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Cultural Imagination: The Practice of Seeing and Describing a Work of Art

Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum

Speaker: Olivia Meehan


English, with Chinese translation

Some of the first theories of imagination appear in antiquity with Aristotle attempting to explain perception and the variety of cognitive activities engaged in creating an image in the mind’s eye. Philosophers have continued to explore the impact of culture, and education, upon the development of imagination in the individual. By bringing together research from the areas of philosophy, psychology and sociology we may find a useful framework for understanding how we look at works of art and objects. This talk will explore the idea of visual literacy and consider the challenges we face when asked to articulate complex ideas that emerge from deep observation. A proposition will be made for how reading literature will help to build language and visual awareness in both young and adult audiences.   


Olivia Meehan received her MPhil and PhD in History of Art from the University of Cambridge, King’s College. Since graduating she has worked in museums and galleries and as lecturer and tutor in the History of Art. Most recently she has been researching effective object-based learning models in the museum and gallery environment focusing on reading, language and visual literacy. Olivia has trained at the V&A Museum London in their Creating Innovating Learning Programmes and in 2015 she was visiting fellow at the École Normale Supérieure Paris, studying works by Tsugouharu Foujita held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Olivia is currently Curator of Academic Programs at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne.

The Contemporary and the Art Historical: Questions of the Curatorial 

Speaker: Patrick D. Flores


English, with Chinese translation

The lecture reflects on the ways in which curatorial practice is shaped by an engagement with the discourses of the contemporary and the discipline of the art historical. The contemporary and the art historical are in turn transformed by curatorial practice. The art historical, the contemporary, and the curatorial are, therefore, brought together in a particular relationship. The discipline of art history, however, with its investments in linear, progressive time, may have a relationship of tension with the curation of the contemporary, which has a critical self-consciousness about the nature of time and acknowledges the presence of different kinds of time. This lecture discusses certain situations in which curatorial practice mediates these tensions as it takes place in the university museum, the biennale, and exhibitions.


Patrick D. Flores is Professor of Art Studies at the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines, which he chaired from 1997 to 2003, and Curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila. He was one of the curators of Under Construction: New Dimensions in Asian Art in 2000 and the Gwangju Biennale (Position Papers) in 2008. He was a Visiting Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1999 and an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow in 2004. Among his publications are Painting History: Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art (1999); Remarkable Collection: Art, History, and the National Museum (2006); and Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (2008). He was a grantee of the Asian Cultural Council (2010) and a member of the Advisory Board of the exhibition The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989 (2011) organized by the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe and member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council (2011 and 2014). He co-edited the Southeast Asian issue with Joan Kee for Third Text (2011). He convened in 2013 on behalf of the Clark Institute and the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines the conference “Histories of Art History in Southeast Asia” in Manila. He was a Guest Scholar of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2014. He curated an exhibition of contemporary art from Southeast Asia and Southeast Europe titled South by Southeast and the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015. He has been appointed the Artistic Director of Singapore Biennale 2019.