Multiple Spirits


Vienna Secession, Seito and Multiple Spirits

We want to connect with histories.

the first issue of Seito

In the 20th century in Japan, there were some crucial magazines which induced social consciousness of women and awareness of feminism movements. Among them, Seito was significant for us to start Multiple Spirits. Seito was launched by women in 1911 to feature women’s writing to a female audience. The name, Seito, translated to “Bluestockings,” is a nod to an unorthodox group of 18th-century English women who gathered to discuss politics and art. Seito was intended to be not a radical or political publication, but just a literary magazine for females. However, as the magazine grew, it became more radical and political, emphasizing cultural and social matters and raising controversial questions about the rights of women and the control which they had over their bodies, such as the issue of women’s virginity, chastity, equality and abortion in the patriarchal family system. Therefore, the magazine turned out to be a place for provocative challenges to the social and legal structures in the traditional and modernizing society where a woman’s role was to be only a good wife and mother. The stories appeared in the magazine were radical enough that the government censored them.
   Later, the magazine had been struggling financially, and attention began to fade after Japan entered WWI. It was closed without warning in 1916 (when the last chief editor, Noe Ito, had an affair with the anarchist activist Sakae Osugi). Seito, nevertheless, occupied a monumental position for feminism movement in Japan.

  Hiratsuka Raicho, the founder of the magazine Seito, wrote a manifesto in the first issue in 1911, calling for action, which became known as the first public address on Japanese women’s rights.

In the beginning, a woman was the Sun. She was an authentic person. Today she is the moon. She lives by others, shines with the light of others; she is the moon with the pallid face of an invalid. Today, Seito was born, which was created by contemporary Japanese women’s brains and hands. We must restore our hidden sun. “Recover our hidden sun and our potential genius.

L: Joseph Engelhart, Merlinsage, 1904
R: the cover image of Seito
by Chieko Naganuma

  The cover of the first issue was designed by Chieko Naganuma (later became Chieko Takamura, a wife of the well-know poet, Kotaro Takamura), one of the first female painters in Japan, and she appropriated an image of Merlinsage by Joseph Engelhart, a member of Vienna secession, in 1904 (1).  As the cover of the first issue of Shirakaba, a magazine for literature and art launched by the upper-class young men in 1910 Japan, appropriated Max Klinger’s painting, the then Japanese art and literature were influenced by Western art movements while Japanese art influenced on their movements in the other way around.

   After more than 100 years later, Multiple Spirits was launched in Vienna in 2018, and it is essential for us to trace back these histories critically, connecting different cultural and political influences. Specifically, for example, the aesthetics of the fin de siècle had also a huge influence on girls popular cultures, including manga and anime, in the postwar period in Japan. They interpreted the image of females produced by the white male gaze in the past western culture and transformed them into women’s empowerment with transcultural imaginations. These cultures assumed an important role to show a new and contemporay way of life as a woman (but still in the heterosexual normativity). In addition, the representation of a rich diversity of gender and sexuality have emerged as well through these imaginations. This diversity has had a significant impact on feminism as well as queer communities outside of Japan in a different way from the Japanese one. We have grown up with these transcultural conditions, which never be a one-sided appropriation. Probably, we are the Sun and the Moon, at the same time.

(1)The post on FB by Tsutomu Mizusawa on September 13, 2017.
*The image of Seito: