Please join us for this talk by Greg Levine ’85, professor of art and architecture of Japan and Buddhist Visual Cultures at UC Berkeley.
This talk reflects on a peculiar sort of thing—tree buddhas—that puts the discipline of art history (and religious studies) on the spot amidst what is variously termed the Anthropocene, Capitaloscene, Petrolocene, or Chthulucene.
Because the behaviors of privileged humans and human technologies and systems have become a geophysical force—causing profound biospheric destruction and unequally distributed harm to people and other species—should the discipline of art history change, become "eco-art historical"? How? Doing eco art historical inquiry means what, precisely or even tentatively? What should its objects, objectives, and ethics be? Is Eco Art History merely another anthropocentric intellectual “turn”? Would a truly ecocentric art history make art history less unrecognizable? Or might familiar art historical tools help with new tasks: to see beyond ourselves even in the study of human artistic cultures; to better intervene against neoliberal specieism; and to prevent biospheric collapse and our own extinction. Tree-buddhas may put art history in a state of productive doubt and help us work towards these aims.
Image: Buddha head in a tree.” Wat Mahāthāt, Ayutthaya, Thailand. 2016. Photograph: J. G. Bailey.
This event is presented with support from the East Asian Studies Department and the Art Department.