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  • Department Welcomes New Faculty, Staff and Students

    The Department is pleased to welcome two new graduate students, a new member of the department's Visual Resources Center staff, and an Assistant Professor of global modern art.  We are looking forward to a great year! 

  • Art History Major Honored by the University

    The Berkeley Wall of Fame now includes an art historian! Rue Mapp (HA ’09) joins Joan Didion, Gregory Peck, Steve Wozniak, Alice Waters, and Jay DeFeo among those singled out by the University for exceptional achievement.  Inspired by Professors Lovell and McBride’s “The American Forest, Its Ecology, History, and Representation," a course about the power of images to change behavior and affect public policy, Rue -- scarcely out of college -- founded Outdoor Afro. This organization is dedicated to creating “interest communities, events, and partnerships that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors,” reconnecting “African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, [and] skiing.” Twice invited to the White House for discussions ranging from land use policy to childhood obesity, Rue now is “exploring the possible intersections between the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act. What did it mean fifty years ago when they were each signed, and why should it matter today -- or in the future?”
     

  • Spaces of Water: New Paradigms in Ecocritical Enquiry

    An international conference on global water systems and cultures of spatiality in India.

    Organizers: Sugata Ray, History of Art Department, University of California, Berkeley (in association with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi and Venugopal Maddipati, School of Design, Ambedkar University, Delhi)
    Dates: July 24-25, 2014
    Venue: Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi, India 110011 (Details here)

    Concept note: The reciprocal relationship between global water systems and cultures of spatiality in constituting historical events across time and space has received little attention in ecohistories of India. Spaces of Water: New Paradigms in Ecocritical Enquiry is an attempt to address this opacity in environmental studies by bringing together leading scholars, artists, architects, and activists from India, Europe, and the United States to articulate new forms of ecocritical thinking that reads the cultural as both determining and being determined by the environmental. How does the environment shape, and is shaped by, the ontological domain of affective spatialities? Over two days, speakers will rethink the intersections between water systems and the phenomenology of spatial cultures in early modern, colonial, and contemporary India to explore the topographies of the concept-term waterscape in the wake of environmental histories and ecocriticism more broadly.

  • The Departments of History of Art and Italian Studies Announce a Joint Search

    Assistant Professor of Renaissance/Early Modern Visual Culture in the Mediterranean world (tenure-track). Appointment effective July 1, 2015; candidates must have Ph.D. dissertation or equivalent underway at time of application. The Departments seek a specialist within the period (approx. 1300-1600) with strong interdisciplinary and/or comparative interests extending geographically beyond the boundaries of the Italian peninsula and the ability to contribute to the curricula and research profiles of both History of Art and Italian Studies. Areas of interest might include the relations between visual, verbal and material culture; travel studies; architectural history; cultural exchange between Europe and the East and/or Africa, or the New World. Teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels is expected, including the ability to teach in the Italian language where relevant.  Full text of ad and instructions on how to apply can be found here.

  • Undergraduate Major Redesigned

    The Department is pleased to announce the redesign of the Undergraduate Major in History of Art.

    As History of Art's Chair, Professor Christopher Hallett, notes, the new major reflects the full range of the Department’s internationally recognized teaching and research, offers students more opportunities to engage with non-western artistic traditions, and seeks to enhance student preparation for careers in arts-related areas.

    Students will be able to sign up for the new major from the beginning of Fall Semester 2014. Those who declared the major in Spring 2014 may speak with an Undergraduate Advisor about switching to the new major.

    For Professor Hallett's message and the requirements of the new major, please visit the Undergraduate Program page.
     

  • CALL FOR PAPERS -- Modern Money: Aesthetics After the Gold Standard

    CALL FOR PAPERS

    Modern Money: Aesthetics after the Gold Standard
    Department of History of Art
    University of California, Berkeley
    October 23, 2014

    “Money is the root form of representation in bourgeois society.” So T. J. Clark put it in 1999. Almost aphoristic in its phrasing, the sentence turns on the set of questions it raises – about markets and money flows, about value and abstraction, about whom money belongs to, about the “social reality of the Sign” and the effect money has on artmaking. Money becomes a central form – maybe the central form – of life, inescapable and intractable. The conditions that shape our present and the failure of the Left to devise a practicable response have only intensified the urgency of the proposition and the questions that ground its pivot. Our proposition – the proposition of “Modern Money” – is this: that an obscure genealogy of economic thinking known as Chartalism (the coinage, of 1905, belongs to Georg Friedrich Knapp) alters the constitution of that terrain, obliging us in turn to pose Clark’s questions anew, against the orthodoxies (Left and Right) that have crystallized around them, after as it were the gold standard.

    Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), Chartalism’s present-day incarnation (some call it Neochartalism), offers one of the few compelling responses to commodity theories of money, which bind money and its value to the vagaries of a zero-sum market. The history of commodity-money is the history of our subordination to a medium of exchange that has come unmoored from its making. “Always already,” one all too easily says. Chartalism, meanwhile, argues that money is a creature of law; in so doing, it initiates money’s expropriation.

    For the critical Chartalist, commodity theories of money, even at their most radical and trenchant, inevitably revert to the same logic – the same mysticism, the same devious metaphysics – they hope to dispel. Money is short, these theories presume, the public is broke, and the lion’s share goes to private financiers. Gold remains the standard; “metallism” remains the conceptual framework. Perhaps, for our times, it might best be put this way: the ideological sense of scarcity, of a finitude as natural as it is necessary, that underpins the metallist view of money, one which the Left and Right share, has lost none of its orienting power. Yet money is not finite (who today would dispute this, or could in good faith?); the public cannot be broke; money is not a zero-sum game. MMT, by showing us how the administration and regulation of money is the prerogative of the State, keeps the technics of money’s producibility and plasticity in focus. Money, MMT maintains, is a matter of (public) accounting. It is political.

    This is not to say that MMT (or Chartalism) has all the right answers. Rationalist and progressivist, MMT sees money as an instrument wielded by the State for good or bad. “Functional Finance” is another name Chartalism has gone by. What matters for its adherents is the end to which money is put. MMT’s language, then, has its limitations; its purview is narrowly economic. Above all, it struggles in addressing the point where money and cultural production – monetary value and signification – meet. Or to put it another way, it struggles in addressing money as a form. The virtue of MMT, all the same, is its present-centeredness, even its moderacy. MMT insists – at least this is how we understand it – that economic theory bear the burden of the here and now, of its own situatedness and the infrastructures that (albeit barely, albeit terribly) determine it. Its direct object is present, irrational suffering.

    “Modern Money,” as may be clear, will not be a conference in the usual sense. It will have, or so we hope, something of a seminar about it, something of a conversation whose point of departure is the effect Chartalism has on our dealings with art and aesthetics. Our aim, then, is twofold: on the one hand, to construct a language that puts MMT’s politicized vision of money in contact with the contradictions of modernity and modern image-making and, on the other, to transfigure art and aesthetics in light of chartal money’s historical power. With this in mind, we ask for proposals that take Chartalism’s propositions seriously (the conference webpage, http://modernmoneyform.wordpress.com, provides an introductory list of references), which does not mean, of course, that we are looking for some kind of consensus. Quite the contrary. Proposals that challenge Chartalism and its assumptions are very much welcome, very much desired. Nor can “Modern Money” be discipline specific. Proposals from across the Humanities and Social Sciences, and from all time periods, will be considered. While we encourage proposals that reflect, conceptually, on the problem of (chartal) money and aesthetics, we are especially interested in object-based interrogations.

    The deadline for proposals is August 1, 2014. Please send abstracts (max. 500 words) and short CVs to sferguson@usf.edu and jordanrose@berkeley.edu. Final papers should be approximately 25-30 minutes long. “Finished” drafts will be due by October 9.
     

  • The VRC is Recruiting

    We are recruiting for a Curator for our Visual Resources Center.  We are looking for someone with an art history background and experience in a Visual Resources collection or library, to join us in building and maintaining Berkeley's digital image collection, supporting faculty teaching and research, and continuing to explore art history's place in the digital humanities. Please see our job listing here (job listing number 18086). We will begin reviewing applications on Friday, June 27.

