Histories of Art History in South East Asia

March 21 – 23, 2013, Manila, Philippines

This two-day colloquium was convened by Patrick Flores, University of the Philippines-Diliman, and hosted by the University of the Philippines, Manila, in partnership with the Research and Academic Program at the Clark. From the discussions in Sydney, a series of questions emerged around themes of anti/post-colonial scholarship and comparative historiography in art, as well as how national, international, and activist interests and responses have shaped the arts and humanities. In this intellectual event, scholars, curators, and local researchers were invited to deepen our initial investigation.

Sabih Ahmad, Asia Art Archive; Frederick Asher, University of Minnesota; Biljana Ciric, Independent Curator; John Clark, Australian National University; Shelly Errington, University of California, Santa Cruz; Patrick Flores, University of the Philippines-Diliman; Ahmad Bin Mashadi, National University of Singapore Museum; Partha Mitter, University of Sussex; Apinan Posyananda, Thailand Ministry of Culture, Department of Cultural Relations; Seng Yu Jin, LASALLE College of the Arts; Nora Taylor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Topics considered:

  • How were ideas of identity (native, national, nationalist) and modernity (colonial, cosmopolitan, critical) interpreted and understood in the history of art? To what purposes were those used?
  • In what different ways were ideas of “art” and “history” received?
  • How has the field of art history been called into question?
  • Do comparative historiographies that draw attention to similar theoretical problems, affinities of context, and unpredictable interactions offer a good approach to the issues?
  • What are some of the other approaches, intellectual trends, and critical positions that have been constructed over the last twenty years in this part of the world?
  • How have these developments shaped the pedagogy of art history as a particular post-colonial discipline and within larger frames such as the humanities/liberal arts, cultural studies, and area/regional/interdisciplinary studies
  • What impact have legacies of anti-colonial movements exerted on thinking about the arts and the aesthetic? What critical possibilities does the case of the Bandung paradigm of non-alignment and decolonization, for example, offer for reconceptualizing modernity and contemporaneity?
  • What roles do space, image, and medium play in the process of writing the history of art so that practices like architecture and photography are able to reference diverse origins and mutations of the aesthetic and its integration within the category of art?

In order of discussion

Welcome and Introductions
Elena R. Mirano, Michael Ann Holly, Patrick Flores

Panel 1: Antiquities and the Contemporary: The Mediation of Art History and the Question of the Discipline’s Modernity

Frederick Asher - audio
John Clark - audio

The context of Southeast Asia might demand an imagination of a time before modernity or colonialism in the region. This might lead to the domain of antiquities of the discourse of antiquities, which have been viewed to be a potent source of distinction or identity of the region and its production of form. The discipline of art history might grasp or explain the art that emerges from these antiquities in relation to its modern origins and its articulation in the contemplation of the contemporary.

Panel 2: Revisiting National Art Histories: Responses to Changing Tales and Settings

Partha Mitter - audio
Apinan Poshyananda - audio

The relationship between the formation of nation-states and the writing of art histories deserves renewed attention. In the process of re-evaluating this condition, it might be opportune in the same vein to think beyond the modality of national art history. That said, the latter might have still to be written in some countries even as some art histories have tried to sketch out the coordinates of a possible cross-cultural historiography.

Panel 3: Art History within Larger Frames: Art in the Geographies of the Possible

Shelly Errington - audio
Biljana Ciric - audio

In the attempt of art history to converse with other disciplines, it increasingly learns about the constitutions of these disciplines that have invested in the apprehension of the category of art. Art within a performative context and art in space are only some of the rubrics that might have eluded the rhetorical regime of art history, or might not have been fully probed by its reflexive theoretical imagination.

Panel 4: Global Schemes, Intimate Gestures:  The Conditions of the Production of Art and Its Narratives within the Everyday and the Everywhere

Nora Taylor - audio
Yu Jin Seng - audio

The production of art in history continually slips out of the protocols of the discipline and requires the explanatory schemes from other modes of knowledge making. In the effort of art history to situate art in the local (everyday) and the global (everywhere), it inevitably looks to ethnography and political economy to grasp the complexity of these coordinates that might also resist the antimony into which they are thought to play out.           

Saturday, March 23

Panel 5: Gaps in Southeast Asian Art History: Methodologies and Pedagogies

Ahmad Mashadi - audio
Patrick Flores - audio

Southeast Asian art history as a field has had its site lines and sign posts. In charting this territory, gaps need to be identified and new domains of study proposed. Important in this regard is the analysis of how the discipline has taken root in particular locations and how it has been appropriated in the context of the exigencies of various geographies and temporalities.

Panel 6: Critical Institutionalities: Archives, Museums, Disciplines, and the Stories of Art Today

Keith Moxey - audio
Sabih Ahmed - audio

The discipline of art history has been critiqued from within and practitioners have pursued its interests critically and within institutions such as the archive, the museum, and the academic industry of art history. The criticality of the discipline inflects the critical practice of the curator and the archivist, who in turn might affect the techniques of the art historian.

 “A Conversation on Art Histories”

Moderated by Patrick Flores and Michael Ann Holly - audio*

*Please note that the inaudible portions of this recording have been removed.