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DIM ENS IONS


DIMENSIONS ////ART ///////JOURNAL // //////// VOLUME 6 /////// No. 3 /////////////// //////SPRING 2011


CONTENTS

04. Letter from the Editor 06. Artist Profile: Kit Yi Wong 13. “Irrespective of the Esteem of Sanctity”: Russian Icons after the Revolution Alexandra Dennett 16. Artist Profile: Chika Ota 21. Academic Art: Omission and Taste Cassius Clay 24. Artist Profile: Manal Abu-Shaheen 29. Examining the Google Art Project Emma Sokoloff 32. Artist Profile: Isabelle Chafkin 37. Literature Review: Reading Zhou Enlai’s Role in Cultural Preservation Post-1949 Elizabeth Snow

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

For this issue of Dimensions, we’ve asked our contributors to think about omission in the context of art history. This is revealed most manifestly in the gaps that arise from the formation of historical canons, and has translated itself in the way we have learnt about works of art. Inadvertently, selective narrowing occurs at the level of the discipline, the country, and the institution. We thus offer a variety of positions that illustrate the tenuous thresholds that some histories and works of art straddle. Alexandra Dennett explores the tumultuous history of Russian icons after the Revolution and the curious impact of museums on their preservation. Also on the subject of museums, Cassius Clay examines the collecting practices of some institutions in this country, presenting a cogent argument against the neglect of academic art. Omission may also take a more willful or even destructive edge with censorship and iconoclasm. Reviewing some texts that deal with the devastating effects of China’s Cultural Revolution on her art, Elizabeth Snow excavates the role that the country’s first premier, Zhou Enlai, had in protecting cultural property. Several forms of elision have also arisen in this digital age of screens, and the experience of the viewing of art has been fundamentally condensed and altered. The promise of Google Art Project as a heightened representation of reality is unpacked by Emma Sokoloff, who sets up the technology as a “spectacular” site of viewing. As usual, we feature some outstanding works of art by undergraduate and MFA students from Yale, alongside profiles of these artists: Manal Abu-Shaheen, Isabelle Chafkin, Chika Ota and Kit Yi Wong. Dimensions is committed to building an extracurricular platform for thinking and writing critically about art and visual culture, and we look forward to your continued support of our efforts.

- Y.S. Pek

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

For this issue of Dimensions, we’ve asked our contributors to think about omission in the context of art history. This is manifested in the gaps that arise from the formation of historical canons, and has translated itself in the way we have learnt about works of art. Inadvertently, selective narrowing occurs at the level of the discipline, the country, and the institution. We thus offer a variety of positions that illustrate the tenuous thresholds that some histories and works of art straddle. Alexandra Dennett explores the tumultuous history of Russian icons after the Revolution and the curious impact of museums on their preservation. Also on the subject of museums, Cassius Clay examines the collecting practices of some institutions in this country, presenting a cogent argument against the neglect of academic art. Omission may also take a more willful or even destructive edge with censorship and iconoclasm. Reviewing some texts that deal with the devastating effects of China’s Cultural Revolution on the country’s art, Elizabeth Snow excavates the role that the first premier, Zhou Enlai, had in protecting cultural property. Several forms of elision have also arisen in this digital age of screens, and the experience of the viewing of art has been fundamentally condensed and altered. The promise of Google Art Project as a heightened representation of reality is unpacked by Emma Sokoloff, who sets up the technology as a “spectacular” site of viewing. As usual, we feature some outstanding works of art by undergraduate and MFA students from Yale, alongside profiles of these artists: Manal Abu-Shaheen, Isabelle Chafkin, Chika Ota and Kit Yi Wong. Dimensions is committed to building an extracurricular platform for thinking and writing critically about art and visual culture, and we look forward to your continued support of our efforts. - Y.S. Pek

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ARTIST PROFILE Kit Yi Wong Art ’12

I asked Kit Yi Wong, “Why do you want to be an artist?” She said, that if she were not an artist, she would not know what else to do. She would be terribly bored, she insisted. As a child, Wong was not pushed to learn a musical instrument by her parents, unlike many of her peers in her native Hong Kong. In her art practice, Wong sublates this childhood lack. Her video diptych from 2009, Lots/loss of cultural pressure: Duo by Wong’s Family, shows the artist and her brother (who is of the same profession), fully submerged underwater and blowing on plastic recorders as they dog paddle to remain buoyant, emitting a persistent stream of bubbles. More recently, Wong has confronted a question fundamental to any artistic practice: How can I be a better artist? Externalizing and dramatizing this problem, Wong turned to one of the best-reputed feng shui masters in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Upon entering her Edgewood Building studio with a Taoist trigram in hand, the master of geomancy was effusive in his advice for the young artist. The studio occupies the corner of the sculpture department, and opens to floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides – a particularly inauspicious location, according to Chinese culture. (The artist had picked the studio with this fact in mind.) Energy would seep away from the space, and the artist should try to retain some of it. A red object placed strategically, it seemed, would be an effectual corrective measure. While the geomancer had a traditional model of an octagonal pagoda in mind, a neon sign announcing “Kit Yi’s Authentic Chinese Food”

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instead glows brightly in the window of the third-floor studio. The artist invites a select guest each weekend to partake in a home-cooked Chinese meal, but has unwittingly received calls from curious passers-by as to whether she does takeout. Another of the geomancer’s misgivings with the space was its “corner of death” – a part of the room which lay outside the circulation of good qi (energy), in which the artist was warned never, never, never to work. Bring some life to the corner by introducing something living, it was suggested, like a nice plant. Something alive. Wong has since enlisted someone alive, a student from the Yale School of Drama, who will present a performance piece in this problematic space. She also asked the geomancer whether it was helpful to her practice if she were to invite people over to her studio, “Can I have parties?” Yes, apparently, their presence would revitalize the space. But only in twos, fours, sixes and eights – an odd number of people in the room would not have a desirable effect. These exchanges have been made into a video by the artist, which features handheld camera effects and an animated Cantonese dialogue (subtitled) between the two protagonists. The work has also been chosen to represent the Yale School of Art at the College Art Association MFA Exhibition in New York City. “I don’t really work in my studio, actually,” Wong says. “I knew I had to make myself do a project in here if I wanted to use this space.” It does seem that Wong can work anywhere. The sculpture MFA student often follows the trajectory sparked by a story or idea, but then develops it beyond any one medium, usually employing performative elements. The body is often a site of documentation


