Hybrid Culture

From Leonardo

Hybrid Culture

Japanese Media Arts in Dialogue with the West

By Yvonne Spielmann

Translated by Anja Welle and Stan Jones

An exploration of the tensions between East and West and digital and analog in Japanese new-media art.





An exploration of the tensions between East and West and digital and analog in Japanese new-media art.

This book grew out of Yvonne Spielmann's 2005–2006 and 2009 visits to Japan, where she explored the technological and aesthetic origins of Japanese new-media art—which was known for pioneering interactive and virtual media applications in the 1990s. Spielmann discovered an essential hybridity in Japan's media culture: an internal hybridity, a mixture of digital-analog connections together with a non-Western development of modernity separate from but not immune to Western media aesthetics; and external hybridity, produced by the international, transcultural travel of aesthetic concepts.

Spielmann describes the innovative technology context in Japan, in which developers, engineers, and artists collaborate, and traces the Japanese fondness for precision and functionality to the poetics of unobtrusiveness and detail. She examines work by artists including Masaki Fujihata, whose art is both formally and thematically hybrid; Seiko Mikami and Sota Ichikawa, who build special devices for a new sense of human-machine interaction; Toshio Iwai, who connects traditional media forms with computing; and Tatsuo Miyajima, who anchors his LED artwork in Buddhist philosophy. Spielmann views hybridity as a positive aesthetic value—perhaps the defining aesthetic of a global culture. Hybridity offers a conceptual approach for considering the ambivalent linkages of contradictory elements; its dynamic and fluid characteristics are neither conclusive nor categorical but are meant to stimulate fusions.


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262018371 280 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 89 b&w illus.


Anja Welle and Stan Jones.


  • Sharing a high regard for precision, Japanese artists and engineers collaborate in ways that subtly meld Eastern and Western concepts, pure art and technical prowess, futurity and tradition.

    Art in America


  • The case for examining the unique contribution of Japanese media arts to the development of digital culture is compelling. Yvonne Spielmann's book proposes the rich notion of 'hybridization' to specify this contribution. The term refers not only to the combination of analog and digital media and the interdisciplinarity of digital media practices in Japan, but also to their transcultural dimension. Hybrid Culture insists particularly on the need to move beyond the rigid opposition and hierarchy between 'old' and 'new' media. Its case studies show media arts to be a privileged area of investigation of mixed realities, viewer-environment interactions, and anachronisms.

    Christine Ross

    Professor and James McGill Chair in the History of Contemporary Art, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

  • Hybrid Culture is a pioneering study of contemporary creative practices in Japan under the influence of globalization and technological advances. It reveals the continued intermeshing of traditional crafts and skills and relevant 'cultural' rather than 'art' historical precedents in its visual culture. Spielmann's astute observations foreground Japan's specific position within globalization and in relation to western modernity and current transnational and transcultural developments. A must read for all who want to understand Japan's contemporary art and its international influence.

    Kerstin Mey

    Professor of Fine Art, University for the Creative Arts, UK