ART H 509
Specific focus changes from quarter to quarter.
SPRING 2003: "Contemporary Southeast Asian Artscapes: Traditions, Modernity, and Post-"
While the arts of Southeast Asia do have a degree of regional unity apparent in certain persistent themes and concerns found throughout the region, each of the many hundreds of Southeast Asian ethnic groups has its own language, culture, and artistic practices and values. The arts and cultures in different parts of Southeast Asia have been shaped to various degrees by interaction with outside cultures—other Southeast Asian as well as Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European—in a process that has resulted in new continuities and discontinuities. Even individual ethnic groups or towns may be culturally diverse. Modernization has been not only uneven but it has had many different faces, and what exactly modernization and modernity mean has been an open question coped with differently by different people. Today, artistic practices, institutions, and values, comparable and often closely related to those current in the international art world —from painting to performance and video art, from art academies to art galleries, from the value placed on the artist-individual to passionate collecting of “primitive” art—co-exist with living traditional artistic practices, values, and institutions. Contemporary performance art draws on and refers to traditional shadow theater, collages include or evoke traditional textiles, while the so-called “traditional” artistic practices are not only alive and changing but often aggressively modern or postmodern. In many cases, diverse practices and art worlds interact, but in other cases they are as if separated by deep abysses. This situation makes for a remarkably diverse and complex artistic landscape, one full of both sharp discontinuities and unexpected connections. While labels such as traditional, tribal, modern, postmodern may be occasionally useful to evoke the diversity of the contemporary world, they fail to describe the complexity with which various practices exist in the present-day world. The seminar will focus on understanding particular artistic practices, values, and institutions, their place and role in the complex artscapes, the many cultural, political, and economic forces that shape it, the imaginative frameworks of individual artists and other people involved with the arts, and various Southeast Asian perspectives.
Reading; discussion; material and (audio)visual illustrations; snacks.
Open to graduate students from all disciplines and interested seniors; some background in contemporary art, cultural studies, or Asian studies useful but not required. For seniors, the latter is strongly recommended.
Class Assignments and Grading
Several one-page reports and final project (paper and a presentation).