ARTIST PROFILE Kit Yi Wong, ART ’12

I asked Kit Yi Wong, “Why do you want to be an artist?” She said that if she were not an artist, she would not know what else to do. She would be terribly bored, she insisted. As a child, Wong was not pushed to learn a musical instrument by her parents, unlike many of her peers in her native Hong Kong. In her art practice, Wong sublates this childhood lack. Her video diptych from 2009, Lots/loss of Cultural Pressure: Duo by Wong’s Family, shows the artist and her brother (who is of the same profession), fully submerged underwater and blowing on plastic recorders as they dog paddle to remain buoyant, emitting a persistent stream of bubbles. More recently, Wong has confronted a question fundamental to any artistic practice: How can I be a better artist? Externalizing and dramatizing this problem, Wong turned to one of the best-reputed feng shui masters in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Upon entering her Edgewood Building studio with a Taoist trigram in hand, the master of geomancy was effusive in his advice for the young artist. The studio occupies the corner of the sculpture department, and opens to floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides – a particularly inauspicious location, according to Chinese culture. (The artist had picked the studio with this fact in mind.) Energy would seep away from the space, and the artist should try to retain some of it. A red object placed strategically, it seemed, would be an effectual corrective measure. While the geomancer had a traditional model of an octagonal pagoda in mind, a neon sign announc-

ing “Kit Yi’s Authentic Chinese Food” instead glows brightly in the window of the third-floor studio. The artist invites a select guest each weekend to partake in a home-cooked Chinese meal, but has unwittingly received calls from curious passers-by as to whether she does takeout. Another of the geomancer’s misgivings with the space was its “corner of death” – a part of the room which lay outside the circulation of good qi (energy), in which the artist was warned never, never, never to work. Bring some life to the corner by introducing something living, it was suggested, like a nice plant. Something alive. Wong has since enlisted someone alive, a student from the Yale School of Drama, who will present a performance piece in this problematic space. She also asked the geomancer whether it was helpful to her practice if she were to invite people over to her studio, “Can I have parties?” Yes, apparently, their presence would revitalize the space. But only in twos, fours, sixes and eights – an odd number of people in the room would not have a desirable effect. These exchanges have been made into a video by the artist, which features handheld camera effects and an animated Cantonese dialogue (subtitled) between the two protagonists. The work has also been chosen to represent the Yale School of Art at the College Art Association MFA Exhibition in New York City. “I don’t really work in my studio, actually,” Wong says. “I knew I had to make myself do a project in here if I wanted to use this space.” It does seem that Wong can work anywhere. The sculpture MFA student often follows the trajectory sparked by a story or idea, but then develops it beyond any one medium, usually employing performative

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elements. The body is often a site of documentation for the artist, whose humor can even take on a slightly brutal edge. During a day-long performance in a park in San Francisco, where she was previously enrolled in a fine arts program, the artist suntanned herself from sunrise to sunset in a T-shirt with the words “You Fuck Me Up” cut out in the back. 12hr-­33min-­10s sun tattoo (2009), stenciled so deeply it looks like a cattle brand, took weeks to shed, but symbolized a meditative form of catharsis and healing. Wong has developed a sophisticated practice of performance that incorporates the objects, communities and environments around her. Invited by a Hong Kong curator to participate in a show held in the city’s seedy Mong Kok district, the artist’s instinct was to create a work involving one of the many sex workers operating in the area. Her preliminary research met several dead-ends: upon casual inquiry, the pimps proved to be unhelpful and obstructive; the immunity of Wong’s identity as “artist” proved ineffectual against the impenetrability of the prostitution industry and the infamous mob gangs of Hong Kong that controlled it. Undeterred, Wong decided to pose as a prostitute herself, in an outfit she ascertained to be characteristic of the city’s sex workers. Wearing a sequined spaghetti-strap top and a microscopic denim skirt, Wong walked the streets while her brother stood with a hidden camera at the 7-11 across the road, pretending to wait for someone else. (It would be dangerous for him if the neighborhood gang realized he was a party to the artistic shenanigan.) Finally, when Wong was approached by an interested party, she quoted an absurdly astronomical price that provoked an outraged response. One record of this exchange and subterfuge is a photograph of the artist, standing demurely akimbo against a railing, on which her “customer” is also languidly draped. His features have been obscured in this image, but it is clear that he is gawking. The artist did succeed, however, in befriending a transsexual sex worker by donning this camouflage. Wong found “Bobo” to be a knowledgeable and outspoken individual in matters that reached into politics and current affairs. At the eventual show, Wong not only exhibited her photos but also invited “Bobo” to be a part of this project. While “Bobo” sat naked under the sheets of a large bed in a partitioned space, members of the audience were invited, one at a time, to “share” a room and conversation with her. I ask the artist why she had come to America, and if she would like to stay on. She has mentioned

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that she one is of the few “Asian” artists in the art school (having grown up in Asia, as opposed to being born of Asian parentage in this country). Much of Wong’s work builds on culturally specific motifs, attesting to a keen awareness of traditional and contemporary Chinese culture. It seems that Wong will go where this art can be best made, and the variety of untapped vignettes she sees in America life, ready to be transcribed into her practice, is for now a pull. -Y.S. Pek


Kit Yi Wong Sugar Trap Performance

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Kit Yi Wong Lots/loss of Cultural Pressure: Duo by Wong’s Family Still from video installation


Kit Yi Wong To Be a Better Artist Still from video installation

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Kit Yi Wong To Be a Better Artist Installation shot


“Irrespective of the esteem of sanctity:” Russian icons after the Revolution Alexandra Dennett In a scene from Enthusiasm, a 1931 propaganda film directed by the avant-garde filmmaker Dziga Vertov, several robust young people strip a church of its religious artifacts and burn them in a pile after having salvaged as much gold and silver as possible. This exemplifies the doctrine of militant atheism that emerged in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s, which led to the destruction of many objects that were emblems of the old way of life. As “religious images used as tools of worship in the Orthodox Church,” icons were particularly powerful targets for the explicit articulation of anti-religious sentiment. However, these icons concurrently came to be valued for their artistic merits and moved into the secular world of the museum. The loss of veneration for their religious function thus also enabled their restoration and study, which subsequently led them to be admired as examples of a uniquely Russian heritage. This article will examine the development of restoration practices as well as the tension that arose between the religious and art historical dimensions of icons when they appeared in museums. When icons served as objects of worship in Orthodox churches, they were understood as intermediaries between the human and the divine. The regular “kissing, handling and exposure to incense and candles” they underwent led them to easily become damaged over time, 2 which implies that their functional role was more important than the preservation of the craftsmanship. Oftentimes entire sections were painted over without any concern for preservation of the icon’s original state. Furthermore, they were usually damaged by the use of multiple layers of varnish, which “profoundly affected the underlying paint” and

significantly darkened the overall image. 3 Because of this, Russian icons were falsely thought to be very dark. The first steps towards conservation were taken after the Revolution. As one 1924 article explains, “the barriers that had been set up by the Church in the way of investigating scholars were removed, and the old icons may now be studied irrespective of the esteem of sanctity in which they are held.”4 Therefore, the omission of the religious nature of icons provided the license to investigate these works from a scholarly perspective. An article from 1926 explains that many wall paintings are in horrible conditions due to mildew and rot and can’t all be salvaged, and in an admirable testimony to scholarship, it deplores the fact that these works are “disappearing unstudied.” The study of icons was institutionalized through the creation of the Central Museum Administration, which valued the use of “scientific methods” for developing conservation techniques. For instance, the “parasitical layers” of varnish required “exceedingly subtle and fine restorative processes” in order to be removed.5 The use of highly methodological, scientifically developed restoration techniques led to a completely new understanding of the style of Russian icons after their “uncovering.” The recurring use of such language to describe the effects of restoration indicates the technical success that met these endeavors. Successful restoration allowed scholars to begin a comprehensive and more accurate study of the history of Russian icon painting that “places it on a level with the highest achievements of Western art.”6 Along with ancient architecture, icons were pronounced the “greatest historical and national in