    The Senior Digital Curator reports to the Director of Administration and the VRC and works collaboratively with another Senior Curator under the guidance of a Principal Curator.  Duties include cataloging, image permissions gathering, lecture and classroom support, oversight of departmentally-held equipment, and participation in special projects.  We are looking for an energetic, flexible colleague to join our department.

  • Department Welcomes New Faculty Member Anneka Lenssen

    The Department is pleased to welcome Anneka Lenssen as our latest new Assistant Professor, in this case of Global Modern Art. Anneka earned her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program (working with Professor Caroline Jones) and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (working with Professor Nasser Rabat). Even before finishing her PhD, she was hired by the American University in Cairo, where she has been directing their new Visual Cultures Program this academic year. Not surprisingly, Anneka’s time in Cairo (and before that in Lebanon and Syria) has given her unprecedented access to her research materials and an up-front seat at major social transformations: Anneka specializes in modern painting, contemporary visual practices, and cultural politics in the Middle East since the Second World War. Her research examines problems of artistic representation in relation to the globalizing imaginaries of empire, nationalism, communism, decolonization, non-alignment, and Third World humanism. Arising from her MIT doctoral dissertation, her current book project is a study of avant-garde painting and the making of Syria as a contested territory between 1920 and 1970. It traces emerging ideas about artistic form and social activation within new regimes of political representation, from French Mandate rule after the first war to the mass mobilizations of youth-oriented ideological parties to Cold War cultural diplomacy. She teaches courses engaging with modern art and global mass culture, abstraction and aniconism, theories of aesthetic autonomy, translational practices, and historiography. Anneka was previously on the board for the Association of Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey (AMCA) and currently serves on the Editorial Board of ARTMargins. She is also working with colleagues Nada Shabout and Sarah Rogers in co-editing a volume of art writing from the Arab world in translation, tentatively titled Arab Art in the Twentieth Century: Primary Documents, to be published as part of the International Program at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2017. Her reviews and essays have appeared in Artforum, Bidoun, and Springerin, as well as exhibition catalogs for Darat al-Funun in Amman and the Sharjah Biennial.

  • A Tribute to James Cahill

    Larger than Life—A Tribute to Professor James Cahill
    James Cahill Memorial, Berkeley Art Museum, May 10, 2014

    We’ve all spent the last months trying to find words to celebrate the life of James Cahill, our sensei, colleague, friend and paterfamilias, a man who was—still is—larger than life. There have been many wonderful formal tributes to him in the press and we have Howard Rogers’ warmhearted biography in your program today, with many more to come in scholarly journals, all testifying to his unrivalled career as a writer and art historian. He received all the highest accolades the field has to offer: the College Art Association’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art in 2007 and the Charles Lang Freer Medal in 2010. Jim was one of only two art historians to be invited to deliver Berkeley’s annual Faculty Research lecture, which he did in 1982. His more-than two-dozen books and catalogs, countless articles and other, more ephemeral writing testify to his unceasing engagement with scholarship. He was a brilliant, original and tireless art historian and, hand-in-hand with this, he was also a great teacher, blessed with exceptional charisma, eloquence and ease and, no small thing, with a beautiful resonant voice. He provided his students with the actual stuff needed to study Chinese art—real paintings from his exceptional collection that have mostly come to rest here at the Berkeley Art Museum, where they are still are and will always be a part of active study and learning. Jim’s formal awards confirm his commitment to teaching: he received Berkeley’s highest honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award, in 1985, and the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art History award in 1995.

    Behind these accolades, though, lies a more granular history and the more personal tributes that have been posted on his website, jamescahill.info and on the memorial site launched by the Institute of East Asian Studies all stress this—Jim’s role as a teacher, which blossomed into a major enterprise here at Berkeley that spanned more than 30 years. He had an indelible impact on all his students, molding us as professionals and as human beings. He was an intensely humane person with a huge appetite for life and he conveyed all this delight in the world of things and ideas in the ways he chose to teach, showing us, among other virtues, the importance of working with art hands-on, of knowing it in its material essence, as well as the value of endurance and the concept of a normative 80-hour work week.

