A brief description on the 32nd CIHA and its relevance in relation to art history and practices.
The 32nd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art (CIHA) was held at the University of Melbourne from 13 to 18 January 2008. Attended by over 400 historians and museum professionals from across the world, icons of the discipline as well as many postgraduate students, the occasion was marked as is usual at such events by the ghost of Walter Benjamin hand in hand with the Angel of History drifting over the various forums. One of the more fascinating insights delivered was the confession of a number of professors that in spite of all their expertise in arcane corners of art history it is contemporary art that students want to study. Indigenous art and Australia's overwhelming amounts of it in so many forms was a significant thread. The notion of a global art history was raised and Professor Terry Smith of Pittsburgh indicated that his next publication will be taking it on. Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow Professor Homi Bhaba of Harvard gave a theatrical keynote address titled On Global Memory: Speculations on Barbaric Transmission and spoke of a proleptic future rushing towards him.
Dr Héléne Sommer of Adelaide summed up the positive outcomes of the conference, besides intensive networking and dialogue, as recognition of 'the relative autonomy of art traditions', together with an analysis of 'art as a way of acting in the world', prompting us 'to expand the range of our artistic vocabulary, hopefully as gifted interpreters, crossing cultures.'