15 May 2012 5:00pm - 6:30pm CRASSH


Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chinese Studies 2012 

The Humanitas Chair in Chinese Studies has been made possible by the generous support of Sir David Tang.

Professor Wu Hung


Wu Hung (Harrie A Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago) will give a series of three public lectures on Reading Absence in Chinese Art and Material Culture and participate in a concluding symposium on Writing, Art and Chinese Culture


This series of lectures explores the methodological potential of 'reading absence'. Here 'absence' is understood in a dialectical relationship between depicting and de-picting. The general idea is that instead of providing visual information about the subjects represented, certain images, installations, and performances deliberately erase or withhold such information. Since such phenomena are seen throughout the history of world art, we need to explore the reason for creating such works as 'empty signs' and their expected reception. The three lectures use this approach to discuss three groups of examples from traditional and contemporary Chinese art. Throughout these lectures, 'reading absence' is meant to explain the tension between presence and absence as a specific artistic and art historical phenomenon. While providing a particular angle to analyze works of art, such reading also leads to new contextual and historical interpretation.

This lecture provides a revisionist narrative of contemporary Chinese art in the 1980s and 1990s. In this narrative, notions and representations of 'absence', including erasure, emptying, and disappearance, characterize two transformative stages of this art and reveal the need to constantly erase consensual meaning in order to generate frustrated energy to fuel new ventures.


Further events in this series: 

The lectures are free and open to all, no registration required.

About Wu Hung

Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History, Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia, and the Consulting Curator of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. An elected member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has published widely on both traditional and contemporary Chinese art. His major works in traditional art include The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art (1989), Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture (1995), The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (1996), Liyi zhongde meishu (Art in its ritual context, 2 vols., 2005), Meishushi shiyi (Ten discourses on art history, 2008), Shikong zhong de meishu (Art in time and space, 2009), and The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs (2010). In the field of contemporary art, he has curated many influential exhibitions, and has written books and catalogues including Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century (1999), Exhibiting Experimental Art in China (2000), Reinterpretation: A Decade of Experimental Art in China (1990-2000) (2002), Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Politic Space (2005), and Making History: Wu Hung on Contemporary Art (2008).  

About the Professorships

Humanitas is a series of Visiting Professorships at Oxford and Cambridge intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities. Created by Lord Weidenfeld, the Programme is managed and funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of a series of generous benefactors, and co-ordinated in Cambridge by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). Humanitas Visiting Professors are held by distinguished academics and leading practitioners who have contributed to interdisciplinary research and innovation in a broad range of contemporary disciplines in the arts, social sciences and humanities. Covering areas of urgent or enduring interest in today's society as well as the performing arts, Humanitas Visiting Professors will present their pioneering work through a series of lectures or performances open to University audiences and the wider public.



Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk