CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Chinese Chair

CHEN Liang
Junior Chair

HECK, Michèle-Caroline
Between Concept and Manner: The Paradoxical Absence of the Word Art in Early Modern Northern Europe

PETERSON, Jeanette Favrot
In iollotli, in tultecaiotl: "The heart, the artisanship,"of the pre- and postconquest Nahuas in Mexico

Mimesis and the Banishment of the Artists in Plato's Republic

Food Lexicon: Describe and Think Painting at the Age of Gastronomie

Paintings in public and semi-public space in Song dynasty China

PARK, Young-Sin
The Discursive Formation of “Art” in Modern Japan and Korea : Cultural Translation and Institutional Development

Loss and Gain in Translation: Modern Art and Design in China

The Story of the Hungarian Term for ‘Art’

Term, Concept, and Translation: Rethinking "xieshizhuyi" and "xianshizhuyi"

BECKER, Danielle
South African Art: the possibility of decolonization

VOGT, Tobias
From home and abroad: “Non-art” in late 19th century Paris

Examining the Pluralism of the Notion of Cinematic Art in Its Earliest Years

Multiple Art and Original Print: Peculiarities of a Problematic Term in the Argentine Art Scene of the 20th Century

Painting as Art? The "Ground" as a Material and Conceptual Term of 19th Century Painting in Europe

ZHU Qingsheng (LaoZhu)
The Chinese Concept of Art in the Han Dynasty

Schedule of Session 1.pdf

Schedule of Session 1.jpg

CIHA 2016 Terms: The concepts of art in different cultures and times

Introduction to Section I: Words and Concepts

PD Dr. Viola Hildebrand-Schat, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main

Professor Dr. Wang, Yong, Chinese National Academy of Arts, Beijing

M. A. Chen, Liang, Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg


Logically, the questions concerning “Words and Concepts” of art can be divided into three levels:

1. Concepts of “art in different cultures

2. Change of the concept of “art” in one culture

3. Different concepts of “art” confronted with each other at the same period 


The term “art” differs enormously in different cultures/languages. The elements which have contributed to the difference can be traced back to different etymologies, philosophical reflections on art, aesthetical preferences, the development of technology, and to the broader social-cultural background as well. By putting different words and concepts of or on art in different cultures side by side, it becomes obvious to what extent our understanding of art has been formed, and restricted at the same time, by the mainstream eurocentric concept of art. It will also be revealed that there are developments of great importance outside of Europe, which contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of world art history. And that inside Europe, even in the mainstream, different lines of development can be discerned.


1. Concepts of art in different cultures

The different etymologies of the term “art” in diverse languages refers not only to the difference of terminology, but also to different origins of the term and thus to its different meanings, including differences on what is traditionally related to the term. The difference of meaning within the terms relating to art becomes especially evident regarding compositions of the term. For example in Anglo-American as well as Roman languages, “art” is used as a word root and then combined with various suffixes to create new words related to art, such as artwork, artist and so on, whereas in Slavic languages, for instance in Russian, several terms all refer to art, such as “iskusstwo” or “chudoschnik”. And interesting enough, the Russian term for painting an icon, “pisatikony”, means literally “to write an icon”, which shows that different concepts of art are closely linked with different sorts of expression regarding the production of artwork. Similarly, the influence of technique on coining terms related to art is of interest in other medien, such as in Asian ink painting, the tanzaku, the half written, half painted works influenced by Shintoism or other religions.


Differences in meaning may result from using the term in singular or plural. While the German term “Darstellende Künste” refers to dance and music performance, its singular refers above all to painting, sculpture, installation art, media art, i. e. permanent artworks. The differences become more obvious by translating terms related to “art” from one language into another. Often a single term has to be translated, according to respective context, into several terms, each refering to one specific aspect of its complex meaning. Here one has to be aware of the differences caused by different systems of script, such as alphabetic, logogrammatic and hieroglyphic system, in which terms related to art may be constructed in different ways.


The difference in etymologies may well be traced back to the difference in the philosophical reflections, of which one issue concerning words and concepts of art is the relationship between art and nature. Beginning with Plato’s theory of mimesis, a number of philosophical schools have delivered varied insights into the interaction of nature and the creativity, or genius, of the human being. These philosophical reflections took place, however, in the mainstream of western philosophy. The reflection of a art history which does not originate from this mainstream and is not based on Platonic theory of mimesis would thus be of interest.


Considering the fact that an artwork comes into being not only by its conception but also by its material realization, the relationship between theoretical reflections on art and the practical knowledge/technique is another point of special interest. This relationship may varies in different cultures, accompanied with different attitudes towards technology.


