Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1812 and Farting Japanese

Most people would look on this Japanese art - depicting various men and women engaged in flatulent combat - as 200-year-old toilet humour.
But the artwork, known as 'He-gassen' (or 'fart battle'), is in fact a pointed comment on political and social changes in Japan.
Made by an unknown artist or artists, the scroll depicts a number of different scenes - all linked by the fact that at least one character is directing a debilitating blast of flatulence towards another character.
They may be riding on horseback, or directing a foul wind through a gap in a wall, but the meaning is the same.
This scroll and similar drawings were created in response to increasing intrusion of Europeans in Japan during the Edo period - between 1603 and 1868.
Just like renaissance painters left hidden meaning in their work, or modern-day cartoonists provide humorous takes on serious political events, the He-gassen scroll has specific meaning that would have been instantly interpreted at the time.
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