Institute of East Asian Art HistoryConference: Narrating Japanese Art Histories

Press Release No. 73/2024
26 June 2024

Institute of East Asian Art History at Heidelberg University holds conference on narrative art in Japan

Narrative elements in Japanese art will be the topic of an international conference at Heidelberg University, jointly hosted by its Institute of East Asian Art History and the Ishibashi Foundation. The three-day public event with lectures and panel discussions will focus on narratives that “wander” through different media, e.g. from paper and silk to ceramics, textiles and lacqeurware to the manga of Japanese popular culture. The English-language conference, entitled “Narrating Japanese Art Histories: Past, Present, Future”, is taking place from 28 to 30 June 2024 in the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS) and will also be live streamed. The speakers include experts from Europe, Japan and the United States.

Poster zur Konferenz: Narrating Japanese Art Histories

Narrative elements are an inseparable part of Japanese art, which is closely linked to poetry, literature and theatre, according to Katharina Rode-Kaya from the Institute of East Asian Art History. She heads the organising team for the conference, with which the Institute is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Ishibashi Foundation Visiting Professorship in Japanese Art History at Heidelberg University. In the context of the programme, which started out in 2005 in cooperation with the Ishibashi Foundation, internationally acclaimed experts are invited to teach, network and engage in research at the Institute for up to two months. With the aid of five thematic blocks, the conference speakers from academia and museum practice will discuss different forms of visual storytelling in Japanese art. In doing so, they are also expected to question established academic narratives of East Asian art history.

The conference “Narrating Japanese Art Histories” opens on 28 June with a greeting from Prof. Dr Melanie Trede, longstanding professor for Japanese art history at the Institute of East Asian Art History, and a video message by Ishibashi Hiroshi, president of the Ishibashi Foundation. Afterwards, Prof. Dr Melissa McCormick from Harvard University (USA) will give a keynote lecture on the topic “Rethinking Japanese Narrative Art”. The opening of the conference, followed by the lecture, begins at 5 p.m.

On 29 June, the conference programme starts at 9.30 a.m. with two presentations on “Painting Stories”. The first deals with “The Architecture of Narrative in Late Medieval Japan”, and the second with depictions of “The Tale of Genji”, a prominent work of Japanese literature from the 11th century, depicted on folding screens by the 17th century Japanese artist Tawaraya Sōtatsu. They are followed by two contributions in the topic block “Stories Told Differently”. They will describe art historical approaches to comics studies and alternative perspectives on the history of Korean painting. The conference continues in the afternoon with two lectures on the topic of “Visual Storytelling in Japanese Buddhism”. The speakers will present on narrative aspects of Zen painting and the stories told through the materiality of letters. At 3.30 p.m., a panel discussion, entitled “Revisiting / Reframing? Stories of the Past”, starts with researchers from Japan and the United States.

A second keynote lecture at the conference will follow in the morning of 30 June, given by Prof. Dr Takagishi Akira from the University of Tokyo (Japan), who held the Ishibashi Visiting Professorship at the Institute of East Asian Art History in the 2011 summer semester. He will speak on the topic of “Takashina no Takakane – Japanese Art History Reconsidered”. The lecture, in Japanese, will start at 10 a.m. After it come two more event blocks, looking at “Stories from Museums” and “Stories of Women and by Women”. The speakers will, inter alia, talk about artefacts from the Tokyo National Museum, the history of the arts in the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), and early mass-produced illustrations of the “The Tale of Genji”. Starting at 4 p.m., a reflection on the conference will take place, followed by a panel discussion on the topic “Stories for the Future” with experts from Berlin, Heidelberg, Harvard (USA), and Leeds (UK).

The venue of the conference “Narrating Japanese Art Histories: Past, Present, Future” is the CATS Auditorium (lecture hall 010.01.05) in Voßstraße 2 (building 4010). Prior registration is required for online participation.