    Those of us who had the privilege of studying with him know he was committed to the idea that no knowledge should be hoarded, that scholarship and art could only grow and flourish in sharing. Jim continued to share his insights with the newest generation of art historians right until his last months, giving them his notes (often in large boxes) and engaging them in the deposition of his papers and books to the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian and to the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. But he also discussed his research-in-progress and latest exhibition ideas with a large group that included my own students and budding art historians from across the country some of whom, among them Michael Hatch of Princeton, Joyce Tsai of Columbia, and Molly Everett from our own department here at Berkeley, came eventually to live with and care for him as he grew weaker. Through all this, he continued to hold forth, first in his kitchen on Josephine Street, then in his wheelchair and finally from his bed—the mind was still clear and, as he told me and many others, his heart was full. The newest generation of art historians from all over the country who had a chance to meet and talk with him over these past couple of years, led by Berkeley’s own Will Ma, have joined together to produce a commemorative hand scroll reproducing one of Jim’s favorite paintings, Wu Zhen’s Fishermen (Freer Gallery, Washington, DC), which they invite all of you to inscribe during the reception. Jim’s own view of teaching and learning was, as he put it, based on Confucian principles that honor the transmission and preservation of knowledge, one generation to the next. His legacy is safe, I think.

    Jim’s desire to pass on to the future everything he had learned and experienced led to his truly revolutionary foray into the virtual world of online teaching through his lecture series, “A Pure and Remote View,” and his non-stop blogging on jamescahill.info. Jim was unafraid of technology—he led the project to photograph the holdings of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan in the 1950s and he was a brilliant photographer in his own right who created a massive visual archive, which he continued to digitize up to his last moments and deploy in his lectures. He was unafraid of the podcast. Even in his last public appearance, at a symposium at the Institute of East Asian Studies for the gorgeous Beauty Revealed show at BAM (Fall 2013), done with our own Julia White and Fongfong Chen, he was excited to share a computer reconstruction of the famous Lingering Garden in Suzhou—look what computers can do! he told us.

    Jim had a holistic view of life in which everything one did and saw came together in a singular, layered way. And so he shared his non-art historical life with us too, both in person and online, reminiscing about his boyhood in Fort Bragg, his love of the Marin coast, where he took us to hike and meditate, his sense of moral outrage when our government went off the skids, his deep pride in his children and their amazing accomplishments, the trips he made around the world, the great (and sometimes frightening) food he’d eaten, the spirits he’d imbibed, the people he knew, loved and couldn’t stand, the films he’d seen, the music and operas he relished. His love of life was, I don’t have to tell any of you, extremely contagious.

    This was all folded into the decades-long, unwavering commitment to teaching that first took on material dimensions when he returned to his alma mater Berkeley in 1963 from the Freer Gallery. He insisted as part of the deal that he be assigned not one but two offices, the first to serve as his workspace, the second to be used to house his significant library of scholarly materials and as an art seminar room for his students, 419A Doe Library. It was here that Jim’s graduate students all gathered to study, work on joint archiving projects and where we listened to him pounding away for hours at a time on his Underwood through the inexplicable porthole that connected our study space with his office. We learned fast that this was the sound of scholarly productivity—constant writing, non-stop! His face would pop up in this opening periodically, asking for a book to be passed through, or photos from the huge archive that was also stored there, diligently mounted and catalogued by us, or, just as often, to pass on the latest gossip.

    We were part of a grand global enterprise! The more so when Jim managed to raise funds from the Kress Foundation for two student-created exhibitions, The Restless Landscape and Shadows of Mount Huang, that were held right here at the then-University Art Museum. Off we set with our fearless sensei in the lead to look at paintings in collections Back East. Here’s what Jim had to say about our art-gathering foray for The Restless Landscape, when at Princeton in 1971, Jim’s team of women came face-to-face with Wen Fong’s men. Seeing the potential in the plot—he loved to see life as a musical—he wrote:

    I had a vision of a Gilbert and Sullivan-like scene in which Wen’s group would sing of “visual and structural principles” in lusty baritone and tenor voices, and mine would respond, as sopranos and contraltos, with the doctrines they had learned from me, after which they would all join in perfect harmony, as the French and Italian musical modes are joined in a piece by Couperin, and fall into each other’s arms, reconciling these two schools of Chinese painting studies. I'm sorry to say that nothing of the kind happened. I learned only later that East Coast people were referring to us, because of the Berkeleyan leftward leanings of some of my students, as “Cahill and his Red Detachment of Women.”

