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The Picturesque Eye.                                                  Investigating Regionalist Art Forms in late Empires

3-5 December 2015

Venue: Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, and Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna/Austria

International conference jointly organized by the Cluster of Excellence „Asia and Europe in a Global Context” (Global Art History) at Heidelberg University, the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, and the Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In association with the DFG-Research Group “Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art”, Institute of Art History at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Concept: Michael Falser, Project Leader at the Chair of Global Art History, Heidelberg University (Project: Picturesque Modernities)

Strategies of Regionalisms

Regionalism – a means of stabilizing the centre? With this as an overarching question, the conference intends to focus on scientific approaches and artistic projects in the inner-European border areas and outer-European colonies between ca. 1900 and 1950 that tried to stabilize the imperial  project mostly through two strategies:

a) a deliberate “re-valuing” of  existing regional cultural forms, and

b) a centrally governed initiation of new, regionalistically shaped art forms.

Both of these strategies involve actors who – according to the first working hypothesis of the conference – drew on picturesque, i.e. selective, segmented and ‘agreeable’ directions of the eye. With the intention of broad aesthetic consent among the respective target audience, it was above all geared towards establishing political consensus between periphery and centre.

A retrospective justification of German colonialism in Africa through the mapping of regional forms of music, in Heinrich Schnee’s Deutsches Kolonial-Lexikon of 1920

European Border Areas and Overseas Colonies

Grouped around the wider context of two World Wars (1900-1950), case studies investigating late-colonial Empires can be concerned with two overlapping regions:

a)   border areas within the European colonial powers themselves; and

b)   with overseas colonies.

In the latter, special – though not exclusive – attention will be paid to case studies concerned with Asia (as e.g. British India, French Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies) since on this continent – according to a second working hypothesis – the picturesque directions of the eye, historically as well as aesthetically pre-shaped in Europe, could be transferred to ‘Non-Europe’ in particularly impressive ways.

Disciplines, Institutional Regimes, and Visual Methods

The case studies of different regionalist forms of culture and art are devoted to three thematic areas:

a)   the methods applied at the time in disciplines like art and architecture history, archeology, anthropology, etc., which were particularly influential in the colonies

b)   the institutional regimes and individual actors specifically involved in the regionalist projects, and

c)   the primarily visually oriented methods of selection and documentation (e.g. sketch book and inventory) and techniques governing the picturesque steering of the eye (e.g. photography and film).

The temporary hybrid representation of the Dutch East Indies' temple heritage during the Pasar Gambir Fair in Batavia (today Jakarta) in 1923 (private collection Michael Falser)

Case Studies

As an overall framework, the case studies either investigate the concrete procedures of mapping and recording, collecting, salvaging, and displaying of  existing ‘regional’ art forms; or discuss newly commissioned regionalist projects. The papers  focus on those visually constructed and at the same time (culture-)politically consensus-oriented approaches that manifested themselves mostly in architecture, sculpture, painting, arts and crafts, costumes, theatre, dance, photography, film and literature.

Network - Design of the Conference

This international conference in English takes place from 3 to 5 December 2015 in Vienna. It is a collaborative exercise between the Cluster of Excellence „Asia and Europe in a Global Context – The Dynamics of Transculturality” at Heidelberg University (and its project „Picturesque Modernities“, Michael Falser), the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art (Herbert Justnik) and the Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (with its research cluster “Cultures of Knowledge”, Johannes Feichtinger and Cornelia Hülmbauer). The conference is planned in association with the DFG-Research Group „Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art“ at the Institute of Art History, Free University Berlin (Georg Vasold).

The conference is scheduled as a 2,5 days get-together with 18 presentations in four thematic panels, two evening keynotes (on Thursday and Friday, 3 and 4 Dec) and an optional post-conference excursion (Sunday, 5 Dec).

