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
Tabu and Mana and Their Interpretation from Cook and Hodges to Adams and Lafarge
Out of Sight Out Of Mind: Secret and Sacred Objects of the Tagwa-Senufo of Burkina Faso
Absent Monogram and Repressed Memory: The Disputed Legitimacy of Saint Bernardino of Siena in Late Fifteenth-Century Rome
The Criminal' s Taboo: Touch and the Conversion of Deviance in the Dutch Republic
DAZZI, Camilla and VALLE, Arthur
Afro-Brazilian Religions and Art: Image-Making, Image-Breaking
Tabooing Bodily Excitement: Art and Pornography Revisited
Body as Landscape: The Representation of the Body in Chinese Contemporary Art
The Art of Débora Arango: From Censorship to Canonization in Colombia
Communism, Assimilation, and Taboo: János Major’s “In Memory of Móric Scharf”
covered Genitalia: The Veiling of Ryudai Takano’s With Me
Re-Moved: Art and Spatial Politics in Taiwan
The Stockhausen Syndrome and the Avant-Garde Taboo after 9/11
To copy is to steal: the intersection of intellectual property, cultural practices and visual art
A taboo is a ritual prohibition, which may apply to persons, objects, and actions. The term comes from the Polynesian tapu, transmitted in the late eighteenth century by James Cook, who reported about prohibitions that could be local and provisional, as well as universal and permanent. It is often used in connection with art, but generally in a superficial way, such as when art is automatically assumed to challenge rules and conventions and to disregard what is allowed and what is forbidden, be it in terms of behaviour, subject matter or form.
This session aims at exploring more rigorously and systematically the ways in which the notion of taboo, with its roots in religion and anthropology, can contribute to the understanding of art and art history, in their relationship with decorum, power and authority.
Four areas of research can be summarily distinguished:
1. Art forms, artists and artworks subjected to prohibitions. Objects may be kept out of sight from the public or from certain categories of potential viewers and users (such as women and children for ‘secret sacred objects’). Works may also be censored, prevented from being completed, and even mutilated or destroyed. Artists themselves may be prohibited from exerting their activity or from showing their work.
2. Art forms, artists and artworks that impose a prohibition or help maintaining it. It may be the case with monuments, state portraits, effigies, and various forms of propaganda. Of particular interest are images connected with the law and meant to possess a legal efficacy, as in the pitturainfamante and executio in effigie.
3. Prohibitions that are inherent in art or belong to the rules of the art world, explicitly or implicitly. “Do not touch” is the most obvious one, but there have been countless interdictions crucial to the existence of art, from its creation to its reception by way of its conservation and display. Examples of these are limits set to copying and reproducing, and the issues of fake and plagiarism. Art theory is equally involved, including when it defines rules about the relationship of art with non-artistic rules.
4. Prohibitions as the theme or subject of a work of art. Even though it has become a cliché of art journalism and artists may be expected or required to “break taboos”, it is the case that artists and artworks keep questioning — sometimes at great risk for themselves and their works — interdictions deriving from power structures and from the rules governing the political, religious, economic, social or sexual domains.