September 20, 2017 - OCAT Institute - Sites and Images
September 20, 2017

OCAT Institute

Exhibition miscellanea, including archaeological photographs of Leptis Magna, Stonehenge, Sutton Hoo excavation, and documentation and 3D-imaging of the Tianlongshan Buddhist cave site and statues. Courtesy of HEIR (Oxford University) and CAEA (University of Chicago).

Sites and Images
Two Research Projects of Oxford University and the University of Chicago
September 16–December 31, 2017

OCAT Institute
Chaoyang District
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm

T +86 10 6737 5518

Section One
Site∙Object∙Biography: Archaeology and Photography

Section Two
The Buddhist Cave Temples and Sculptures of Tianlongshan: Historical Photographs and New Imaging Technology

Opening: September 15, 3pm–6pm

OCAT Institute
Historic Environment Image Resource (Oxford University)
Center for the Art of East Asia (University of Chicago)

General inquiry: info [​at​]
Press inquiry: wenxuan [​at​]

The OCAT Institute is pleased to announce that its 2017 Annual Exhibition, entitled Sites and Images: Two Research Projects of Oxford University and the University of Chicago, will open to the public from 3pm, September 15 2017.  In this exhibition, sites refer to places of historical remains produced by human artistic activities, which also include architectural structures, sculptures, vessels, and paintings associated with the actual locale. Images, as will be seen throughout the exhibition, refer to representations of historical sites by means of modern visual technologies, especially photography and 3D imaging. The exhibition is divided into two sections.

Section One, entitled Site∙Object∙Biography: Archaeology and Photography, is organised by Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR) under the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford University. It seeks to present two forms of comparison. In the first case, it offers a series of photographs—in different media from the glass plate slide to the digital image—of objects and sites from archaeological contexts in a series of cultures. These include Northern Europe, North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, using multiple photographs of the same archaeological object or site from different periods, the section stages a further form of comparison. The different stages within the long life history of a given artefact or site become the point at issue. The rich set of imageries produced by modern archaeological photography can show us something of the history of the ways objects and sites have changed in the roughly 150 years since photographic recording began in earnest, and can hopefully act as a prism of vision and imagination through which to explore the biographies of sites and objects. 

Section Two, entitled The Buddhist Cave Temples and Sculptures of Tianlongshan: Historical Photographs and New Imaging Technology, is organised by the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History, University of Chicago. This section makes use of early photographic records and new forms of imaging technology to “restore” many of the Tianlongshan statues scattered in foreign collections to their former integrity. The Center for the Art of East Asia has undertaken extensive recording and archiving of Buddhist cave sculptures outside of China using 3D scanning. It is also collaborating with the School of Fine Art, Taiyuan University of Technology and the Cultural Preservation Bureau of Tianlongshan Caves to conduct scanning of the actual caves. Combining the 3D information of the caves with that of the missing sculptures, the research teams are working toward the digital reconstruction of the cave shrines. This section is thus presented as an exploration of the possibilities of using historical images together with new digital displays—including video, interactive interfaces, and virtual reality—to create more informative and engaging museum exhibitions in the future.

Together, the dialogue between the two sections speaks to a central theme of the entire exhibition, i.e. the significance of the dialectics between sites and images for art-historical research. While archaeological sites undergo continuous transformations thanks to the twin forces of nature and man, images offer us the dual possibilities of documenting these changes and reconstructing lost contexts. These images and reconstructions, however, could never stand in for the actual sites; they are vehicles for the transmission of historical knowledge about them. It is hoped that the staging of this joint exhibition could create a potent comparative scenario in response to the global turn in art history, shed light on new paths taken by the discipline’s practitioners in recent years, and strengthen the connectivities and dialogues between the art-historical communities in China and abroad.

OCAT Institute
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