The entry is free. Please register at:


THURSDAY, 3 December 2015

Venue:     Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art
Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde; Laudongasse 15-19, 1080 Wien

14.00-15.00    Introduction    

Matthias Beitl (Director of the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art)
Welcome by the Hosting Institute

Michael Rössner and Johannes Feichtinger (Institute of Culture Studies and Theory History, ÖAW)
Introduction (I) by Partner Institution

Michael Falser (Global Art History, Heidelberg University)
Introduction (II) by Organizer: Picturesque Eye and Regionalism


Chair: Friedrich Tietjen (Vienna)

15.00–16.30    Photography

Franziska Scheuer (Dresden)
Pictorialism in Service of Human Geography. On the Importance of the Picturesque in the Photographic Collection Les Archives de la planète (1908–1931)

Herbert Justnik (Vienna)    
Territorializing Images. Making Regions in late-imperial Habsburg

16.30–17.00    Coffee Break
17.00–18.30    Representations

Cora Bender (Siegen)    
Crossing Thresholds, Making Borders: Regionalism and Aesthetics in Post-Frontier America
Oksana Sarkisova (Budapest)
Across the Sixth Part of the World: Ethnographic Gaze and Early Soviet Expedition Cinema

19.00        KEYNOTE (I)

Arnaud Maillet (Paris)
From Claude Glass to Camera Lucida: Optical Instruments to Frame the World as Picturesque

Discussant: Michael Falser (Heidelberg)

20.00        Dinner Buffet
Open House: Volkskundemuseum Wien and its Exhibition Highlights

FRIDAY, 4 December 2015

Venue: Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art


Chair: Monica Juneja (Heidelberg)

9.00–10.30    Education Politics

Werner Telesko (Vienna)
The State as a Work of Art? – Regionalism and Imperial Politics in the Late Habsburg Empire

Nélia Dias (Lisbon)    
A Tale of Two Museums in the 1930s: Ethnographic Politics in Paris and Hanoi

10.30–11.00    Coffee Break

11.00–12.30    Fine Arts Programmes

Igor Vranic (Florence)    
Monarchic and Kaisertreu National Patriotism – Establishment of Arts and Crafts Movement in Croatian Lands of the Habsburg Monarchy until WWI

Nadine André-Pallois (Paris)
Regionalist Arts. The Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Indochina and France

12.30–14.00    Lunch Buffet
                       Optional Visit to the Archive of the Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art


Chair: Christian Kravagna (Vienna)

14.00–15.30    Historiographies

Martin Hofmann (Heidelberg)
Integrating Chinese Traditions of Building and Construction into Global Contexts – An Outline of 1930

Pathmini Ukwattage (Basel)
Architecture Indigenous to the Soil – Ideology, Imagery and Architectural Historiography in British India and Great Britain in the (late) colonial Period

15.30–16.00    Coffee Break

16.00–17.30    Museums

Olga Osadtschy (Basel)    
Nationality in a Showcase – The Jewish Museum in St. Petersburg

Nabila Oulebsir (Poitiers)
Regionalist Displays in the Musée des arts populaires, Algiers – Paris

18.30        KEYNOTE (II)

Matthew Rampley (Birmingham)
Empowering the Regions: The Cultural Policies of Austria-Hungary and Imperial Britain
Discussant: Georg Vasold (Berlin)

20.00        Optional Dinner


SATURDAY, 5 December 2015

Venue: Austrian Academy of Sciences; Theatersaal, Sonnenfelsgasse 19, 1010 Wien


Chair: Noit Banai (Vienna)

9.00–10.30    Performative Arts

Katharina Wessely (Vienna)
Staging the Regional in Vienna’s Theatre Cultures

Sophie Roche (Heidelberg)
Moscow’s Cultural Empire: Ethnographic Traditions and Theatre Culture in Tadschikistan

10.30–11.00    Coffee Break

11.00–12.30    Fairs

Marta Filipova (Birmingham)        
Staging the Peasant. Regional Exhibitions from Prague 1891 to Brno 1928

Michael Falser (Heidelberg)        
Pasar Gambir in Batavia (1922–1939): A Vernacular Heterotopia for the Capital of the Dutch East Indies    
12.30–14.00    Lunch

14.00–15.30    Leisure

Georg Vasold (Berlin)        
Tourism, Art History, and the War: the Adria-Exhibition 1913 in Vienna

Tomoko Mamine (Berlin)
Exhibe et Impera: Japanese Colonial Exhibitions on Korea in the 1920s and the Politics of Tourism

15.30–16.00    Coffee Break

16.00        Final Discussion – Round Table

End of Conference

Optional Afternoon / Evening Programme:

Picturesque Christmas Fair Spittelberg / Dinner


SUNDAY, 6 December 2015

Optional Post-Conference Programme (tba)



Michael S. Falser (MA, MSc, PhD)

Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" (Global Art History)
Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies, Voßstrasse 2, Building 4400, D-69115 Heidelberg, Germany. Phone: +49(0)6221-54-4307


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For the Programme (PDF), click here

For the Abstracts (PDF), click here