Second conference of the European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology (EAAA), Zurich 24-27th August


On Thursday I’ll be travelling to Zurich to take part in the second EAAA conference, which is being held this year at the University of Zurich from the 24th- 27th August. A unique gathering of artists, art historians, archaeologists, researchers and students working across disciplines and time periods- from neolithic China to contemporary Korea, the conference promises to offer three days of stimulating discussions and heated debates on all things art related, and will feature keynote addresses by Yukio Lippit and Burglind Jungmann.

As the organisers note: “The main aim of the Association is to encourage and promote all academic and scholarly activities related to Asian art and archaeology in European countries. More specifically, the Association will seek to establish and maintain a platform for the fruitful exchange of ideas, create a forum for dialogue among scholars of Asian art history and archaeology, and provide a setting for the presentation and discussion of new and recent research. Its main activities will include: the organisation of regular biennial conferences, thematic conferences, workshops, symposia, study events, and lectures. The Association will also actively seek out different ways to support young scholars, promote publications and exhibitions, and disseminate information and resources – of all kinds and in all forms and media – related to Asian art and archaeology.”

I will be delivering a paper on Saturday the 26th, in a session convened by Maki Fukuoka of the University of Leeds and Hu Mingyuan. The session is entitled ‘Terms and Conditions: Words That Shape Art and Its Histories’ and is the second half of a two-part panel that investigates art historical terms that have travelled across East Asia:

“The seven papers in panels 39 and 45 take, as a starting point, histories of art historical terms which have travelled between languages, and examine issues of translation and transculturation through the conditions under which these terms have functioned and have been expected to function. This panel assumes the position that the circumstances under which critical concepts came to be deployed in the studies of art in East Asia are neither neutral nor homogenous. Rather, we want to explore the means and processes through which these terms have been used and received. The papers are grouped by the organizers in a manner that would highlight the common object or discursive concern.”

I have included an abstract of my paper below, but a full list of the conference’s thought-provoking panels, keynote addresses and individual abstracts can be found here.

Awakenings and Entrances: Staging Civility in Twentieth Century China

This paper examines the cultural and historical significance of wenming 文明 (civilization/ civility) in the construction of twentieth century art and visual culture. A term that originally entered China through transcultural exchange with Europe and Japan at the end of the 19th century but later assumed a variety of culturally specific uses and significances, the paper demonstrates how contested visualizations of civility challenge long term assumptions about China’s changing cultural landscape from the Republican era to the present. By juxtaposing two images: an early 20th century satirical cartoon by Ma Xingchi (1873–1934) and a 1998 conceptual photograph by the artist Hong Hao (b. 1965), the paper contextualizes wenming historically and scrutinizes the ways in which the term has evolved and transformed over time. Highlighting the unexpected moments of continuity that emerge between these seemingly disparate time periods, it illuminates how the term emerged as a potent visual signifier which engaged with the plurality of artistic production across temporal, political and even geographical divides. Acknowledging that civility’s processes of transculturation and interaction with foreign, non-PRC and alternate versions of itself performed a crucial, generative function in the construction of alternative sites of artistic innovation, the paper establishes how these ‘Images of Civility’ bridged local experiences with the effects of globalization to reveal broader visual interactions between China and the wider world.