OPEN EAST：Asia Museum Forum 2019
In Search of the Foundation of Art and Aesthetics of the East & the West
Should and Can Art be Categorized into East and West?
Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago
The 11th century polymath Shen Kuo once observed that, except for Song China, all other nations were organized as aristocracies. From our current day perspective, he was correct in this assessment, and so one could regard this as the earliest theory of the difference between "China and the Rest" in Chinese history. After the 16th century European intellectuals more and more began to measure the value of their own civilizations against their constructed notion of “China”, and so their constructions of their own civilizations were inseparable from their notion of “China”.
According to Eugenia Z. Jenkins' research, in 18th century England, the current concept of “China”had become “part of the very experience of being English”. Likewise from late Ming times onward, Chinese intellectuals began to measure their own worth against what they imagined as “the Western nations”. This imaginary competition, moreover, has come down to us in the present and is constitutive of many research disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Now, in our current, globalizing world, is it possible that we might finally abandon this framework for understanding cultures? This essay will examine the origin, basic logic, and hidden dynamic of this intercultural condition.
The Notions of Chinese Aesthetics
Dean of the School of Arts, Peking University, Curator of the China Pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennale
The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western Aesthetics. But it has never been the main topic in Chinese aesthetics. Different aestheticians have different views on the core concepts of Chinese aesthetics, but beauty is not one of them. For example, Ye Lang takes yixiang (意象 imagery) and yijing (意境 mindscape) as the basic concept of Chinese aesthetics, while Kenneth Inada prefers the becomingness or Oriental dynamics. I venture to take zhijian (之間 betweenness) as the core concept of Chinese aesthetics and on which the aesthetic merit of Chinese visual art, especially the literati painting can be properly interpreted.
The Concept of “Art” as Negotiation between East and West
Professor of the Tsinghua University, Vice Dean of the Tsinghua Academy of Chinese Learning
What is now named with the word “art”is actually a human activity domain that once existed in all civilized communities but can now be identified separately. It requires the reconstruction of an ingenious and sensible image based on experience and exploration of perceptual psychology, so as to enrich, transform and even create a previously unknown world of meaning with its unique specificity. Only under this flexible definition can we obtain a basis for civilized consultations on specific art contents and break the current monopoly of discourse by the West, thus opening up the future through dialogue between civilizations.