Zen and Art in Medieval Japan
“Re-presenting Emptiness” attempts to articulate new frames of reference for the artifacts associated with Japanese Zen monastic communities in the medieval period. Presented in conjunction with the Japan Society’s exhibition, “Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan,” this symposium brings together leading scholars in the disciplines of history, literature, religious studies, and art history from Japan, Europe, and the United States and provides diverse and interregional perspectives on the little-understood objects that mediated relations between Chan/Zen monks and their dharma brethren. Robes, calligraphies, portraits, landscape paintings, and poem-picture scrolls are examined in terms of their rhetorical and institutional functions. By offering new possibilities for understanding the formal and representational uses of these objects, the “Zen” of “Zen art” can be removed from the realm of the inscrutable and understood in the context of multiple social realities and historical conditions.