Hybrid Workshop in Art History between the University of Vienna and Strategic Partner Fudan University

From 9 to 11 June 2022, the Department of Art History of the University of Vienna conducted a hybrid workshop with the title “Forging the Image of the Divine in Byzantine Christianity and Chinese Buddhism”. The workshop was organized jointly with the Department of Philosophy of Fudan University, a strategic partner of the University of Vienna, and attracted several hundred participants.

The workshop addressed the handling of images by two world religions in specific historic and regional settings. The presentations and discussions elucidated a range of parallels as well as differences in historical circumstances, materials available for research, and current strategies of inquiry. Although today both Buddhism and Christianity prominently employ images in their religious spaces, in both religions only a long process of negotiation brought about the flourishing of image worship. This process had lasted for centuries. While in the Byzantine context the transmitted historical discourse figures strongly in academic research, the Chinese setting requires much more extensive analysis of images and archaeological finds. Talks further scrutinized the role of research traditions in the discussion of the topic, and pointed to the possibility of borrowing and interaction between both regions.

The three panels brought together art historians from two different fields of research and from various academic traditions who do not normally share the stage at scholarly meetings. Its hybrid format allowed an audience of several hundred participants in Vienna and online. It was a most successful and inspiring event that will be followed by more collaborations of similar design. The workshop was supported by the International Office of the University of Vienna and the Office of Global Partnerships of Fudan University.

The main organizers were Lukas Nickel and Lioba Theis on the Viennese side and Shen Yubing and Wu Hong on the Shanghai side. Speakers included Jas Elsner (University of Oxford), Michele Bacci (University of Fribourg), Lothar Ledderose (Heidelberg University), Minku Kim (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), Li Qingquan (Shandong University), Karin Krause (The University of Chicago), Yazhu Wang (University of Vienna), Deng Fei (Fudan University, as discussant), as well as Lioba Theis, Wu Hong and Lukas Nickel.

Text: Lukas Nickel

Lukas Nickel with Lioba Theis and Michele Bacci

Wu Hong presenting from Shanghai

Lioba Theis during her talk

Lothar Ledderose during the discussion