In recent years, humanities along with social sciences have become more concerned with the processes shaping the ends and means of current intercultural discourses. In this respect, most European societies today are presently witnessing and experiencing issues of cross-cultural bridging, synchronicity and juxtaposition in different aspects of their contemporary living.
Seen from the convergent perspectives of museum and conservation studies as well as social sciences, this multicultural challenge calls for a balanced interpretation of its present potential and of its future trajectories. But, to what extent do these intercultural concerns touch upon what has been recognized as the art-culture system? What is the role of the art-culture system when it comes to observing and interpreting multicultural issues in society and the latter’s constant renewal? How neutral is the museum’s institutional gaze on society when challenged by present-day multicultural synchronicity? To what extent can displays in public and private collections be considered as effective tools for analyzing social changes? In what ways might private European collectors of today, interested in early-modern extra-European arts and artefacts, contribute to the recording of current shifts in European subjectivities? What is the role played by European restorers when dealing with extra-European artefacts and material objects? To what extent do current conservation and display practices in Europe risk substantiating a taxonomic idea of ‘cultures’ as formulated for past colonial purposes?
The kinds of analyses informing this conference are based on these introductory questions. The organizers’ principal aim, however, is to discuss the arrival in Europe of early-modern Chinese and Japanese artefacts and material objects. The Portuguese and Iberian contributions to the circulation of Far Eastern Asian artefacts in Europe were crucial, leading to five hundred years of constant and ever increasing exchanges between Europe and Asia. The historical and cultural legacies of these early encounters might seem to have been fully explored; however, they still give rise to several questions. Considered the ideological backgrounds bracing European interests in Far Eastern Asia, and the latter’s re-presentations in different historical moments and in different European countries, four questions stand out:
1) Within which parameters is it possible to speak about cultural and artistic hybridism with reference to early modern Far Eastern Asian artefacts and material objects in Europe?
2) Which Far Eastern Asian artefacts or media, and which narratives were privileged to re-present European changing interests in Asia making them discernible by different European beholders in different moments in history?
3) To what extent might European display, collecting and conservation practices have contributed to reformulate, retain and validate the hybrid narratives bestowed on far eastern Asian artefacts circulating at the same time, or in different moments and ways in various European countries?
4) To what extent might ‘hybrid’ early-modern far eastern Asian artefacts be considered as an effective tool to invent a suitable national history for recently established Asian communities in today’s Europe and, at the same time, promote their social integration?
This conference offers us the opportunity to further explore and analyse these issues.
Fine Objects: Material Culture Re-Thought, will be held at the newly established Museu do Oriente in Lisbon on October 19th-20th 2009, and coordinated by the Fundação Oriente, the Portuguese Instituto de Museus e Conservação, the Centro Histórico do Além Mar (Department of History, Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and the Jorge Welsh Gallery.
For further information or to receive a PDF version of the program leaflet (in English or Portuguese) please write to email@example.com
Museu do Oriente
Av. Brasília, Doca de Alcântara
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