Eric Huntington: "On Buddhist Images: Materiality and Constructedness in Religious Representations"
Common to many Buddhist images is a purported activity of representation—of directing a viewer toward a subject other than the materials and conformation of the object itself, for example the no-longer-accessible human Buddha of the distant past. Such representational activity is often approached through theories of semiotics or cognitive and affective response, with special emphasis also being placed on the rituals of consecration in which the manufactured image is understood to become, in some ways, the subject it depicts. This presentation looks earlier into the lifecycles of objects to consider how the materials and artistic processes used to create images inform the activity of representation. The human-constructedness of an object can be an important factor in its perfection, intertwined with its efficacy and disposition in the human world. Artistic, literary, and ritual records reveal a variety of ways that the tensions of representation can be dynamically negotiated, with images themselves sometimes providing clues as to how artists conceived of their own creations.
Eric Huntington studies relationships between visual art, ritual, and philosophy as a postdoctoral fellow in the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University. His recent book, Creating the Universe: Depictions of the Cosmos in Himalayan Buddhism, uses interdisciplinary methods to reveal cosmological thinking as a foundation for many aspects of religious life. Huntington also works on other topics involving religion and material culture, including the role of illustration in Buddhist manuscripts, ritual structures in literary texts, and the nature of embodiment in consecrated images. Before coming to Stanford, he served as a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University and received his PhD from the University of Chicago.
Postdoctoral Fellow Lectures