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Announcement
August 23, 2017

"Eurocentric and Beyond: Art History, the Global Turn and the Possibilities of Comparativism"

OCAT Institute

Jaś Elsner. Courtesy OCAT Institute.

Art History: Disciplinary Receptions of a European Tradition: September 12, 7–10pm
Panofsky’s Circle: History and the Object of Art Historical Enquiry: September 13, 7–10pm
Eurocentric and Beyond: September 14, 7–10pm

As an open initiative dedicated to research in art history, the OCAT Institute Annual Lecture Series intends to delineate the contour of contemporary thought, reexamine potential histories of contemporary art, and create a platform of exchange and dialogue between the academic community in China and abroad. As one of the essential components of OCAT Institute’s public educational programs, it promotes an approach to research that draws from a wide range of disciplines in the humanities.

Since the opening of the OCAT Institute in 2015, the Annual Lectures has seen two successful series of programs. Delivered respectively by the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman and the famous art historian, critic, and curator Wu Hung, these three-part lecture series are entitled "Image, History, Poem: 3 Lectures on the Visual Art of S.M. Eisenstein" (2015) and "Space in Art History" (2016). As part of each annual program, the Institute also organized a series of research seminars and public forums, to discuss their scholarship, curatorial practices, and intellectual contributions. Meanwhile, the two Annual Lecturers, Georges Didi-Huberman and Wu Hung, were also invited to curate two related exhibitions—Memory Burns (2015) and An Exhibition About Exhibitions: Displaying Contemporary Art in the 1990s (2016). This series of events inspired discussion and drew the attention of academics and art historians both in China and abroad.

In 2017, the OCAT Institute invites Professor Jaś Elsner (University of Oxford) as its 2017 Annual Lecturer. The Annual Lectures entitled "Eurocentric and Beyond: Art History, the Global Turn, and the Possibilities of Comparativism" will be held between September 12 and 14, 2017, at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. Throughout the entire annual cycle, the OCAT Institute will host a variety of events including a Launch Lectures series, research seminars, public forums, exhibitions, and publications, with an overarching focus on historiography. During the first two months of the year, the OCAT Institute initiated the Jaś Elsner Launch Lecture Series and invited researchers in art historiography to discuss the Vienna School of Art History and the German tradition of formalist aesthetics. The subsequent Jaś Elsner Seminar Series, which constitutes the central component of the program, unfolds in three installments. The first and second seminars Beyond Kunstwollen and Towards a Self-Aware Description took place in April and June this year respectively. The final part of this seminar series will be held on September 14, prior to the third lecture of the Annual Lectures. The exhibition Sites and Images: Two Research Projects of Oxford University and the University of Chicago jointly initiated by the OCAT Institute, the Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR) at Oxford University, and the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago will also open to the public on September 15.

Jaś Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Art at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Visiting Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. He studied Classics and art history at the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, and London, with a doctorate at King's College, Cambridge completed in 1991. While teaching at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and later at University of Oxford, he has also held visiting teaching positions at the British School at Rome, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, and Princeton University. His main research interest is art, ritual, and visuality in late antiquity, on which he published several books including Art and the Roman Viewer: the Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity, and Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text. He also continues to publish an ongoing series of studies and translations on art historiography in Critical Inquiry and Art History. Since 2013 Elsner has been Principle Investigator on the Empires of Faith project, a collaborative initiative between the British Museum and Wolfson College, Oxford, exploring the visual cultures of the world religions in the Mediterranean and Asia between 200 and 800 AD.

"Eurocentric and Beyond: Art History, the Global Turn and the Possibilities of Comparativism"
This lectures series will show the genesis of the discipline of art history as a twin entanglement of two fundamental cultural responses to the European Classical tradition: namely, the making of art and the writing of history. The series will explore the long attempt to find a historical frame for the visual arts within an European dynamic, the way this became integrated into a sophisticated scholarly discourse about questions of style, form, iconography and meaning, and the tensions between historicism on the one hand and the living existence of the art objects of the past in the subjective experience of viewers in the present. The argument will be that the history of art as a discipline, now over 250 years old in its modern form, is a fundamentally European and Eurocentric self-examination of crucial issues with long histories in visual production that were specifically developed within the Greco-Roman tradition, such as naturalism and iconoclasm. This conclusion entails a fundamental problem if the discipline is to be valid as an interrogation of visual traditions beyond the European, traditions founded on very old and powerful philosophical assumptions that are different in their starting points and in their methods of argument from those of Europe. In the wake of the global turn of the last couple of decades, art history needs to find new models of comparativist argument in order not only to do justice to non-European art, but to bring a series of non-European perspectives to throw light on what has for too long been a Eurocentric set of positions.

Jaś Elsner, 2017

Booking: Attendance is free, please sign up via info [​at​] ocatinstitute.org.cn (please provide your ID, name and phone number).

Related events

Jaś Elsner seminar three
Comparativism in Relief
Speakers: Zou Qingquan, Jia Yan, Wang Yudong, Wu Yanan
Moderators: Jaś Elsner, Wu Hung
Time: September 14, 2–5:30pm
Venue: The University of Chicago Center in Beijing

Sites and Images: Two Research Projects of Oxford University and the University of Chicago
Organisers: OCAT Institute, HEIR (Historic Environment Image Resource, Oxford University), Center for the Art of East Asia (University of Chicago)
Opening: September 15, 3pm
Duration: September 15–December 31, 2017
Venue: OCAT Institute

Contact: T 8610 6737 5418 / info [​at​] ocatinstitute.org.cn

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