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“Irrespective of the Esteem of Sanctity:” Russian Icons after the Revolution Alexandra Dennett

In a scene from Enthusiasm, a 1931 propaganda film directed by the avant-garde filmmaker Dziga Vertov, several robust young people strip a church of its religious artifacts and burn them in a pile after having salvaged as much gold and silver as possible. This exemplifies the doctrine of militant atheism that emerged in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s, which led to the destruction of many objects that were emblems of the old way of life. As “religious images used as tools of worship in the Orthodox Church,” icons were particularly powerful targets for the explicit articulation of anti-religious sentiment.1 However, these icons concurrently came to be valued for their artistic merits and moved into the secular world of the museum. The loss of veneration for their religious function thus also enabled their restoration and study, which subsequently led them to be admired as examples of a uniquely Russian heritage. This article will examine the development of restoration practices as well as the tension that arose between the religious and art historical dimensions of icons when they appeared in museums. When icons served as objects of worship in Orthodox churches, they were understood as intermediaries between the human and the divine. The regular “kissing, handling and exposure to incense and candles” they underwent led them to easily become damaged over time, 2 which implies that their functional role was more important than the preservation of the craftsmanship. Oftentimes entire sections were painted over without any concern for preservation of the icon’s original state. Furthermore, they were usually damaged by the use of multiple layers of varnish, which “profoundly affected the underlying paint” and

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significantly darkened the overall image. 3 Because of this, Russian icons were falsely thought to be very dark. The first steps towards conservation were taken after the Revolution. As one 1924 article explains, “the barriers that had been set up by the Church in the way of investigating scholars were removed, and the old icons may now be studied irrespective of the esteem of sanctity in which they are held.”4 Therefore, the omission of the religious nature of icons provided the license to investigate these works from a scholarly perspective. An article from 1926 explains that many wall paintings are in horrible conditions due to mildew and rot and can’t all be salvaged, and in an admirable testimony to scholarship, it deplores the fact that these works are “disappearing unstudied.” The study of icons was institutionalized through the creation of the Central Museum Administration, which valued the use of “scientific methods” for developing conservation techniques. For instance, the “parasitical layers” of varnish required “exceedingly subtle and fine restorative processes” in order to be removed.5 The use of highly methodological, scientifically developed restoration techniques led to a completely new understanding of the style of Russian icons after their “uncovering.” The recurring use of such language to describe the effects of restoration indicates the technical success that met these endeavors. Successful restoration allowed scholars to begin a comprehensive and more accurate study of the history of Russian icon painting that “places it on a level with the highest achievements of Western art.”6 Along with ancient architecture, icons were pronounced the “greatest historical and national inheri-


tance” of the Russian people. Icons were presented as artworks of technical mastery as well as possessing cultural and religious importance. The interest in Russian icons had initially emerged a few years before the Revolution, with the first exhibition of icons from private collections being held in 1911 in Saint Petersburg followed by another in Moscow in 1913. These exhibitions were galvanizing for artists of the avantgarde such as Natalia Goncharova, Vladimir Tatlin and Marc Chagall, who drew on the aesthetic vocabulary of icons in their own work. Eventually, this reevaluation of Russian national and folk art was used to forge an understanding of the history of Russian art independent from European models. The concept of secular art in Russia had been consciously imported from Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the tradition of icons was understood as a religious rather than an artistic practice. Exhibitions such as the ones described above emphasized an understanding of icons as evidence of a unique national history of art. While this may seem to run contrary to the destructive policies of militant atheists, these exhibitions mark a point when Russian icons became valued as masterful and unique works of art in their own right. The involvement of the Soviet government in supporting the restoration of icons was undoubtedly strategic, since protecting this heritage offered an opportunity to demonstrate national pride and devotion. The incentive to protect these “monuments of culture” became primarily apparent through restoration policies. The use of the museum as a way to promote a nationalistic agenda is not unique to this case; beginning in the years leading up to the French Revolution, the government’s care for works of art has been hailed as proof of the state’s benevolence and investment in national heritage. The political symbolism of custodianship is a recurring phenomenon in the history of museums and cultural power. For instance, in the late nineteenth century, casts of ancient Indian monuments exhibited in London’s South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) demonstrated “responsible British custodianship of, and authority over Indian history and culture.”7 The museum thus becomes a politicized space for the state to prove its power over history and culture. The power of museums to convey ideology increased after the Russian Revolution when museums were nationalized, centralized and opened to the public. In addition to the more traditional art museum, anti-religious museums also developed in *See page 41 for references

Russia as tools of propaganda. Systematically located in former churches, these museums aimed at scientifically deconstructing and dispelling belief in religion by presenting it as superstition and encouraging atheism. For instance, some of these museums displayed the relics of saints juxtaposed with explanations of mummification. Walter Benjamin lamented upon a visit to Moscow in 1926 that St. Basil’s had “not only been emptied, but eviscerated like a felled deer, and turned into a museum attraction for mass edification.”8 Under Stalin, certain art museums known as “Stalin’s talking museums” were also made into channels for ideology, with some of their exhibitions designed to denounce capitalist art.9 Occasionally, the religious aspect of icons was accentuated to promote the state’s militant atheist cause by displaying them in these anti-religious museums. This literal iconoclasm matched the “systematic transformation of hallowed places of worship into de-sanctified anti-religious museums.”10 While the possibility of restoring and studying icons during the years following the Revolution was in certain ways beneficial to the greater conception of Russian art history and national heritage, the transfer of icons in great numbers from churches to museums severed them irreconcilably from their original context. Some Orthodox believers still feel that icons are incompatible with museums and value them purely from a religious standpoint. It seems that neither the museum nor the church can simultaneously encompass the aesthetic, historic and religious aspects of icons, although the question remains if these different aspects of icons can even be definitively separated in the first place. Today, Russian icons still occupy a place that ambiguously straddles art and religion, particularly in light of the return of religious sentiment after the fall of the Soviet Union. It cannot be denied, however, that the displacement of icons from the church to the museum was quite certainly responsible for the preservation of many masterpieces essential to the history of Russian art.

