people of other parts of Micronesia, such as the darker-skinned Chuukese, Yapese, Palauan, Pohnpeian, or Marshallese, all of whom were incorrectly grouped together and referred to as 'Kanaka' by Japanese authorities.—[O]
As part of the 2020 Yokohama Triennale, curated by Raqs Media Collective, Inti Guerrero was invited to curate Episōdo 4, which unravels locked histories within the collection of the Yokohama Museum of Art, and discovers the vestiges of colonial patriarchal violence in the Asia Pacific region. Artists from YMA collection include: Miyako Ishiuchi, Paul Jacoulet, Atsuko Tanaka, and Wilhelm Von Gloeden. Guest artists include: Mao Ishikawa, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (with Dan Lin), Eisa Jocson, Cristina Lucas and Anting-Anting artifactsfrom the Philippines.
Research and editorial support: Greg Dvorak, Professor, Waseda University