Visualizing Human-Animal Relations in the Indian Ocean World

American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XIX; Edinburgh, 2019

The past 20 years has seen an escalation in the activities of the National River Linking Project, which promises to connect nearly 60 rivers across India (at a cost of $87 billion) in order to improve irrigation and make vast hectares of land newly cultivatable. Environmentalists have, however, challenged the project’s efficacy and decried its vast ecological costs, including irreparable damage to natural preserves that have long served as the last refuge for critically endangered animal species. Although the idea of linking rivers in order to manage the monsoon rains has origins in ancient times, the scale of modern anthropocenic technology has the potential to upset the precarious balance between human and nonhuman animals in fundamental ways. Art history, we propose, has the ability to address such critical ecological challenges. As we face the sixth extinction, this panel asks how a renewed attention to human-animal relations can help art historians revise perceptions of the visual and architectural past. The papers in this panel examine the ways in which animals been visualized, thought about, and lived with in both metaphoric and real ways over the course of the past 450 years. They work broadly across media, ranging from Mughal painting to Adivasi performative cultures. In doing so, the papers push the boundaries of how (re)presentations of animals produced distinctive cosmopolitan visions and new aesthetic paradigms, articulated efforts to humanize the vastness of temporal scales, and served as sites for scientific inquiry at key moments of global engagement. Organized in collaboration with Tamara I. Sears, Rutgers University. 

speakers: Brahma Prakash (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Yael Rice (Amherst College); Malini Roy (British Library); Holly Shaffer (Brown University)

Eco Art History: Genealogies, Methodologies, Practices, Horizons

Department of History of Art, University of California, Berkeley, 2018

Nuclear disasters. Acid rain. The mass extinction of animal and plant species. The devastating environmental crisis that the planet faces today has fundamentally transformed the way we perceive human interaction with the natural environment. New forms of thinking such as postcolonial ecophilosophy, actor-network theory, new materialisms, evolutionary-developmental aesthetics, and posthumanism have challenged Enlightenment distinctions between natural and human history. Can art history, a discipline primarily engaged in the study of human creativity, also breach the natural/human history binary? What would such a history of art and architecture look like? Inescapably located in deep time, the ecological is omnidirectional and rhizomatic in its scalarity. Therefore, rather than focusing on specific sites or temporal periods, the conference seeks to explore the interconnected ecologies of planetary systems and art and architecture practices across a longue durée. It aims to bring forth the genealogies, methodologies, practices, and horizons of ecologically-oriented art, architecture, and visual histories. The conference is made possible with generous support from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Institute of International Studies, the Department of History of Art, and the Institute for South Asia Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Organized in collaboration with Whitney Davis, Department of History of Art, University of California, Berkeley.

speakers: Lamia Balafrej (University of California, Los Angeles); Elisabeth de Bièvre (University of East Anglia); Whitney Davis (University of California, Berkeley); Natasha Eaton (University College London); Anthony Grudin (University of Vermont); Meredith Hoy (Arizona State University); Monica Juneja (Universität Heidelberg); Gregory Levine (University of California, Berkeley); Sugata Ray (University of California, Berkeley); Ivonne del Valle (University of California, Berkeley)

Lahore on my Mind: Museums, Exhibitions, and Curatorial Practce

Bard Graduate Center, New York City, 2017 

Lahore on my Mind is a public festival at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan that moves between the past and the present to explore the early modern, colonial, and contemporary cultural worlds of South Asia. Featuring artist interventions and discussions with thinkers, curators, and artists from the United States, Europe, and South Asia, the interdisciplinary festival takes the 2017 Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition John Lockwood Kipling: Arts & Crafts in the Punjab and London as a starting point to reflect on how visual arts, performative practices, and literary cultures are shaping South Asia’s identity in a globalized world. 

