The ‘material turn’ in art history opened new avenues for research with fresh approaches that shift our attention from considering an object as a static thing in an absolute state to putting more emphasis on the process of making and its use and reuse. A chipped area in a miniature painting is no longer an unfortunate loss but a site of excavation for information about material conditions of production and use, while unfinished surface in a stone sculpture provides a laboratory to explore artisans’ hands at work.
This symposium brings together scholars whose research embraces methodological interventions and theoretical implications of art history’s material turn in the field of South Asian art and architecture, mostly focusing on the period between 500 CE and 1500CE.
Thematically organized, papers demonstrate how attending to thingness and the process of making helps reveal hitherto invisible connections across time and space. Going beyond the rubric of material agency, papers also explore the importance of considering somatic intelligence and ritual technology that developed to activate power and sacrality of objects and buildings in Indic religious contexts. Further consideration of ritual knowledge helps situate the trace of time left in matter through artistic mediations in historical and experiential contexts.
KEYNOTE LECTURE: “Did Time Run Out? Hammer, Chisel, & the Unfinished at Rock-cut Ellora & Built Halebid” will be delivered by Vidya Dehejia, Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian and South Asian Art, Columbia University
“I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other.”
This was film critic Roger Ebert’s reaction to Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues (2008), an animated film that follows two parallel stories. The first is the ancient tale of Sita, the heroine of the Hindu mythological story of the Ramayana, and the second is the modern biographical tale of Nina, the filmmaker herself.
Originally a short that Paley expanded almost single-handedly into a feature film, Sita Sings the Blues incorporates multiple styles of animation: from the 18th-century tradition of Rajput painting and traditional Indian shadow puppets to modern vector graphic animation and lo-fi “squigglevision.” Each aspect comes together to unfold Paley’s retelling of the Ramayana in a form sympathetic to Sita, alongside the exploration of events from Paley’s own life. Paley’s take on the Ramayana was not uncontroversial; her shifting of the focus from Prince Rama to Sita drew strong reactions upon release. But ultimately, the film’s brightness, humor, color, and exuberance make it the perfect event to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival celebrating the victory of light, goodness, knowledge, and hope over darkness, evil, ignorance, and despair—aspirations that feel more pressing than ever at this particular moment.
The screening will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway.
This screening is offered in conjunction with the installation “Women in South Asian Art,” on view in the University Teaching Gallery at the Harvard Art Museums through January 7, 2018. This installation complements Jinah Kim’s undergraduate course in Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture. The course explores images of women in South Asian art, taking a historical perspective in order to understand the politics of gender and the social status of women in today’s South Asia.
Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund.
Harvard South Asia Institute is proud to co-sponsor the biennial American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium. ACSAA symposia serve as opportunities to meet colleagues, reconnect with mentors and graduate school cohorts, and share one’s current research with the field. From senior scholars to graduate students, ACSAA symposia are one of the primary ways ACSAA members gather and support one another, share ideas with a group of like-minded colleagues, and participate in the ACSAA community. We are looking forward to welcoming you all in Boston/Cambridge, MA!
ACSAA 2017 Organizers
Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture Laura Weinstein, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
About the ACSAA
The American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study and awareness of the art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions. In addition to periodic symposia, usually held every two years, ACSAA pursues these goals through various projects, including its annual bulletin, bibliographies, a color slide project, a microfiche archive and outreach materials. Since its incorporation in 1967, ACSAA has grown from its original fifteen members to an organization of some three hundred individuals and institutions. ACSAA is formally affiliated with the College Art Association (CAA) and the Association of Asian Studies (AAS).
Drawn from the Harvard Art Museums’ renowned South Asian art collection, this University Teaching Gallery installation complements an undergraduate course exploring images of women in South Asian art; the course takes a historical perspective in order to understand the politics of gender and the social status of women in today’s South Asia. In addition to historical examples of female patronage and representations of goddesses, the installation includes a group of objects portraying women as active agents—a lady chasing a cat, for example, or a rare depiction of a female artist. A small group of erotic images invites viewers to consider the relationship between erotic science and the Indic attitude toward the body, in which sexuality and virility are auspicious forces.
The installation’s related course (HAA 183W) is taught by Jinah Kim, the Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. The University Teaching Gallery serves faculty and students affiliated with Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture. Semester-long installations are mounted in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate courses, supporting instruction in the critical analysis of art and making unique selections from the museums’ collections available to all visitors.
This installation is made possible in part by funding from the Gurel Student Exhibition Fund and the José Soriano Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.