Erica Eisen's lecture on Buddhist art in Central Asia

American University of Central Asia, 7/6 Aaly Tokombaev, Bishkek

Did you know that the Kushan kingdom has been occupying most of the territory of modern Central Asia, the masters of which created one of the first Buddha images? And the fact that Buddhism penetrated into China from Central Asia and further spread throughout East Asia?

This talk will survey the richness of surviving Buddhist material culture from Central Asia as well as providing an overview of the unique (and sometimes severe) conservation challenges posed to the region's heritage sites. Erica X Eisen will start by discussing the pivotal role that Central Asia played in the development of Buddhist art and the transmission of Buddhism across Asia.

The Kushan kingdom, which included much of Central Asia, was the birthplace for figural depictions of the Buddha; Central Asian missionaries are responsible for the arrival of Buddhism into China (and thence into all of East Asia).

Surviving texts and artifacts preserved at Buddhist sites attest to the dynamic mingling of cultures, peoples, and faiths that played out across this area thanks in large part to the Silk Road. Yet Buddhist cultural heritage faces a number of threats: in this second portion of the talk, Erica will discuss heritage conservation in the region, highlighting successes and failures. If conservation research and training has historically favored materials used by Western artists over materials used by artists in the non-Western world,

* How does that impact the ability of conservators to make informed decisions when working with Buddhist heritage sites?
* How do international heritage bodies like UNESCO unintentionally privilege the culture of wealthier nations?
* How does climate change effect Central Asian cultural heritage?
* And how can heritage managers balance the economic opportunities promised by tourism with the risks?

Date: April 4
Time: 16:00
Venue: AUCA, 4th floor, Conference Hall (CH)
Language: English

Bio: Erica X Eisen received her undergraduate degree in History of Art & Architecture from Harvard University and her MA in Buddhist Art History & Conservation from The Courtauld Institute of Art. Her research focused on the intersection of religious art and Japanese imperialism prior to and during the Second World War. She is also a writer and journalist whose writings has appeared in The Guardian, Slate, The Paris Review Daily, The London Review of Books Blog, The Art Newspaper, and elsewhere.

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