Breakage & Fragments in China’s Visual & Material Culture

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EALC 45006
Wei-Cheng Lin
Course Description: 

Although art historians mostly work with complete and fine artifacts, the same artifacts are subjected to breakage in one way or the other. After broken, while they may escape art historical scrutiny, most of the artifacts of our research don’t just get discarded like trash; rather they solicit various cultural practices in order for people to come to terms or deal with the very existence of their fragments. Fragments of artifacts do not completely erase their past, but incompleteness nonetheless challenges their previous ontology. It is in this regard that breakage and fragments shift our focus from appreciating forms and functionalities of artifacts to reconciling with their terminations (death) and continuous survivals (afterlife), thus entailing our attention paid to their incomplete visual qualities and material properties. In this course, students will investigate ways in which breakage can be considered as an important cultural agency that could regenerate meanings and significance of fragments throughout the history of China’s visual and material culture – in such forms as relics, ruins, memorabilia, etc.

Equivalent Course: ARTH45006

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