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ARTIST PROFILE Chika Ota, TC ’11

Chika Ota is a designer of space. She undoes and re-knits wool sweaters. She cuts apart T-shirts. She actively hunts and manipulates materials, and allows this search to become her subject matter. Ota says that she “used to use extremely labor-intensive hand craft processes to transform basic objects into fetishistic sculptures that denied their material origins: often, the results were wearable pieces that transformed both the body and the object being worn.” In her hands, textiles are no longer simply worn, they are inhabited. Both the making and the showing of the work is a transformative experience. Hers is a sculpture which seems to simultaneously create and undo itself. Lately, she’s been working in a new medium: graphic design.  “Very recently, I’ve realized that my interest in the intersection between sculpture and fashion (essentially, design in three dimensions) can also be explored in two dimensions,” she notes. Ota is determined to pay close aesthetic attention to all aspects of everyday life. She says that lately she’s “been drawing from twentieth century furniture design and contemporary pop music videos” for inspiration. There are threads which hold her textile-based works together, but these fibers also connect her design with the larger popular world. Tactility is an important aspect of Ota’s creations, and she has translated this into her digital works through the unexpected use of texture and repetition. Ota sites the work being made by MFA students in the School of Art amoung her influences. She says, “I appreciate how a lot of [their] work plays with the viewer in a dynamic way.” An appreciation for dynamism translates into her playful designs, which provide just enough information to make themselves

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understood. Graphic design is sometimes thought of as being slave to utility and practicality, but his is clearly not the case in Ota’s work. She distills mundane surfaces in order to elevate them beyond function. She says that “the incorporation of such varied media in the work – even when the end result is still a printed piece of paper – opens up so many different possibilities.” While the hours of labor invested in the earlier works was strongly apparent, Ota’s graphic design work seems almost effortless. It is evidence of the sort of artistic improvisation that can only result from exploration across media. The term “the viewer,” so common to writing about art, is perhaps not appropriate when referring to how we interact with Chika Ota’s designs. One does not passively “view” the things she makes.  They are meant to be worn, read, felt. -Ilana Harris-Babou


Chika Ota Cyprinidae digital graphic

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Chika Ota Ream copy paper


Chika Ota Stern wool/acrylic

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Chika Ota Sustainability T-Shirt Design digital graphic


Academic Art: Omission and Taste Cassius Clay

If prestigious avant-garde art depends on the ousting of a stylistic ancien régime, the emphasis of one narrative dictates an omission of the other. For museum collections of nineteenth century painting, absence obtains both high visibility and problematic consequences. The Metropolitan Museum in New York hangs just two paintings from Bouguereau and Gerome, but displays 22 works by Cezanne and 38 by Degas. The tradition of academic naturalism fares little better in the American Hudson River School. In 2005, the New York Public Library deaccessioned Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849), and in 2008, the Met sold Albert Bierstadt’s oil on canvas Rocky Mountain Goats (c.1885) yielding a price below its Christie’s estimate and funds that, according to the New York Times, have yet to be used. Perhaps this need not be the case. The distortions in museum practices poorly reflect the historical volume of production, contemporary appreciation, and technical quality of academic art. More than that, and more pertinent to its detractors, the omission or marginalization of academic art effectively neutralizes avant-garde art by removing its context, disregarding its stylistic competitors, and flattening the contrasts between them. Inasmuch as an unorthodox approach demands a conservative precedent, avant-garde art atrophies without its academic complements. The dilemma, then, is in achieving balance. While the Museum of Modern Art’s highly specific scope allows it institutionalize the choice through the parameters of its collection, large survey museums must weigh what art critic Hilton Kramer calls the competing objectives of “documentation and discrimination.” At some level,

museums must serve both functions. They are valuable reservoirs of human production, and their curators and directors are essential arbiters of exceptional collections. Yet in accepting these real roles of technical authority, the museum also assumes a prerogative of preference, one that is currently employed in maintaining the privilege of modernist artists like Manet and the trivialization of official Salon painters like Cabanel. The theoretical rupture that enabled this reversal in taste manifests itself in a zero-sum program of criticisms. Conventions of academic painting favored historic subjects or idealized allegories rendered in highly-finished detail, and the tradition had little tolerance for deviation. By extension, avant-garde art could not be rehabilitated without dismantling the academic traditions that had previously repressed it. Clement Greenberg, one of the most influential proponents of modernist art, codified the dichotomy of styles in his 1939 essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” In arrogating the conservative academic mode to the repressive “kitsch” art of Hitler and Stalin, Greenberg could invoke a moral compulsion for its broad rejection and propose the avant-garde as its antidote. History offers one means of reconciling these biases. In hindsight, these different perspectives serve as complementary proxies for understanding the ambivalent effects of the Industrial Revolution. In many cases, the artistic oppositions dramatized what were essentially social and political questions of the age, like nationalism, urbanization, and industrialization. Avant-garde art was often quick to indict the nineteenth century’s failings – of which imperialism, pollution, and worker

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Academic Art: Omission and Taste Cassius Clay

If prestigious avant-garde art depends on the ousting of a stylistic ancien régime, the emphasis of one narrative dictates an omission of the other. For museum collections of nineteenth century painting, absence obtains both high visibility and problematic consequences. The Metropolitan Museum in New York hangs just two paintings from William Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gérôme, but displays 22 works by Cézanne and 38 by Degas. The tradition of academic naturalism fares little better in the American Hudson River School. In 2005, the New York Public Library deaccessioned Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849), and in 2008, the Met sold Albert Bierstadt’s painting Rocky Mountain Goats (c.1885), yielding a price below its Christie’s estimate and funds that, according to the New York Times, have yet to be used.1 Perhaps this need not be the case. The distortions in museum practices poorly reflect the historical volume of production, contemporary appreciation, and technical quality of academic art. More than that, and more pertinent to its detractors, the omission or marginalization of academic art effectively neutralizes avant-garde art by removing its context, disregarding its stylistic competitors, and flattening the contrasts between them. Inasmuch as an unorthodox approach demands a conservative precedent, avant-garde art atrophies without its academic complements. The dilemma, then, is in achieving balance. While the Museum of Modern Art’s highly specific scope allows it to institutionalize the choice through the parameters of its collection, large survey museums must weigh what art critic Hilton Kramer has called the competing objectives of “documentation and discrimination.” At some level, museums must

