Happy New Year! On behalf of CIHA, I wish you all the best in 2020.
The 35th World Congress of Art History spans two cities far apart, i.e. Florence and St. Paul. We find ourselves in a middle ground between the East and the West, and between the North and the South - a state of suspension that infers a kind of freedom. Such freedom enables us to see more clearly today’s world, inflicted with turmoil, hardships and conflicts. We are being united by a shared asset, i.e. Art History, which also allows us to collaborate with each other.
In 2019, CIHA has accepted several new national members to apply to join in, and several former member to rejoin in, e.g. Costa Rica, Finland, Israel, Georgia, Portugal, etc. We can be best connected through personal connections between art historians, from which we can build up connections of knowledge, information and perception, and in the end, connections of arts and civilizations.
But such connections are not sufficient to realize the unique assets of Art History. In the past, we cherished the differences of the Other, hence embraced arts from other cultures as rare treasures. It is exactly due to such differences that we appreciate each other. Today, with the advent of the image age, images that differ from languages and archeological relics open up a new prospect for us to communicate with each other. Some years ago, at its board meetings, CIHA had proposed to build an image database to be shared among all member states of CIHA. Such a database may seem to be a fantasy or even delusion in the past. But today, thanks to the development of blockchain technology, 5G or 6G technology, and quantum computing technology, such a database is within our reach now. It is supposed to overcome all the barriers in data storage and data transmission, hence be shared by all members of CIHA. Without all images being accessible to us all, our research will forever stay at the stage of “case study”. Without knowing the interconnections between images, we cannot make sound judgments. Whenever I read books by senior scholars or my colleagues, I always sense a kind of hesitation between the lines. Having put great effort to gather materials/information, they still cannot get hold of all relevant image materials, due to geographical, political or cultural reasons. Hence their scholarship falls short of being thorough. If we have an image database accessible to all parties concerned, we can draw upon a complete reservoir of images to discuss certain issues. In this way, we can surely solve many problems that previously are insolvable.
You might remember that CIHA proposed four goals at its board meeting in Rome in 2017, in addition to holding the 35th World Congress of Art History at Florence and St. Paul. Besides building an image database, the other three goals are as follows.
To build an official website of CIHA. We have attained the goal so far. CIHA.org posts research updates and conference information in a timely manner, and all of us have been learning to make the best out of it.
To launch an online education program that also serves as a communication platform. Tristan Weddigen named the program “Best for Everyone”. It is designated to have art historians to give several-minutes-long talks in their mother tongues, on topics they are most expert at, e.g. certain artworks or art phenomena, and then broadcast the talks online in the format of video clips. Still at an experimental stage, the program will first be trialed on in France, Greece, India, Japan and China. These talks will capture the quintessence of human civilization, and like the sunlight, they will shine through every corner on the globe.
To resume the publication of the academic journal under the auspices of CIHA. Peter Schneemann and Thierry Dufrene, two ex-chiefs of CIHA, and the presidency of CIHA, have been jointly working on this and decided that the journal is to be titled as Terms for a Global Art History. After the New Year’s holiday, we will have the honor to read their proposal.
We keep working, thus we can achieve something. This is our hope for the new year. Let’s hold onto this hope, now and forever.