2. Change of the concept of art in one culture

The meaning of art, its functions and ideas, its relation to nature and reality often change with time. Within the 20th century several changes of paradigm have taken place in the western world. The changes in art were so drastic, as if there were several breaks in art history. Art emancipated itself from its functional context during the 19th century, not just motivated through the French Revolution and secularization, and followed more and more a purpose on its own, “l’art pour l’art”.


Throughout the history “art” is connected in different ways with different concepts. During the 20th century it became evident that art has cut off the connection with any form of mimesis: ready-made, abstraction, and objectless representation rank with conceptual and action art. The change of the connotation of the term art can somewhat not catch up with the vehement changes within artistic practices. However, although the term stays the same, it is now related to other meanings and understandings of art.


3. Different concepts of art confronted with each other at the same period

Besides its internal change, i. e. the change which took place in one culture, the concept of art of one culture may undergo change as a result of the encounter with another culture. Whereas the more powerful culture inclines to absorb the conspicuous characteristic of the weaker one and label it with “exotic” , the culture which lies in a inferior position is forced to redefine and reevaluate itself culturally. Among others the concept of art becomes a crucial field of debate, propaganda, even conflict for the establishment of cultural identity.


For instance, the Chinese term for art, yishu 藝術, is introduced from the West through translation in the modern period. A parallel Chinese term for art, somewhat more often used, meishu 美術, is also a borrowed word, which again is coined through combining ancient Chinese terms, mei and shu, in Japan in the translation of corresponding Western concepts. The words which fall into the word field of “art” in ancient China can be classified into the category “yi ”, under which a broad range of human practices such as music, painting and calligraphy are grouped. The denotation of the term yishu in modern China seems to be more broader than that of “fine arts” in the Western traditions, while the term meishu refers in particular to visual arts or formative arts, including painting, sculpture and applied arts. In the present age the denotation of the term yishu, which is larger than that of meishu, is further extended to include modern branches such as installation art and video art, besides traditional branches like painting and sculpture. The connotation and denotation of the term yishu is undergoing a change, through which the development of Chinese terms and concepts of art in the context of Chinese culture confronted with the globalization can be traced.


At the present time when the footsteps of globalization become more and more evident, the concept of art can not keep itself untouched by the globalization. But what does globolization mean for art? Can the nuance of different words and concepts of art, deeply rooted in its culture and tradition, be kept in the attempt to write a global art history using one single language?


Before the background of globalization the reinforcement of national identity will be of special interest. Here the promotion of nationalism can be reflected from the perspective of concept of art, for instance in the case of the socially engaged art.


Out of 59 valid proposals we have chosen 15 papers to be presented in this section. They all address the issues reflected in this introduction, at the same time with their respective emphasis. The major concerns of the 15 papers form naturally three groups, therefore they are divided into 3 panels with 5 papers in each panel.


In the first panel we have presentations focussing more or less the self-reflection of the term and/or the concepts of “art” among one single culture. This include reflections on the opposites between “mind and hand” in the 17th century Northern Europe, also in the pre-hispanic culture in Mexico. Two further presentation in this section refer to the mimesis theory of Plato and the low status of artists in his republic, while another presentation suggests a change of art paradigm in France after the French revolution through the most intimate and delicate facet of art: taste. The last talk in the first section, reveals with the help of exploring the emergence of public and semi-public space in the capital city of Northern Song Dynasty, Bianliang, how the literati painters hold fast to their identity of “literati” by differentiating their own “literati painting” from “commercial painting”. There are rules about which kind of paintings are to be hung in a certain space or for certain occasions.


Panel II is dedicated to speeches about changes in concept of art in indigenous culture during its confrontation with foreign cultures, accompanied by introducing, translating and rejecting of foreign concepts of art. Four of the presentations refer to the reaction of one indigenous culture when facing with the entrance of a powerful foreign culture, while the last talk of section II reflects, on the contrary, on the possibility of integrating the indigenous culture equally into the society.


Our last panel, panel III, refers to the relationship between concepts of art and technology. For instance, talk 11, criticizing the influential theses of Thierry de Duve on the invention of ready-made art, explores the birth of new concepts of art around the beginning of 20th century in Paris, when France was confronted with foreign cultures and new technologies of making art. Talk 13 discusses the strategy of artists to keep artistic originality under the pressure of new technology in printing. In talk 15, after the reflection on the first formulation of the term “yishu藝術 (art) , the connection between the concept of art in Early China with “liberal arts”, “divination technology and other occult arts” as well as the concept of “change” in the Book of Change (I-ching) will be explored.


Each presentation will be given a maximum of 30 minutes and followed by a discussion for 15 minutes. At the end of each panel there will be time for a longer discussion, in which issues of each talk may be addressed. Now we invite you cordially to our presentations and expect an interessting discussion.