Abé Mark Nornes

Translating Calligraphy

Calligraphy and cinema have an intimate relationship in East Asia. Indeed, the ubiquity of the brushed word in cinema is one element that actually ties works in Korean, Japanese and Sinophone Asia together as a regional cinema. On first glance, cinema and calligraphy would appear as radically different art forms. On second glance, they present themselves as sister arts. Both are art forms built from records of the human body moving in (an absent) time and space. How does one adequately subtitle a calligraphic script, attaching the dead letter of helvetica to a linguistic text whose visual materiality is so spectacularly central to meaning making? How does investigating this very problem lead us to rethinking the nature of the cinematic subtitle, which is very much alive―a truly movable type?

Abé Markus Nornes is Chair of the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, and Professor of Asian Cinema in both the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, USA. His latest book is A Research Guide to Japanese Cinema Studies (UM Center for Japanese Studies Publications Program), which was co-written with Aaron Gerow (Yale University). His previous books include Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema (University of Minnesota Press). He is also the author of Forest of Pressure: Ogawa Shinsuke and Postwar Japanese Documentary Film (Minnesota UP) and Japanese Documentary Film: From the Meiji Era to Hiroshima (Minnesota UP) as well as many articles in edited volumes and journals such as Cinema Journal and Film Quarterly. He co-edited Japan-American Film Wars (Routledge), In Praise of Film Studies (Kinema Club), and many film festival retrospective catalogs.  He is on the editorial boards of International Studies in Documentary. Nornes was also a coordinator for the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival for most festivals between 1990 and 2005, where he programmed major retrospectives such as Japan-America Media Wars, In Our Own Eyes – Indigenous People’s Film and Video Festival , and Den’ei Nana Henge: Seven Transfigurations in Electric Shadows.  Current projects include an edited volume on the pink cinema of Japan and a reader of Japanese film theory in translation and an investigation into the curious pleasures of ski porn.