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serve both functions. They are valuable reservoirs of human production, and their curators and directors are essential arbiters of exceptional collections. Yet in accepting these real roles of technical authority, the museum also assumes a prerogative of preference, one that is currently employed in maintaining the privilege of modernist artists like Manet and the trivialization of official Salon painters like Cabanel. The theoretical rupture that enabled this reversal in taste manifests itself in a zero-sum program of criticisms. Conventions of academic painting favored historical subjects or idealized allegories rendered in highly-finished detail, and the tradition had little tolerance for deviation. By extension, avant-garde art could not be rehabilitated without dismantling the academic traditions that had previously repressed it. Clement Greenberg, one of the most influential proponents of modernist art, codified the dichotomy of styles in his 1939 essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” In arrogating the conservative academic mode to the repressive “kitsch” art of Hitler and Stalin, Greenberg could invoke a moral compulsion for its broad rejection and propose the avant-garde as its antidote. History offers one means of reconciling these biases. In hindsight, these different perspectives serve as complementary proxies for understanding the ambivalent effects of the Industrial Revolution. In many cases, the artistic oppositions dramatized what were essentially social and political questions of the age, like nationalism, urbanization, and industrialization. Avant-garde art was often quick to indict the nineteenth century’s failings – of which imperialism, pollution, and worker exploitation are but a few – by shunning the bourgeois class that profited from them


most. Rather than revel in the luster of silk and velvet dresses in Parisian society portraits, Cézanne glorifies the humble, rustic peasant in his Card Players series (1890-1892), by studying the treatment of light on simple and coarse fabrics. Yet the nineteenth century also ushered in an era of increasingly accessible transportation as well as tremendous economic production, and academic art represents the optimism of these events. William Powell Frith’s The Railway Station (1862) suggests London’s newly advanced integration with the English countryside and the eminence not of English aristocracy, but of the expanding middle class. Often dismissed as pretentious and disconnected from real life in a modernist critique, Neoclassical academic paintings nevertheless contributed to the scholarly development of archaeology that flourished at the end of the century. Nor did academic work of antiquarian subject matter merely confirm entrenched conventions. In Babylonian Marriage Market (1875), Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema proposes a liberal, feminist viewpoint by satirizing the commoditization of women. Maintaining the duality of the Industrial Revolution’s positive and negative effects, academic art counters the most cynical views of the Victorian period and the Belle Epoque. The instances of alignment between academic and avant-garde art suggest that they ought to supplement, rather than supplant, each other. Today, Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters (1885) is lauded for the honesty with which it confronts a grim and dreary domestic scene of the lower class. Rarely, however, are Bouguereau’s The Shepherdess (1889) and The Bohemian (1890) credited for the respectful appreciation of rural peasants implied by the painstaking attention paid to their naturalistic depictions. Though the stylistic approaches are different, both achieve the same objective of dignity. Critics identify the obvious sentimentality and manipulative illusionism of academic art as an unforgivable failure. Yet the immediacy and legibility of academic painting does not necessarily strip it of intellectual content. The cultivated, conscientious, and critical mind so often demanded by the appreciation of avant-garde art is equally rewarded by Salon painters. The obscurity of subject matter in Gérôme’s Phyrne before the Areopagus (1861) rewards the literate, welleducated viewer, and his The Death of Caesar (1867) emphasizes lessons to be learned from history. Indeed, the technical handling of paint enables and encourages uninterrupted contemplation by removing the visible presence of the artist as a mediator of ideas. *See page 41 for references

The reversal of these critiques does not judge the relative accomplishments of academic art to be more successful then avant-garde art so much as it indicates that the two schools are really not as antithetical as previously supposed. Both academic and avantgarde advocates will continue to propose competing pantheons and contradictory mythologies to sustain them. But even the most zealous endorsement of the avant-garde’s superiority benefits from a more visible presence of the academic art it contradicted. That is, if the fundamental premise of an avant-garde movement is the visionary negation of styles or ideologies, it cannot exist without them. The fullest understanding of Impressionism requires the fullest understanding of academic Neoclassicism. The omission of academic art from the canon of history hinders a clear comprehension of the avant-garde by obscuring its point of reference. This latter position confirms a demonstrable ability of museums to deify certain schools of art and, more problematically, to dismiss others entirely. If high-profile acquisitions and major exhibitions define the august canons of good art, oversight and elision can translate into enduring oblivion for the artists and styles not favored. As archives of aesthetic history, museums must strive for completeness and guard against dogma. Whether or not discrimination is circumstantial – attuned to trends rather than traits – a collection cannot hang on taste alone.

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ARTIST PROFILE Manal Abu-Shaheen, ART ’11

“When you photograph someone and put that on a page, it’s no longer the person you know: it’s a whole story about something else,” explained Manal Abu-Shaheen of the portraits she created of sleeping family members and close friends. Taken at night using only a flashlight to illuminate their unguarded expressions and sprawling poses, the photographs give viewers a chance to look long and deep into intimacies otherwise unseen. The sleepers’ tranquility and vulnerability conversely create the opportunity for our own candid, wondering voyeurism. “It’s eerie, but very beautiful to look at,” suggests Abu-Shaheen. Begun before entering Yale’s photography program but continued during her first semester here, the portraits are just one of the ways in which she explores transient spaces of human interactions in relation to physical landscapes. Describing her interest in a “third space, a psychological state” within “nonplaces, where people don’t stay very long and only take what they need,” Abu-Shaheen has captured its visual manifestations in optimistic post-war advertisements in Lebanon, her home country, and more recently, at suburban American staples such as Wal-Mart and gas stations. The latter photographs attempt to reconcile, or at least prove, the distance between the American prioritization of the individual and the homogeneity of our unique brand of mass culture. Depicting this psychological space in both countries gives her the chance to navigate the two cultures she considers her own, but which seem to emphasize opposite values of community and individualism. In those places where people move about with indifference to their surroundings can viewers perhaps find the most internalized expressions - of beliefs, hopes, and values - made visually evident.

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In future work Abu-Shaheen hopes to continue exploring these themes, putting a greater emphasis on the technique’s ability to impart the meaning. Having once created a camera obscura out of her former bedroom in Queens, she wants to delve deeper into purely photographic subject matter. “The negative image is very beautiful and hardly ever seen,” she explains of its alluring unfamiliarity. Beyond this appeal, conveying meaning through the self-reflexivity of the medium itself makes the work less cerebral and more intuitive. Though viewers will have both an intellectual and emotional response to her images, she admits that the latter is most important to her. Shot with a respectful attentiveness, Abu-Shaheen’s photographs are both mindful and emotive. -Kelly Cannon


Manal Abu-Shaheen Untitled, (Subway) Archival Pigment Print

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Manal Abu-Shaheen Thomas and Fay Archival Pigment Print


Manal Abu-Shaheen Alex Archival Pigment Print

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Manal Abu-Shaheen Untitled, (Denny’s) Archival Pigment Print


