“WHAT SORT OF PROBLEMS DOES AN ARTWORK POSE?”: JOAN KEE ON ART HISTORY AS AN INFINITE GAME
“So I think the task is: how do we approach art history in such a way that art becomes more of an infinite game? In other words—where there is no clear outcome. Where new players can come in any time they went. There are no set-in-stone rules. [...] The other thing that the infinite game mindset also has me think about is that it’s more about the participants and less about an audience.”
In this episode
Caro Fowler speaks with Joan Kee, professor of art history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, whose research focuses on modern and contemporary art from multiregional and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Joan describes the influence of growing up in Seoul, Korea, amid a particular visual as well as sonic landscape, but also shares her uneasiness with centering a sense of self within art historical writing. Joan reflects on modes of description, and their political resonances, and muses about particular strengths and limitations of art history, particularly when it comes to categories like “global contemporary” or an assumption of a unified “we” within the discipline. Finally, she shares two current projects, one on Black and Asian artistic intersections from the early 1960s to the present, and another on emojis and the struggle for representation in contemporary art.
Joan Kee is professor of art history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her research focuses on how modern and contemporary artworks figure as provocations to structures and frames of reference intended to encompass and absorb various phenomena. Such frames include various conceptions of the “world,” the law, standards of value, and theories of information dissemination. The author of Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America (2019) and Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2013), Kee is also co-editor of To Scale. In addition she is a contributing editor at Artforum and on the advisory boards of Art History, Oxford Art Journal, and Art Margins. She was a fellow at the Clark in fall 2020 and served as Clark Professor in the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art in spring 2021.
This conversation was recorded on June 10, 2021.