Itineraries of Artistic Mobility in Europe and Asia

Event Date: 
23 May 2013 to 25 May 2013

Museen Dahlem and Freie Universität, Berlin

Annual conference of the DFG Research Unit 1703 Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art: Comparative Perspectives on Historical Contexts and Contemporary Constellations. Organized by Project Area B Transgressive Itineraries and Transcultural Aesthetics of Artistic Exchange in cooperation with the DFG Research Project Landscape, Canon and Intermediality in Chinese Painting of the 1930s and 1940s.

The conference discusses the interaction between routes as channels of communication and as modes of artistic experience in Europe and Asia. While recent scholarship has devoted attention to the economic and political historiographies of road-systems, this conference will focus on routes as stimuli of cultural transfer and artistic production. Addressing interactive overland and maritime networks as itineraries of contact and catalysts of artistic exchange will underscore the cultural agency of routes and interconnections. Framed in the historiography of longue durée, routes may be addressed as trajectories that cut across culturally determined geographies and periodizations. The conference concentrates on the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries and thereby foregrounds a period characterized by the unprecedented expansion and transformation of pre-existent route-networks. In the wake of the first global circumnavigation in 1522, the connection of overland-roads and maritime routes triggered new dynamics of transcontinental entanglements.

The conference aims at parallel perspectives on both Western Europe and East Asia, geographical regions that imagined each other as ›natural‹ terminus points of the ancient Eurasian trade networks. Consequently, new combinations of transcontinental telluric and nautical routes profoundly affected such predominant cultural topographies and symbolic paradigms. The rise of Asian and European port cities as nodes of maritime systems and prosperous cultural contact zones, often at the expense of inland metropoles, bespeaks this fundamental shift. By the end of the nineteenth century this process entered its end-stages; it is hardly coincidental that in this period, marked by colonialism and nationalism, some of the most enduring narratives of pre-modern routes evolved. To relate the proliferation of routes in the Early Modern era to art and artistic practices is also to engage with not only the actual translocation of persons, animals and objects, but with protocols and mechanisms of control and constraint. Furthermore, it is crucial to pose the question of how the visual arts in diverse historical and cultural contexts contributed to the fabrication of collective imaginations about routes past and present, as well as long-distance journeys. Parallel enquiries of practices and tropes of artistic mobility in Western Europe and East Asia enable the reconsideration of previously separate research in the agency of routes pursued at the intersection of the histories of art, cross-cultural transfer and entanglement.

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