Examining the Google Art Project Emma Sokoloff

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etus, inis inus cum ne consene invelit, nit quossimus ipiet, cuptate mporepro iuscit rersperum aceaquis ratureped untis minis acerum volorem rerepe sequam, sim re aut accus, optatem eostemq uiderunt dolorenda dipsum est, quodiate exerciist incto et la nonessi digeniam eiur aute alitibus, omnimo eum quam, simpe nat iditinu llendis nempera est ventest hario que placercia et viduci debis es sit aut opti quis doluptiam reptatur anis maximporro volenis aut pro id que iliquam, non pa suntin rero blabore voluptatin re quaerum, ut venis aut rehentiusam ute volorro que veriatiatur? Nulparu ptaque ni sequiam quas quam dolorem porrum in nati blab inum quam que esti aut del in enis autat eum aut rese accatque laborestiis rem quibusam es aborept aepudios aliquas am nimi, corumqui abo. Solumque eat et dolupta doluptat qui alisqua tiberiam, cumquatures molescius et ad moloribus ditis experor itioritem ipsae. Itatet volut laborem vent fugia dolor adic tem reperorem eat ea et optaturem. Ad min conse latessuntem. Cat mo molore, senducient enis sunt ab iderum, sanimpo recepro tem illaccu lparia prem cuptatem ipientium con num dolo et iure vollam ut labo. Mentiam verfers peribusda volupta temquibusdae conecuptate omni volum quam fugias quo magnatiis sum doluptia qui nobitam quat fugia ad quos ut veles idender untibus enis dolum, sollorendit re sin ne doluptibus non ne veribusam nonse pellore rionse pario. Et pore essum aut hit quae nobisse nuscide molenimilit odisque nem quiae con consed mi, quo volorunto in consequibus diatur, ut rest dolor aut aut excepe et odis apitas eum et que restiscil molor sendisquas sa sed quae quosti officab ipitae pa iustem iusapic iditat volor alique non non corehendit laboreh enducias sit ipient occullam, il et ommolup tatempo

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Examining the Google Art Project Emma Sokoloff “The whole life of those societies in which modern effort to re-route the dichotomy between reality and conditions of production prevail presents itself as an a separate realm of imaging, a “self-cleavage” created immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was by the rise of mass-media.2 He claims that reality has directly lived has become mere representation.”1 been trumped by a new mediated and/or simulated version of reality, a reality where “appearing” out - Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle weighs “being.”3 Applying Debord’s theory to the Google On February 1st, Google launched Art Art Project, one can consider the website as a mediaProject, a website that allows web-surfers to virtutor between art and its viewers. Modern technology ally navigate select museum galleries and collections. transposes a three-dimensional sphere of experiential Several museums have partnered with Google in this encounters with art onto a two-dimensional screen. endeavor, permitting Google technicians to photoThe website’s “Explore the Museum” mode attempts to graph their gallery spaces as well as specific artworks simulate reality; its “View Artwork” mode heightens up-close. An Art Project visitor can explore corridors and even transcends reality, allowing the visitor to and rooms with the click of her mouse, approachexamine a painting at closer range and more accurately ing artworks in their exhibition surroundings. A site than would be possible with the naked eye. But in aimvisitor can also zoom in on certain works individuing to recreate and intensify reality, the website in no ally, clicking and dragging her way around the piece’s way admits to “appearing” like reality; instead it claims surface. When viewing a piece up close, the visitor can to stand in for reality. access contextual information on the painting and art- Google Art Project can be seen as a reality ist, making the website both a visual and educational that “unfolds in a new generality as a pseudo-world tool. apart.”4 Debord suggests that representations stand Primary engineer and head of Google Art separately from reality and can only be “apprehended Project, Amit Sood, has stated that the project’s goal is in a partial way.”5 A representation of reality, in other to catalyze and promote curiosity in the arts amongst words, fails to capture the intricacies and specific demembers of the population who are unable to visit tails of actual reality. Google Art Project, for example, museums themselves. Sood believes that Art Project’s simplifies museum galleries by presenting them as simulated access will not replace real museum-going, static and unpopulated spaces. Furthermore, its visibut rather stimulate an otherwise undiscovered appre- tors are asked to view each work of art “solely as an ciation of and interest in the arts, ultimately increasing object of contemplation.”6 These visitors may drag museum traffic. Nonetheless, Google’s digitization of their way up, down and across a canvas, but this lateral the art world may only substitute for the in-person movement only objectifies each work. They are asked experience of art-viewing, or at least distance the site’s to treat each surface as a mappable and navigable visitor from this process. plane, an unchanging platform to be perceived visually In his text Society of the Spectacle, Guy and mentally, not bodily. According to Debord, “The Debord theorizes the “spectacle” as a new mode of spectacle’s function in society is the concrete manureality characterized by indirect experience due to facture of alienation.”7 In this way Google Art Project the accumulation of representations in a post-1960s distances people from the holistic experience of art in consumer culture. Debord explores this notion in an reality. Instead of praising the website for allowing uni-

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versal accessibility, its cuts people off from the physical encounter of art in reality. Google Art Project features one room from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The room contains late nineteenth and early twentieth century Post-Impressionist paintings, including Georges-Pierre Seurat’s Evening, Honfleur (1886). As it appears on a computer screen, Seurat depicts a barren shoreline, which recedes from the lower right-hand corner toward the left edge of the canvas. The beach is populated only by rows of ambiguous pylon structures and slopes downward into a placid, green sea. The expanse of water disappears toward a horizon line roughly two-fifths up the height of the canvas, where it meets the nearly stark sky. Four long fingers of cloud extend into the composition from the right edge of the canvas, looming horizontally over the seascape. A flash of white reflects off of the sea’s surface, implying an unseen sun. Seurat employs his signature divisionist brushwork, separating and distilling the image into tiny dabs of color. The technique gives the piece an overall glimmering quality of light, and the zoom button allows you to appreciate the meticulous and individual dots of paint. But the Google Art Project website fails to convey the physicality of the actual work of art. When approached in person, this piece possesses a different quality of presence. There is no glass in front of this painting; nothing separates the painted canvas from the viewer. Seurat extends his painting from the canvas onto the frame, easing the transition from the pictorial to real world. When the painting is viewed in profile, Seurat’s brushwork assumes a topographical quality; the painted canvas becomes a three-dimensional landscape. Seurat’s pointillist strokes give the piece an elemental quality, each flick of paint individuating itself as an autonomous unit of color. But the strokes also blur into a larger composition, contributing to a larger purpose than their singular selves. Google Art Project’s screen presentation of the piece fails to inspire this simultaneous appreciation of the piece for both its wholeness and its parts. In the lower left corner of Seurat’s composition, a wooden pylon acts as a repoussoir device; it serves as a point of entry for the viewer. When the painting is confronted in person, the fence-like structure reiterates the limit of Seurat’s painted world; it reminds the viewer that she cannot break the bar*See page 41 for references

rier of the canvas and enter a pictorial realm. Seurat acknowledges the distinction between a painted world and a lived world, endorsing Debord’s notion of “separateness” between simulation and reality.8 But the repoussoir pylon does not recede into the beach scene; it instead projects out towards the viewer standing in front of the canvas. The wooden structure therefore not only forbids the viewer from crossing the pictorial threshold, but simultaneously attempts to cross that threshold itself. Seurat’s pointillist technique further acknowledges and prolongs this act of bridging. The viewer must consciously synthesize the flecks of paint into a clearer image; this work of art asks the viewer to slow her process of vision into a deliberate experience of perception. Google Art Project, on the other hand, strives to create a conflaion between reality and simulation. The website’s technological genius and visual sensationalism distract from—and even deny— the fact that the site’s visitor is neither physically nor fully encountering the work of art present on the screen. For example, when viewing Evening, Honfleur on the website, the visitor does not perceive the pylon as a repoussoir device. That is, the technological depiction of the pylon does not signal the difference between the viewer’s own corporeality and the world represented on Seurat’s canvas. Instead, the visitor observes the pylon as an instantly accessible element of the painting. This sense of immediacy resonates with Google Art Project’s goal to make art more available to a broader population. But, extrapolating from Debord’s theory, this aim is directly at odds with the website’s consequences as a spectacle. The website’s visitors must realize and accept that while technology makes art more accessible, this accessibility is mediated by a screen. Although art is brought closer to its visitors, it also distances them from the in-body experiencing of art. Hopefully, Google Art Project users can withstand this push and pull, and harmonize a revolutionized way of viewing art in today’s technological age.

