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Carved Alive: Buddhist Tree-icons (tachikibutsu) in Japan and "Eco Art History"

UC Berkeley | Center for Japanese Studies

Gregory Levine (Department of History of Art)

Colloquium: May 11 | 5-5:30 p.m. | Online - Zoom Webinar

This short talk introduces Buddhist icons carved into standing and usually living trees in Japan (tachikibutsu), a practice that appears to begin in the 8th century and draws upon the worship of numinous trees. Tree-icons, to give them a name, trouble notions of "Buddhist art" and art history's anthropocentrism. Art history anthropocentric? Isn't this a given? But what if we seek to give the trees in tree-icons their due, allow them to make claims upon human-made images? How might this contribute to larger discussions about human-non-human relationships and ecology? Is there an ecological art history? What would this demand of us and perhaps make possible?


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