Post-Enlightenment notions of culture, which have been naturalized in the West for centuries, require that art be autonomously beautiful, universal, and devoid of any practical purpose. The authors of What’s the Use of Art? Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context, edited by Jan Mrázek and Morgan Pitelka, seek to complicate this understanding of art by examining art objects from across Asia with attention to their functional, ritual, and everyday contexts. From tea bowls used in the Japanese tea ceremony to television broadcasts of Javanese puppet theater; from Indian wedding chamber paintings to art looted by the British army from the Chinese emperor’s palace; from the adventures of a Balinese magical dagger to the political functions of classical Khmer images—the authors challenge prevailing notions of artistic value by introducing new ways of thinking about culture.
December 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3063-2 / $58.00 (CLOTH)