    Through all this—the seminars with five-plus carousels of slides, the day-long museum sessions working hands-on with real masterworks, the sales of fenben sketches to benefit the museum, the lectures he delivered while lying on a cot on stage in Dwinelle Hall, in excruciating pain from a back spasm, pointer waving bravely in the air as he showed us what Xia Gui could do—Jim taught us how to look at painting, how to write about it, how to bring it into public view and how to carry the tradition forward with confidence.

    Jim took strong positions but he also let us watch him change his mind. We were privileged to witness his intellectual epiphanies when he engaged in an impassioned correspondence with Richard Barnhart and argued fearlessly—I can’t imagine how he managed it—with our department’s Northern Renaissance specialist, the truly formidable Svetlana Alpers, who asked him pointedly what he would do when all questions of authenticity were settled. We see where that led—to The Compelling Image, The Painter’s Practice, The Lyric Journey, Pictures for Use and Pleasure, and so much more. His intellectual transformations, his embrace of the whole past world in which paintings lived, opened the door for the rest of us to study women’s art, modern, contemporary and popular art, Buddhist art, the economics of painting and so much more.

    Yet none of these exchanges did more for Jim’s thinking than his first trip to China in 1973, the last years of Mao Zedong. When he got the call from our State Department’s Committee on Scholarly Relations with the PRC to join a group of “archaeologists” who had been invited to China, just post-Kissinger and Nixon, he leapt at the chance. He detailed this trip meticulously in letters he wrote home and which his family—typically generous—shared with his students. In his letters, which we 419A acolytes gathered into an alternative Little Red Book, the immensity of it all is absolutely apparent and his reactions vivid. He is staggered by the paintings remaining in the Beijing Gugong, evading a trip to Zhoukoudian and Peking Man to return over and over again to take notes, shoot photos, and fret about his fading flash and limited film supply—there isn’t enough time to take it all in as he’s shuffled off to yet another banquet. He records his astonishment upon unexpectedly finding the Qingming shanghe tu undergoing remounting in the conservation studios—nothing could ever be better. He delights in meeting the artist Cheng Shifa, who would become a dear friend. He even relishes watching an operation on a thyroid tumor done with acupuncture and no anesthesia. He bemoans the loudspeakers blasting agitprop and the tourist shops filled with garish things, yet manages to find small treasures to take home anyway, all to give away. In one paragraph, he confronts the growing revelations of the trip head-on. After a viewing of a dozen or so paintings at the Nanjing Museum, he writes: “When asked how many paintings they have altogether, they said, ‘Forty or fifty thousand.’ They repeated this incredible number several times. This is very discouraging to someone trying to compile the “Annotated Lists of Chinese Paintings”—makes one’s work seem so tentative and trivial.”

    I was thinking that this last line should be set into a Gilbert and Sullivanesque cadence—“tentative and trivial”—with the next line being “while viewing all the paintings in the palace most imperial.” But then I recalled that Jim’s great friend and colleague Professor David Keightley (History) had come up with something much, much better for the occasion of a party here at BAM abut 20 years ago celebrating Jim’s career. David sang in his sonorous baritone, with Sarah Cahill accompanying on the piano: “He is the very model of a Chinese painting specialist . / A score of books on art he’s penned, the titles make a splendid list……” The very model indeed, never to be improved upon.

    I’ve been moving gradually into the present tense, because I know that for all of us it’s difficult to accept that Jim is not here in the front row for yet another celebration of his life (“We have to stop meeting like this,” he said), dozing with that great white-maned head tipped back but ready to pop up with the perfect comment the minute the lights come on. Alas, he is gone from this life but his voice will never be stilled.

    Addendum: The Berkeley Art Museum plans to honor Professor James Cahill in its new location on Oxford and Center Streets (due to open in 2016) with a Center for the Study of Asian Art, a space specifically dedicated to providing Berkeley students with access to the extraordinary collection of Asian works of art in the museum’s rich collection. Stay tuned for Kickstarter opportunities to contribute!

    --Patricia Berger