An evolving process which fosters the invention of art works

Wu Hung, In an excerpt from his Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
I no longer see a clear distinction between “Western” and “Chinese” scholarship on Chinese art. DIFFERENCES IN LANGUAGE, readership, and academic environment certainly exist, BUT GLOBAL COLLABORATION AND MUTUAL LEARNING HAS BECOME THE DOMINANT TREND.
(…) One challenge is to re-examine key concepts currently used in writing about Chinese art, which is mostly “loanwords” derived from the study of European art. Here I’m talking about concepts as basic as “image,” “iconography,” “style,” “representation,” “gaze,” “monument,” “narrative,“ “evolution,” and many others. While these concepts have facilitated modern scholarship on Chinese art history, their adaptation was not based on first-hand research of China’s art-historical reality. I should emphasize that I’m not in any way advocating replacing them with traditional Chinese terms. Rather, I hope that new research on Chinese art will simultaneously reflect on these “universal” concepts vis-à-vis indigenous art practice and discourse, and will in this process redefine these concepts or expand their meaning. Such integrated historical and theoretical projects will, in turn, encourage comparative studies that will become the basis of true global art history.
(…) The history of Chinese art not as a retrospective reconstruction of later art historians, but as AN EVOLVING PROCESS WHICH FOSTERS its concepts and vocabulary alongside THE INVENTION OF ARTWORKS, mediums, and styles, not after such inventions.
Wu Hung,


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