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ARTIST PROFILE Isabelle Chafkin JE ’11

Isabelle Chafkin claims that she chose photography because she couldn’t sculpt. She chose it because, as she says, it’s about “loving materials but not knowing how to work them.” As a child, she was a self-described “pointer,” and today, she explains that she still cannot sleep on trains or buses because she is fascinated by everything that passes by outside the window. She collects knick-knacks. All of these habits culminate in a kind of materialistic fantasy of desiring an object, being excited by her first encounter with it, but not really wanting to possess it at all. Thus, despite her earlier ambitions, photography appears to be the ideal medium for her (although she is quick to respond that there is no real division between mediums). She can capture a moment, keep it forever, and even share it with others. In her early work there is a very noticeable sense of stillness, an incredibly palpable tension. As a viewer, one feels a sense of empathy with the people and animals in the photographs. She explains dryly that she’ll “try out this whole artist thing” after graduation, but if she finds that it doesn’t work, she will try becoming a vet. This might be an important thing to know about her, because her love of animals (she was vegan until she began to pass out, now she eats meatballs and chicken but feels guilty) extends to the interest she has in the feelings of the people and animals in her photographs. There is a profundity in each of her photos that perhaps can only come with a sincere purpose. Chafkin has a commitment to staying truthful. She uses a 4x5 Wista field camera to create detailed large format photographs, and works in color, simply because “we live in a color world.” “There are complex-

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ities that come out when you use color,” she explains, “that are impossible to show in black and white.” For example, one of her most recent pieces features a blue plank that looks like wood, except for the color. These kinds of nuances, both funny and pensive, arise from the presence of color. Chafkin’s desire to preserve the reality of the object is nevertheless accompanied by her strong sense of expression. Sometimes her style is tender and romantic, as in the Norfolk series, taken during a summer sojourn as the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship. In one photograph, a mother kisses her daughter, wrapped in a towel; in another, the daughter braids her mother’s hair. Sisters hug as the sun sets brightly behind them, and everywhere water and flora abound. Chafkin can also be remarkably witty, perhaps best evidenced in the series Animals, in which dogs and cats are captured making odd expressions. Although most of her work until now has been characterized by a kind of expressionism, Chafkin is looking to develop her practice as a photographer. While continuing her attempts to capture the moment, she also wants to move away from a raw, explicit sense of longing and to explore instead the relationship between humans and their environment, and the traces that they leave on one another. -Margaret Neil


Isabelle Chafkin Cat Hair Chair Archival inkjet print

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Isabelle Chafkin Alisandra On Couch Archival inkjet print


Isabelle Chafkin Howl Archival inkjet print

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Isabelle Chafkin Airplane Archival inkjet print


Literature Review: Reading Zhou Enlai’s Role in Cultural Preservation Post-1949 Liz Snow Destroy the Four Olds! Old customs, old habits, old culture, and old thinking! In 1966, this slogan of China’s Cultural Revolution led to a swift demolition of traditional painting, historic sites, and the very creativity of the artists themselves. According to Michael Sullivan in Art in China Since 1949, the government divided art into three categories— “‘harmful’ (nudes, abstractions, expressionist works), ‘good’ (revolutionary art in all its forms) or ‘not harmful’ (landscapes and still lives)” (Sullivan, 1999). Not simply controlling the content of works, the government also encouraged Soviet Socialist Realism, instead of traditional Chinese ink painting, even going so far as to send artists to Russia to learn the new style of painting, which was acceptable in subject and locution for communism. This extreme censorship appeared not only to have destroyed historically important paintings and architecture, but also stunted creativity in the production of new works. An extensive account of Zhou Enlai’s role in preserving countless works of art has yet to be written, but one can glean a sense of his commitment to this cause from texts both in and outside of art history. As China’s first premier from 1949 to 1976, Zhou ironically used communist rhetoric and his political clout to preserve these monuments and to encourage many artists to produce to new works by painters who revived traditional decorative arts with a modern twist. One of the early communist leaders in China starting in the 1920s, Zhou gained fame as a foreign diplomat in the military effort against the Japanese during the Second World War. Originally a political adversary of Mao, the two men joined forces when Zhou helped the former to realize the Great Leap Forward, which

built up industry and agriculture in China. Zhou is viewed by history as moderate politically for his role as a diplomat and for restructuring the Chinese economy in his position as one of the Party’s leaders. However, he should receive greater renown for his major role in preserving traditional arts and encouraging the creation of new works. The Gang of Four, the more radically extreme revolutionaries who opposed Zhou politically, also opposed his views on culture — without Zhou, modern China would not have the bountiful artistic and historical resources that were preserved through his orders. Joseph Esherick in The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History describes Zhou Enlai as “China’s patron saint of cultural relics.” Although this title suggests, as many believe, that Zhou did everything to preserve works of art during the Cultural Revolution, the historical evidence does not confirm his major role in preserving most of the sites that claims he did. Still, local officials called upon him as a last resort to try to preserve whatever cultural relics they possessed. (Esherick, 2006) According to David and Nancy Dall Milton, “millions of Chinese believed that he was the only man in that enormous country capable of solving the problems in which they all found themselves entangled”. Zhou is remembered politically as a moderate who many in China viewed as helping with social and economic problems through his proposal of the Four Moderations campaign, which attempted to undo some of the damage that Mao caused in his radical policies through advancements in agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology. This view was extended to the belief in his ability to save important art and architecture. (Milton and Milton,

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Literature Review: Reading Zhou Enlai’s Role in Cultural Preservation Post-1949 Elizabeth Snow Destroy the Four Olds! Old customs, old habits, old culture, and old thinking! In 1966, this slogan of China’s Cultural Revolution led to a swift demolition of traditional painting, historic sites, and the very creativity of the artists themselves. According to Michael Sullivan in Art in China Since 1949, the government divided art into three categories— “‘harmful’ (nudes, abstractions, expressionist works), ‘good’ (revolutionary art in all its forms) or ‘not harmful’ (landscapes and still lives).” (Sullivan, 1999) Not simply controlling the content of works, the government also encouraged Soviet Socialist Realism instead of traditional Chinese ink painting, even going so far as to send artists to Russia to learn the new style of painting. This extreme censorship appeared not only to have destroyed historically important paintings and architecture, but also stunted creativity in the production of new works. An extensive account of Zhou Enlai’s role in preserving countless works of art has yet to be written, but one can glean a sense of his commitment to this cause from texts both in and outside of art history. As China’s first premier from 1949-76, Zhou ironically used communist rhetoric and his political clout to preserve these monuments. One of the early communist leaders in China starting in the 1920s, Zhou gained fame as a foreign diplomat in the military effort against the Japanese during the Second World War. Originally a political adversary of Mao, the two men joined forces when Zhou helped the former to realize the Great Leap Forward, which built up China’s industry and agriculture. Zhou is also viewed by history as moderate politically for his role as a diplomat, although he should receive greater renown for his major

