Session at the 108th College Art Association of America Annual Conference

Catherine M. Becker, University of Illinois at Chicago   

In crafting the canon of art from South and Southeast Asia, art historical scholarship has tended to focus on key materials: stone, bronze, and mineral pigments, for example. Each is posited as a distinct mode of image production, requiring specific artistic skills. However, some of the earliest extant monuments reveal processes of material translation, with now-lost wooden prototypes serving as inspiration for stone structures. In later periods, colonial authorities recreated antiquities in plaster to transform objects of religious devotion into exemplars to be studied. More recent religious and political monuments in South Asia replicate and enlarge historical photographs in durable materials such as bronze and stone. The contemporary Thai artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert fashions Buddha-like figures from paper currency. This panel invites presentations that investigate these and other forms of material translation across a broad chronology of South and Southeast Asian art and architecture as meaningful and revelatory gestures. What is added and erased in the process of moving across media? When does material adaptation allow new mobilities for objects and monuments? When do these translations portend a conservative impulse to render once ephemeral objects in more permanent media? How are new audiences addressed and new claims to authority articulated in the translation process? How are perceptions of value enhanced, questioned, or upended in the adoption of new material? When might the materiality of an object or site exert its own claims on these acts of adaptation and translation?