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The Buddhist icon and the modern gaze
Author Faure, Bernard
Source Critical Inquiry
Volumev.24 n.3 spring
Pages768 - 813
PublisherUniversity of Chicago
LocationChicago, IL, US [芝加哥, 伊利諾伊州, 美國]
Content type期刊論文=Journal Article
NoteBernard Faure is professor of religious studies at Stanford University. He is the author of The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (1991), Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (1993), Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (1996), and The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism (1997).
AbstractThis essay is an attempt to reconsider what vision of—that is, what discourse on—Buddhist icons is possible for a Westerner (or Westernized Asian). Buddhist icons have been essentially the domain, or rather the preserve, of art historians. But Buddhist art, if there is such a thing, is perhaps too important to be left to art historians alone. Is there a Buddhist “art,” a subcategory of Asian art, itself a rubric within world art, one among many rooms in André Malraux's famous “musée imaginaire”? Or are we not dealing primarily with Buddhist images, whose artistic value is at best derivative? Even though art history is beginning to take a broader, even anthropological, perspective with regard to Western images and visual culture, it is still necessary in the Asian context to shift the focus from traditional concerns about the history and aesthetics of art to the history, affect, and function of ritual images or icons. Even if we want to retain the notion of aesthetics value, to the extent that a narrow aestheticism precludes our understanding of the anthropological and phenomenological dimensions of Buddhist icons, we must question this emphasis on the aesthetic object. I want to focus precisely on the vision of icons, on the asymmetrical exchange of glances that characterizes icon worship. I have elsewhere examined the various techniques of animation of the Buddhist icon. Because they are, in a manner, alive, and not simply dead representations, these icons are images of power. However, this obvious point—perhaps because it is obvious in the etymological sense (“lying in the way”; hence preventing, making an obstacle)—has until recently been largely ignored by art historians, especially in studying Buddhist images. The notion of animated Buddhist icons has been repressed as a result of the modern and Wester values of aestheticization, desacralization, and secularization. This situation, however, is beginning to change. In order to counteract this repression, I will take some of my cues from the recent work done by certain historians and from critiques of Western art in the wake of Walter Benjamin.
Created date1999.06.04
Modified date2014.12.15

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