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role in preserving works of art. The Gang of Four, the more radical revolutionaries who opposed the premier politically, also opposed his views on culture — without Zhou, modern China would not have the bountiful artistic and historical resources that were preserved through his orders. Joseph Esherick in The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History describes Zhou Enlai as “China’s patron saint of cultural relics.” Although this title suggests that Zhou did everything to preserve works of art at this time, the historical evidence does not confirm his role in preserving all of the sites that he claims he did. Still, local officials called upon him as a last resort to preserve whatever cultural relics they possessed. (Esherick, 2006) According to David and Nancy Dall Milton, “millions of Chinese believed that he was the only man in that enormous country capable of solving the problems in which they all found themselves entangled”. Zhou is remembered for helping with social and economic problems through the Four Moderations campaign, which attempted to undo some of the damage that Mao caused in his radical policies through advancements in agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology. This view was extended to the belief in his ability to save important art and architecture. (Milton and Milton, 1976) Zhou directly ordered a battalion of soldiers to occupy the Imperial Palace in Beijing and prevented the revolutionary Red Guards from ransacking the compound on August 18, 1966. He dissuaded Mao from having the palace destroyed, and his immunity despite his protection of this site reveals the extent of his political clout. (LeBaron, 2001) During the


Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards confiscated many privately owned cultural relics and destroyed them as remains of pre-revolutionary society. Preventing these actions would be perceived as counterrevolutionary, and many officials were imprisoned for much less. Yet Zhou went directly against the radical tendencies of the revolution to preserve traditional art and architecture. He appealed to the Chinese masses’ sense of pride in their past by describing the Imperial Palace as the fruits of the labor of the entire Chinese people. To save it, he removed some aspects of feudalism associated with it, and spoke about it as an entity that all Chinese had a piece in creating – as such, it could be saved. Going directly against the Red Guards original, destructive intention, the palace, alongside some monuments and works of art, were classified as “state property” and preserved as part of the “nation’s glorious history.” Zhou also worked helped to draft directives that preserved religious architecture and art as head of the State Council. One rhetorical strategy employed was to classify old buildings and the religious art contained in them as “public spaces for condemning the crimes of the ruling classes and imperialists, and for educating the masses in class struggle and patriotism.” (Esherick, 2006) To get around the censorship prevalent at this time, Zhou thus argued for the preservation of cultural relics as negative examples of life before the revolution, such as the Buddhist sculptures and paintings contained in the Mogao Caves from the first millennium AD. Another strategy was to argue that filial piety necessitated the protection of Buddhist icons and art. A major tenet of this principle was to respect the wishes of one’s elders, and it was argued that the nation’s ancestors would resent the destruction of the caves. As this Confucian teaching was still ingrained in post-revolutionary Chinese culture, the Mogao caves were preserved. Furthermore, Zhou believed in the creation of new, non-revolutionary art. As China was beginning to reopen to the West during the 1970s, he became concerned with the public image of China. He thus ensured that traditional landscape paintings were no longer condemnable by the Four Olds campaign and freed many older artists who had been imprisoned, which led to an outpouring of paintings into the Chinese art scene. (Esherick, 2006) One of these artists was Pang Xunqin, who had almost eight out of every

ten of his paintings destroyed during the Revolution. A decade later, Zhou’s support enabled him to revive traditional styles of art based on ancient folk art without being persecuted. One must understand China’s social and political history in the twentieth century in order to understand the preservation of her art, since the two are intertwined. One should also delve into the histories and personalities of the major politicians because they often had more control over art production than one would expect. Without Zhou’s apparently fearless application of his political power towards the preservation and creation of art, many Chinese cultural artifacts would not have been saved. It is surprising that Zhou Enlai is more influential than he is usually given credit in Chinese art history.

Bibliography: 1.Michael Sullivan, The China Quarterly, No. 159, “Special Issue: The People’s Republic of China after 50 Years” (Sep., 1999): pp. 712-722 2.Joseph Esherick, Paul Pickowicz, and Andrew Walder, ed., The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (Stanford: Stanford 3.University Press, 2006) 4.David Milton and Nancy Dall Milton, The Wind Will Not Subside: Years in Revolutionary China, 1964-69 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976) 5.Dean LeBaron with Donna Carpenter, Mao, Marx, and the Market: Capitalist Adventures in Russia and China (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002)  

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REFERENCES Dennett 1 Lynne Harrison, “Establishing a methodology for the care and conservation of the Orthodox icons collection at the British Museum” http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/conservation_of_orthodox_ icons.aspx 2 Harrison, “Methodology.” 3 N. Levinson, “The Restoration of Old Russian Paintings,” in The Slavonic Review, 3 (8), (Dec. 1924): p.350 4 Levinson, “Restoration,” p.351 (italics mine) 5 Levinson, “Restoration,” pp. 354, 351, 350 6 Levinson, “Restoration,” p.352 7 Timothy Barringer, “The South Kensington Museum and the Colonial Project,” in Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture, and the Museum, ed. Timothy Barringer and Tom Flynn (London; New York: Routledge, 1998): p.19 8 Adam Jolles, “Stalin’s Talking Museums,” in Oxford Art Journal, 3 (28), (2005): p.445 9 Jolles, “Museums”, p. 454 10 Jolles, “Museums”, p.445

Clay 1 Robin Pogrebin, “The Permanent Collection May Not Be So Permanent,” New York Times, January 26, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/arts/design/27sell.html

Sokoloff 1Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1995): p.1. All further footnotes refer to this text 2 p.22 3 p.17 4 p.2 5 p.2 6 p.2 7 p.32 8 p.29

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We would like to thank the History of Art Department, Yale Center for British Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery for their continued and generous support. Our thanks also to the student artists whose work appears in this issue. Š Dimensions Art Journal, Yale University, 2011 Dimensions is published by students pf Yale College, Yale University, and other institutions are not responsible for its contents. We welcome all enquiries and comments at dimensions.journal @gmail.com

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DIMENSIONS ART JOURNAL

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ying Sze Pek

ASSOCIATE EDITORS Kelly Cannon Alexandra Dennett Bob Liles Naina Saligram

WEB EDITOR Ilana Harris-Babou

ART EDITOR Susanna Koetter

GRAPHIC DESIGN Ilana Harris-Babou Susanna Koetter Maggie Tsang

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Dimensions Volume VI Number 3