Field Notes on the Visual Arts (Book)

Seventy-Five Short Essays

Edited by Karen Lang

In Field Notes on the Visual Arts, 75 scholars, curators and artists traverse chronology and geography to reveal the meanings and dilemmas of art. 

Category: Visual Arts


What is the relation of art and history? What is art today? Why does art affect us? In Field Notes on the Visual Arts, 75 scholars, curators and artists traverse chronology and geography to reveal the meanings and dilemmas of art. The eight topic headings – Anthropomorphism, Appropriation, Contingency, Detail, Materiality, Mimesis, Time and Tradition – are written by historians of art, literature, culture and science, archaeologists, anthropologists, philosophers, curators and artists, and consider an astonishing range of artefacts. Poised somewhere between Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects and an academic volume of essays on art, Field Notes brings together voices generally separated inside and outside the academy. Its open approach to knowledge is commensurate with the work of art, aiming to make clear that the work of art is both meaningful and resistant to meaning.

Karen Lang is Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford (2019–20)


Elizabeth King, Inhale, Exhale, Pause: Breath and the Open Mouth in Sculpture 
J. M. Bernstein, Art as Soul-Making from Chauvet to Cinema 
Carolyn Dean, Rocks Like Us 
Caroline van Eck, Anthropomorphism as Hermeneutic Mode 
Finbarr B. Flood, Reflections on Anthropomorphism 
Dario Gamboni, “Morphosis” as Cognition 
Jane Garnett and Gervase Rosser, The Transformative Image 
James Meyer, The Bodily and the Anthropomorphic 
Miya Elise Mizuta Lippit, Anthropomorphic Beauty: Photography, the Empress, and Modern Japan 

Georg Baselitz, Back Then, In Between, and Today 
Kirk Ambrose, Appropriation and Influence 
Elizabeth Edwards, Photographs Can Never Be Still 
Ursula Frohne, Revenants: Gestures of Repetition in Contemporary Art 
Cordula Grewe, Appropriation and Epigonality: A Romantic Narrative 
Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Poet and the Bandits 
Ian McLean, An Ethics of Appropriation 
Saloni Mathur, The Dialectics of Appropriation: Reflections on a Changing World 
Iain Boyd Whyte, On Appropriation 

Linda Connor, A Shot in the Dark 
Giovanna Borradori, Photographs Hold a Redemptive Power 
Marcia Brennan, Give Me a Kiss and Stay Connected: Reflections on Contingency in the Medical Humanities 
Mary Ann Doane, The Paradox of Contingency 
Angus Fletcher, En blanc et noir 
Peter Geimer, Images and the Unforeseen 
Mark Ledbury, Eternal Contingencies 
Chris Spring, Out of the Blue: Two African Textile Contingencies 

Susan Hiller, Dream Art 
Spike Bucklow, Material Details—Artists’ Pigments 
Johannes Endres, Goethe on Myron’s Cow: A Detail 
Carlo Ginzburg, On Detail 
Joan Kee, Why Chinese Paintings Are So Large 
Spyros Papapetros, Hairy Details 
Joanna Roche, Moving In and Stepping Back 
Nina Rowe, The Detail as Fragment of a Social Past 
Alain Schnapp, Antiquarians in the Field 
Blake Stimson, The Feminine and Vegetable Principle of Life

Martha Rosler, Materiality and Objecthood: Questions of Sedimented Labor 
Caroline Walker Bynum, Medieval Materiality 
Natasha Eaton, Materiality of Color: South Asia 
Michael Ann Holly, Materiality Matters 
Michael Kelly, Material and Sacred Artistic Agency 
Robin Kelsey, Materiality Is Somewhere Else 
Alisa LaGamma, A Lexicon of Meaningful Artistic Media 
Monika Wagner, Dust: Recomposing the Decomposed 
Oliver Watson, Awkward Objects 
Tristan Weddigen, On the Textility of Spatial Construction 

Dexter Dalwood, The Vertiginous Image 
Daniela Bohde, Visual Hermeneutics: Art History and Physiognomics 
Helen C. Evans, Byzantine Innovative Mimesis 
Sarah E. Fraser, Ethnographic Mimesis: A Collaboration between Zhang Daqian and Tibetan Painters, 1941–43 
Thomas Habinek, Classical Mimesis as Embodied Imitation 
Tom Huhn, The Mimetic Pulse of Primal Unity 
Jeanette Kohl, Blood Heads: Index and Presence 
Niklaus Largier, The Figural Shape of Perception 
Peter Mack, Mimesis for Artists, Writers, and Audiences 
Alex Potts, Mimesis and the Anti-Mimetic 

Eric Fischl, Time Is of the Essence 
Jan Assmann, Time in Ancient Egypt 
Malcolm Bull, Stop–Start 
Darby English, Notes from a Field 
Ludmilla Jordanova, Time, Death, and History 
Ajay Sinha, Painting Time 
Gloria Sutton, The Texture of Time: Durational Conditions of Contemporary Art 
Gerrit Walczak, What Father Time Has Left Behind 
David E. Wellbery, The Origin of Time 

Obiora Udechukwu, Art, Tradition, and the Dancing Masquerade(r) 
John Brewer, Tradition: History and Reification 
Jay A. Clarke, Etching, Tradition, and the German Imagination 
Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Field Notes on the Contemporaneity of Tradition 
Hans Hayden, Tradition and Critical Historiography 
Gregg M. Horowitz, Tradition as Treason 
Susanne Küchler, Material Translation and Its Challenges 
Maria Loh, Tradition Is an Exquisite Corpse 
Ruth B. Phillips, Recovering (from) Tradition: Jeffrey Thomas, Kent Monkman, and the Modern “Indian” Imaginary 
Regine Prange, The Tradition of the New: Alois Riegl’s Late Antiquity 

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