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Prof. Maromitsu Tsukamoto|Institute of Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo

Moderator|Dr. Lin, Li-Chiang  

Chief Curator of Dept. Painting, Calligraphy, Rare Books and Historical Documents,  National Palace Museum

Since the 1990s, a major issue in the field of academic art history has been the construction of an “East Asian art history” transcending models of individual national histories. Researchers in each region were confronted with the obvious problem that "East Asian art history" could not be brought into being by simply assembling the histories of each nation. This presentation will examine alternative ways of constructing East Asian art history. Previously, scholars focused on major cities such as Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Seoul, Kyoto, and Edo, and the "masterpieces" produced in these cities. However, in addition to such cities, considered politically important from the perspective of modern nation-states, there were other centers of artistic activity. Our focus is on the “marginal men,” and linkages between such peripheral regions as Ryukyu, Fujian, Tsushima, and Kyushu. Instead of dwelling on concerns often discussed in 19th-century art histories, especially those influenced by Essentialism, which valued the essence of the works and the purity of their artistic styles, the focus here is on stylistic hybridity, impurity, adjunction, and misinterpretation. Although dividing regions into "centers" and "peripheries" is not always effective, the aim here is to seek out clues for reconsidering the construction of East Asian art history.


Zhuang Wubin|Singaporean Artist, Curator and Photography Researcher

Chen, Chia-Chi|Photography History Researcher

Moderator|Wang, Sheng-Hung 

Assistant Prof., Graduate Institute of Art Studies, National Central University

In this lecture, we invite two photography scholars, Zhuang Wubin and Chen Chia-Chi, to share their thoughts on challenges one might now encounter when dealing with complex transregional and transnational issues while researching photographic history. We are particularly interested in their writing strategies and methodologies, and have asked that they highlight specific case studies in the lecture to open a dialogue on related issues encountered in art history research.

Zhuang Wubin's research begins with the specificity of salon photography in Southeast Asia, and argues that its praxis has been closely related to the making of national imaginary. In fact, the production of the national imaginary depends precisely on the transregional basis of the praxis of salon photography. As the main aesthetic framework of photographic art, salon photography has been favored and supported by political and cultural elites since the colonial period. During the decolonization struggles, various forces competed for the support of salon photographers in their different projects of national imaginations. Heralded as the "Kingdom of Salon", Hong Kong had a significant influence on ethnic Chinese photographers in Southeast Asia during the Cold War, perpetuating the spectre of salon photography in the region while helping its practitioners maintain an ambiguous image of their motherland. At the same time, the personal desires of the salon photographers coincided with the different desires of political and cultural elites in the making of the national imaginary. In this lecture, Zhuang Wubin focuses on K. F. Wong (1916-1998), who was born in the Henghua agricultural settlement of Sibu in Sarawak, and who would go on to become one of the most famous photographers in Southeast Asia. He argues that Wong’s photographs not only became an important means of earning tourism revenue for national elites during the process of decolonization, but also served as an ambiguous reference of the Chineseness of ethnic Chinese salon photographers. 

Chen Chia-Chi's research is based on a post-war photographer's work published in a Japanese magazine whose life is little known: Chu Yi-wen's "Eye" in 1963. Through this photograph, which was appropriated by Japanese manga artist Tsuge Yoshiharu's "Spiral" (1968) as a scene in a surreal fantasy story, she shares preliminary observations on the following issues: trends in Taiwan's post-war photography history during the 1950s and 1960s; the meaning of amateur photography in the post-war period; and exchanges between Taiwan and Japan in the 1960s. Through the origin and reproduction of a single photograph, this neglected history - the disappearance of anonymous authors and the post-war image production framework in the name of "amateur photography" - will reveal the complexities and difficulties of photography history and point out the insufficiency of its discourse from an artistic perspective. To be sure, in the current anxiety of continuous loss and supplementation of photography history and archives, it is definitely necessary to borrow much from traditional art history methods, including data collection, style differentiation, individual photographers' research publications and other practices of appreciation, in order to construct or expand a history of image creation in the name of nationality. However, there are many experiences in the manufacture of photographs that differ from the purpose of art, or are similar to art history but cannot be replicated, especially when the history of photography relies on traditional art history, extracting or even insisting on methodologies such as origin, influence and style, it will eventually be found difficult to encompass itself.

This lecture attempts to highlight the complexity of East Asian photography studies through the dialectical relationship between the two approaches mentioned above. On one hand, the photographic practice opens up a rich exchange of creative thinking, which traverses many cultures and creates an intertextual network that eludes the framing of national discourse. On the other hand, the transregional circulation of photographic practice may in turn contribute to the construction of a new round of national imagination, which affects the "mutual reading" or "self-observation" of different ethnic groups. The investigation of the dismantling and reconstructing effects of image circulation will be one of the most challenging and fascinating chapters of contemporary photographic criticism.

Keynote Speech: Speakers
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