CIHA 2016 in Beijing
34th World Congress of Art HistoryAbout History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed
Sessions Download PDF
Session 2 The Rank of Art
Session 3 Imagination and Projection
Session 4 Appreciation and Utility
Session 5 Self-Awareness or Self-Affirmation
Session 6 Politics of Identity: Tradition and Origin
Session 7 Translation and Change
Session 8 Art and Taboo
Session 9 Autonomy and Elusion
Session 10 Gendered Practices
Session 11 Landscape and Spectacle
Session 12 Garden and Courtyard
Session 13 Transmission and Adoption
Session 14 The Other and the Foreign: Contact, Curiosity, and Creative Exchange
Session 15 Creative Misunderstanding
Session 16 Commodity and Market
Session 17 Display
Session 18 Media and Visuality
Session 19 History of Beauty vs. History of Art
Session 20 Professional Education and Aesthetic Education
Session 21 Connecting Art Histories and World Art
LIU Chen (PKU)
Before Self-Affirmation: Self-Analytical Painting in Early Renaissance Art
In the Shadow of Domenico: The Workshop Strategy of the Ghirlandaio Brothers
Reflections on “Autonomy” in Early German Self-Portraiture: Revisiting Albrecht Dürer’s 1493 Louvre Portrait
The Pictorial Reflection of Evidence in the Renaissance
Ars sima naturae: Titian, the Laocoön and Controversy of Art
A Survey on the Methods of Dating Rock Art in China
Artists in Groups: Articulating (Collective) Identities in Early Seventeenth-Century Haarlem
Absolute Art and Relative Market: Guido Reni’s “Non-Finito”
“Art of the XXth century”: Carl Einstein and the 1st Documenta
The Autonomy of art and its critical potentiality
Tradition or Innovation? European Exhibitions and Reception of Modern Chinese Guohua Painting in the Inter-War Period
In an increasingly “global” world that is both positively hybrid and negatively mixed up, it can be useful to ponder historical periods in different cultures that were eager to present their art to their public as independent, self-contained, “pure”. Although this “purity” suggests a self-image of detachment and concentration on its own production, it should be analyzed as an intellectual and cultural construction, since societies have always been hybrid, and since art itself can hardly be understood without heteronomy. Hence, at least three possible discourses inherent to the idea of art’s “purity” should be examined in order to critically reflect upon this phenomenon:
- The birth of a “national”, local, independent style related to the self-awareness of the artistic expression.
- The idea of an autonomous, “absolute” art, free from any contingency.
- The complex dialectics between art as social fact and autonomous artefact.
Concerning the first discourse, the question of independence is closely linked to the self-awareness of the artist as an autonomous, poietic subject, and to the birth of a specific “national” style. If the most celebrated artists of the 14th and the 15thcenturies were still deeply affected by the practical desires of their patrons, the situation changed radically at the beginning of the 16th century, at least in Italy. Patrons wanted an object, any object from the hand of great artists; they wanted a “Leonardo”, a “Raphael, or a “Michelangelo” more than a religious or a mythological image. This phenomenon gave birth to an unprecedented interest for the visual arts from the part of the intellectual elite such as PietroBembo or Baldassarre Castiglione. This explosive, very dense circuit brought about a recognizable “national” literary as well as visual language, which was tightly connected with a new self-awareness or self-affirmation of the artist, an aspect that Giorgio Vasari addressed so brilliantly in his Vite.
As far as the second discourse is concerned, one could begin with Immanuel Kant’s concept of the “purposiveness without purpose” of art as portrayed in his Critique of Judgment. A few years later Friedrich Schiller molded the concept of man’s “aesthetic education,” which should have been independent from any form of utility. This idea of art’s “entireness” (Schelling’s “Ganzheit”) and its necessary autonomy from utility had nothing to do with the current, naively reductive concept of art for art’s sake, even though the philosophers of German Idealism were important forerunner of the 19th-century formula of the l’art pour l’art. Their plea for the autonomy of art implies a deep understanding of the intrinsic efficacy – and therefore relevance – of art, an aspect that would become fundamental for Theodor W. Adorno’s aesthetics, and was addressed in Ad Reinhardt’s famous article Art-as-Art (1962), as well as in his minimalistic, radical black paintings.
In order to comprehend these two discourses coherently, and with the necessary historical and critical approach, one should however not forget what Adorno called the “double character” of art (i.e., its status as both a social product, a fait social, and an autonomous artifact), an aspect that is still of great contemporary topicality. The awareness of this dialectic tension will be helpful in considering the concepts of independence and self-awareness, and will also allow investigation of the issue of the criticalpotential of art. What does Adorno mean with his difficult thesis that “art becomes social by its opposition to society”, and what does this imply for the ethos of the artist? Furthermore, and depending from these previous questions: to what extent can the autonomy and self-awareness of art and artist be understood as an intrinsic necessity for any kind of truly critical dimension of art? Or in other words: is autonomy actually the privileged site of social critique? Could it be that the more art is art, the more self-aware it is, the more it becomes paradoxically socially engaged, in clear opposition to the always neutralized and neutralizing “unaware” cultural mass production?
This session seeks contributions that address the issue of self-aware, autonomous, “absolute” art in all cultures and times, putting into question at the same moment this constructed image of self-affirmation and independence, and eventually analyzing the positive tension between the autonomy and heteronomy of art that fosters its oppositional and transformative powers.
Text developed in cooperation with Hana Gründler.