Pub. Date:
University of Hawaii Press, The
What's the Use of Art?: Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context

What's the Use of Art?: Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context

by Jan Mrazek, Morgan Pitelka


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Post-Enlightenment notions of culture, which have been naturalized in the West for centuries, require that art be autonomously beautiful, universal, and devoid of any practical purpose. The authors of this multidisciplinary volume seek to complicate this understanding of art by examining art objects from across Asia with attention to their functional, ritual, and everyday contexts. From tea bowls used in the Japanese tea ceremony to television broadcasts of Javanese puppet theater; from Indian wedding chamber paintings to art looted by the British army from the Chinese emperor’s palace; from the adventures of a Balinese magical dagger to the political functions of classical Khmer images—the authors challenge prevailing notions of artistic value by introducing new ways of thinking about culture.

The chapters consider art objects as they are involved in the world: how they operate and are experienced in specific sites, collections, rituals, performances, political and religious events and imagination, and in individual peoples’ lives; how they move from one context to another and change meaning and value in the process (for example, when they are collected, traded, and looted or when their images appear in art history textbooks); how their memories and pasts are or are not part of their meaning and experience. Rather than lead to a single universalizing definition of art, the essays offer multiple, divergent, and case-specific answers to the question "What is the use of art?" and argue for the need to study art as it is used and experienced.

Contributors: Cynthea J. Bogel, Louise Cort, Richard H. Davis, Robert DeCaroli, James L. Hevia, Janet Hoskins, Kaja McGowan, Jan Mrázek, Lene Pedersen, Morgan Pitelka, Ashley Thompson.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780824830632
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press, The
Publication date: 12/31/2007
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

Morgan Pitelka is associate professor of Asian studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: Wrapping and Unwrapping Art   Morgan Pitelka     1
From the Living Rock: Understanding Figural Representation in Early South Asia   Robert Decaroli     21
Disposable but Indispensable: The Earthenware Vessel as Vehicle of Meaning in Japan   Louise Allison Cort     46
From the Wedding Chamber to the Museum: Relocating the Ritual Arts of Madhubani   Richard H. Davis     77
In the Realm of the Indigo Queen: Dyeing, Exchange Magic, and the Elusive Tourist Dollar on Sumba   Janet Thoskins     100
Plunder, Markets, and Museums: The Biographies of Chinese Imperial Objects in Europe and North America   James L. Hevia     129
Situating Moving Objects: A Sino-Japanese Catalogue of Imported Items, 800 CE to the Present   Cynthea J. Bogel     142
Angkor Revisited: The State of Statuary   Ashley Thompson     179
An Ancestral Keris, Balinese Kingship, and a Modern Presidency   Lene Pedersen     214
Raw Ingredients and Deposit Boxes in Balinese Sanctuaries: A Congruence of Obsessions   Kaja M. McGowan     238
Conclusion: Ways of Experiencing Art: Art History, Television, and Javanese Wayang   Jan Mrazek     272
Contributors     305
Index     309

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