Mellon Research Initiative: Events
Materiality in Japan: Making, Breaking and Conserving Works of Art and Architecture
April 11, 2014
Organized by Anton Schweizer, 2012-2014 IFA/Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
Japan is widely regarded as an exemplar in terms of the preservation of material integrity, the perpetuation of historical production techniques and the responsible preservation of works of architecture and artifacts in museum contexts. The Japanese certification system for Cultural Property – which also includes the category of Living National Treasures for specialist craftsmen who embody manufacturing techniques as Intangible Cultural Property – has earned far-reaching acclaim. It is frequently overlooked, however, that there is actually a wide range of divergent approaches towards originality and authenticity even in contemporary Japan. While some of these inconsistencies find their counterparts in the West, others are related to pre-modern cultural practices, e.g. concurrent concepts of artifacts in divergent contexts of reception and evaluation.
This conference attempts to shed light on this issue with a series of case studies as a means to deconstruct overly simplistic explanatory models.
The conference schedule will follow three thematic sections:
I “Object practices” will address practices of production, maintenance, repair and renewal in pre-modern Japan. Of particular interest will be distinctive concepts of temporality and permanence, substitution, preservation and functionality.
II “Ensemble cultures” will address relevant practices which employed artifacts in larger contexts of spatial organization, object groups or decorative ensembles. A particular focus will be laid on processes of re-interpretation, re-evaluation, categorization and historiographical engagement of artifacts, and the corresponding practices of display.
III “Approaches to curating and conserving” will examine dichotomies among the contemporary approaches to authenticity and material integrity in Japan, Europe and North America. In particular, a focus will be laid on a discussion of the often-postulated continuities between pre-modern and contemporary practices in Japan, and of challenges to established paradigms of material integrity in the West.
Mellon Research Initiative
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