2018 OCAT Institute Annual Lecture Series: “Metapictures: Images and the Discourse of Theory”

September 10, 2018

From September 6 to 8, 2018, the OCAT Institute held its Annual Lecture Series at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. This annual event is part of the OCAT Institute’s public educational programming, and it serves as an attempt to create a platform for exchange and development of new histories of contemporary art through dialogue between scholars from China and abroad.

The first lecture, entitled “Iconology 3.0: Image Theory in Our Time” tied into the current OCAT Institute Exhibition, Metapictures, curated by W.J.T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelly Distinguished Service Professor in English and Art History at the University of Chicago. Both the lecture and the exhibition “survey ‘pictures about pictures’ as examples in analyses of images, media, and visual culture,” drawing heavily upon Professor Mitchell’s “Metapicture” theory. The second lecture, “About Face” explored the ambiguity of the face in image discourse, particularly in light of new technologies such as facial recognition software, and changing approaches to facial representation through the evolution of portraiture into today’s Selfie. The third and final lecture, “Planetary Madness: Globalizing the Ship of Fools” focused on the question of “absolute metaphor” in the form of the “ship of fools,” drawing upon examples from maritime imagery and the work of contemporary photographer Allan Sekula.

Two University of Chicago faculty members served as key organizers and facilitators of the lectures and related events. The aforementioned Professor W.J.T. Mitchell curated the OCAT Institute Exhibit, and both Professor Mitchell and Professor Wu Hung participated in the lecture series and the related 2018 Research-based Curatorial Project Workshop at the OCAT Institute on September 9, 2018. Professor Mitchell has been a member of the University of Chicago faculty since 1977, specializing in image theory, iconology, and other topics within the history and theory of media, visual art, and literature from the eighteenth century to the present. Professor Wu is Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia, and Consulting Curator of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. His work covers a vast range of topics in both traditional and contemporary Chinese art history, with a focus on finding historical narratives to integrate such varied phases.