speakers: Sadia Abbas (Rutgers-Newark); Meena Alexander (Hunter College/The Graduate Center CUNY); Richard Davis (Bard College); Sabrina Dhawan (screenwriter and producer); Navina N. Haidar (The Metropolitan Museum of Art); Risha Lee (Independent Curator and Scholar); Tasneem Z. Mehta (Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai); Gyan Prakash (Princeton University); Shahzia Sikander (visual artist); Nadeem O. Tarar (National College of Arts, Lahore); Alok Vaid-Menon (Performance artist)

Translation and Change [流传与嬗变]

Thirty-Fourth World Congress of Art History, Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art; Beijing, 2016 

The appearance of transcultural visual forms in societies across the world has elicited significant scholarly attention in recent years. New art histories have utilized trade networks, migration patterns, and conflict zones as the locus of enquiry to engage with the question of translation and change on a global scale. The Black Atlantic, the Indian Ocean littoral, the Pacific Rim, the Silk Route, the Sub-Saharan Trail, and the Mediterranean world, among others, have thus emerged as key geopolitical constellations that have shaped the pluralistic topography of intercultural flows. While this plurotopic hermeneutics has allowed scholars to identify a set of intercultural economic, political, and geographic formations as central to theorizing translation and change, we are yet to fully confront the conceptual and methodological questions such configurations present for art history’s disciplinary contours. By examining the circuitous movement of artists, objects, aesthetic concepts, and knowledge systems, the panel seeks to offer a broad vision of translation and change. Approaching Translation and Change through the lens of trade networks, migration patterns, and aesthetic discourses, our aim is to engage with the relatively under-theorized dialectic between the global transmission of objects and ideas and the disciplinary contours of art history in dispersed locations through three distinct, but inter-related, areas of emphasis. Organized in collaboration with ZHENG Yan, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and ZENG Qingying, Peking University, Beijing.

speakers: BAADER, Hannah ( Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz); DING Yu (Beijing Normal University); FORDHAM, Douglas (University of Virginia); GENG Youzhuang (Renmin University of China); GUO Liang (Shanghai University); HOPKINS, Claudia (University of Edinburgh); KONDO, Takako (Leiden University); MIRJAM, Brusius (University of Oxford); MUKHERJEE, Sraman (Nalanda University); NOTH, Juliane (Freie Universität); SZIR, Sandra (Universidad de Buenos Aires); WANG Ching-ling (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam);  WANG Yudong (The Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts); WEINRYB, Ittai (The Bard Graduate Center)

Geoaesthetics in Early Modern and Colonial Worlds

College Art Association 104th Annual Conference; Washington DC, 2016 

The panel engages with the theory and praxis of geoaesthetics in early modern and colonial worlds. Defining geoaesthetics as an emerging approach in art history that reflects on the reciprocal relationship between matter and (nonhuman and human) life in shaping the planet, the panel seeks to offer critical vocabularies, multitudinal genealogies, and deeper histories for the concept-term. How might we understand historical constructions of nature and the natural environment, along with their aesthetic dimensions? How do we think of the agentive force of matter and nonhuman life in relation to human action? How was geoaesthetics visually configured in geographically distinct, yet interconnected, terrains through nonhuman and human agency? How did striated knowledge systems, the agentive qualitiy of matter, and artistic practices shape such configurations, topographies, and spatial orders? To what extent were particular aesthetic practices related to the economies of religious systems or social arrangements? With speakers focusing on the entanglements between matter and life in regions ranging from Africa to Asia, the panel addresses relational practices that were shaped through human interaction with geographical, geological, botanical, zoological, astronomical, and climatic formations from the micro to a planetary scale. Organized in collaboration with Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz. 

speakersSuzanne Preston Blier (Harvard University); Gregory Seiffert (Princeton University); Natasha Eaton (University College London); Gerhard Wolf (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz);  Lihong Liu (Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art)

Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institute, 2015

Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art is conceived as an intellectual laboratory to address the ecological and aesthetic dimensions of human interaction with geographical, geological, botanical, zoological, astronomical, and climatic formations from the micro to a planetary scale. How was the interrelationship between the nonhuman and the human visually configured in geographically distinct, yet often interconnected, terrains in different moments of history? How did striated knowledge-systems, the agentive qualities of matter, and aesthetic practices shape such configurations, topographies, and spatial orders? To what extent were particular aesthetic practices related to the economies of religious systems or social arrangements? What are the conceptual interconnections, or conversely interstices, between theories of nature, ecology, environment, and aesthetics? While literary ecocriticism has become a field of intense debate over the last decades, the ecological turn in visual culture studies is still at its early stage. The conference thus aims to bring art history, a discipline that has for long been concerned with notions of landscape, nature, materiality, and aesthetic processes, into this emerging conversation. The conference aims to act as a crucial interpolation in the conversation between ecological and aesthetic studies, envisaged here in a historical and transcultural perspective from the earliest known human interaction with the natural environment to the present day. Organized in collaboration with Gerhard Wolf and Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz. 

speakersDipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago); Adam Herring (Southern Methodist University); Timothy Ingold (University of Aberdeen); Lihong Liu (National Gallery of Art, Washington); Venugopal Maddipati (Ambedkar University); Michael Marder (The University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz); Sandy Prita Meier (University of Illinois); Spyros Papapetros (Princeton University); Felix Pirson (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbul); Margarete Pratschke (ETH Zürich); Peter Schneemann (Universität Bern); Mimi Yiengpruksawan (Yale University)

Spaces of Water: New Paradigms in Ecocritical Enquiry

Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 2014

The reciprocal relationship between global water systems and cultures of spatiality in constituting historical events across time and space has received little attention in ecohistories of India. Spaces of Water: New Paradigms in Ecocritical Enquiry is an attempt to address this opacity in environmental studies by bringing together leading scholars, artists, architects, and activists from India, Europe, and the United States to articulate new forms of ecocritical thinking that reads the cultural as both determining and being determined by the environmental. How does the environment shape, and is shaped by, the ontological domain of affective spatialities? Over two days, speakers will rethink the intersections between water systems and the phenomenology of spatial cultures in early modern, colonial, and contemporary India to explore the topographies of the concept-term waterscape in the wake of environmental histories and ecocriticism more broadly. Organized in collaboration with Venugopal Maddipati, School of Design, Ambedkar University, Delhi. 

speakers: Catherine B. Asher (University of Minnesota); Hannah Baader (Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florenz; Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin); Amita Baviskar (Institute of Economic Growth); Atul Bhalla (Artist); Dipti Khera (New York University); Venugopal Maddipati (Ambedkar University, Delhi); Rila Mukherjee (Institut de Chandernagor; University of Hyderabad); Vasudha Pande (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library); Suhas Paranjape (Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management); Madhav Raman (Anagram Architects); Mahesh Rangarajan (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library); Sugata Ray (University of California, Berkeley); Gopa Samanta (The University of Burdwan); Tamara I. Sears (Yale University); Kavita Singh (Jawaharlal Nehru University); Tripta Wahi (Nehru Memorial Museum and Library); James L. Wescoat Jr. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). 

Collecting South Asia, Archiving South Asia

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2014

Focusing on assemblages of capital, connoisseurship, and collecting practices, the one-day international conference, Collecting South Asia, Archiving South Asia, is an attempt to rethink object histories, visual culture studies, and histories of the museum and the archive from the nineteenth century to the present. The conference was made possible with generous support from the the Center for South Asia Studies, the History of Art Department, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and the Arts Research Center, University of California, Berkeley.

speakers: Anjali Arondekar (University of California, Santa Cruz); Dina Bangdel (Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar); Lawrence Cohen (University of California, Berkeley); Debra Diamond (Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution); Atreyee Gupta (Haus der Kunst, Munich); Janice Leoshko (University of Texas at Austin); Padma Maitland  (University of California, Berkeley); Forrest McGill (The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco); Wendi Norris (Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco); Sugata Ray (University of California, Berkeley); Alexander von Rospatt (University of California, Berkeley); Sanchita Saxena (University of California, Berkeley); Cristin McKnight Sethi (University of California, Berkeley); Anuradha Vikram (18th Street Arts Center); Julia White (Berkeley Art Museum); Karin Zitzewitz (Michigan State University)