It's a common occurrence for UC Irvine's graduate students to make the trek out to UCLA or USC for important international conferences and colloquia attended by academic celebrities and chic public intellectuals. This time, however, the tables have been (slightly) turned: starting tomorrow, UCI's Visual Studies Program hosts Pacific Modernities: Museum Culture and Civic Engagement, a two-day event co-hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown LA. And like any good conference, the lineup is immense: scholars from six countries are scheduled to appear—from Germany and Taiwan to Australia and Japan.
The conference locates its concerns geographically by considering the "historical and ethnographic dimensions" attendant upon the formation of culture, cultural institutions and the public sphere in the Pacific Rim—or, in other words, just what is the relationship between the museum as a civic institution and the public sphere? Donald Preziosi, Oxford University professor and the first speaker on Friday, will explore museum culture as civic engagement, while Michikio Kasahara of the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art will discuss the current state and role of museum culture in Japan. Also under consideration: art and commerce, "critical fatigue," current exhibition practices in Asia, and tattooing since 1769.
And since you're already at the MOCA, check out the first half of "Masters of American Comics" (part two is at the Hammer Museum at UCLA). This unprecedented exhibition ends Sunday.
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Pacific Modernities: Museum Culture and Civic Engagement at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Ahmanson Auditorium, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222; www.humanities.uci.edu/visualstudies/events/events.php. Fri., 3:30 p.m.; Sat., 9:30 a.m. Free.