FIELD NOTES 01; Locating the Contemporary in Art History?

In June, in conjunction with its new website and online collection of material, AAA launched a new e-journal, Field Notes, replacing its monthly newsletter Diaaalogue. Field Notes, a more focused and curated journal, is both a thinking exercise that we hope will unknot some of AAA’s core concerns and a contribution to critical thinking and writing from this part of the world. 
The first issue of Field Notes entitled, ‘The And: An Expanded Questionnaire on the Contemporary’ addressed the notion of the contemporary with specificity to the region. Acknowledging Hal Foster and Terry Smith’s ‘Questionnaire on “The Contemporary”’ in the Fall 2009 issue of October, as well as writings by John Clark and Joan Kee amongst others, we invited curators, artists, critics, and academics from Asia to contribute their thoughts on the topic. As an archive of ‘contemporary art in Asia’, the issue helped us to consider AAA’s collection as a shifting frame, situated in the present but also connecting past and future. The issue also drew upon a text from the archive from 1967 on Sri Lankan artist Ivan Peries by Senake Bandaranayake (first published in Third Text in 1987), looking at the position of a modernist artist of the ‘Third World’. 
In line with the aims of the journal, the purpose of this discussion is to extend the questions raised in the first issue to examine the notion of the contemporary with specificity to the region with a focused debate. In response to the fraught question of the contemporary, many of the respondents pressed for art historical research. We therefore attempt on this occasion to analyse the positioning of art history within the journal’s responses, and, taking for instance the critical essay on Ivan Peries, to explore the potential for archival material to enrich this debate. Joined by contributors to AAA’s Questionnaire on the Contemporary Rasheed Araeen, Founding Editor of Third Text, Patrick Flores, scholar of South East Asian art, and Reiko Tomii, scholar of Japanese art, the aim of this discussion is to achieve a clearer understanding of the relationship between ‘the contemporary’, with its many face(t)s, and art history, ‘a beast that can serve many masters’ (David Teh). 
How are histories of art being written, studied, and produced locally? Is it more effective to look at works of art and art historical and critical texts through ‘new eyes’, or through the lens of their original frameworks? Especially in Asia, is it possible to ‘imagine historicity’ (Pamela Lee) beyond the existing mechanisms of art history? 
Can art history really ease our sense of un-resolve with the contemporary? 

Relevant content

Ivan Peries: The Predicament of the Bourgeois Artist in the Societies of the Third World

Ivan Peries: The Predicament of the Bourgeois Artist in the Societies of the Third World

Senake Bandaranayake provides a socio-historical analysis of the work of Ivan Peries