About Beauty

About Beauty

Exhibition, Dance, Workshops, Conference, Discussions, Concerts, Films, Net Project

The beauty business is booming - in our everyday lives, among scholars and scientists, and in art. Beauty is not only being literally etched into our bodies by plastic surgeons, but has resurfaced as a key concern in creativity, and a major theme in aesthetic debate. Now, the relationship between beauty and art is being re-defined in the context of feminist, post-modern and multicultural issues and, in this process, the boundaries of beauty have shifted to embrace pop culture and advertising. Discussing what beauty means in various cultures has opened up new perspectives, liberating debate from the confines of the western philosophical tradition, and forging links with international contemporary art - a discourse now put at the heart of the House of World Cultures' first interdisciplinary project in the spring of 2005.

"About Beauty" examines contemporary art practices in the visual arts, performance, music, film, and architecture, exploring how they engage with beauty. The critical dialogue generated by the notion of beauty, together with its cultural and political implications, does not only examine these concerns, but also considers why beauty has re-emerged as an arts issue. Moreover, this approach highlights the impact of new technologies, and the changing attitudes towards representation, bodies and gendering they bring in their wake. But understanding ideas of beauty does not just involve contextualisation within global networks; these ideas also need to be placed within their particular cultural perspective too - which is why a good portion of the project focuses specifically on Asia and our view of it.

"About Beauty" centres on a major contemporary art exhibition, presenting works by 23 artists including Matthew Barney, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Michael Lin, Shirin Neshat, and Liu Zheng. But the theme of beauty is also explored in a performing arts programme designed around an international exchange programme, funded by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds, and in various themed interdisciplinary projects covering, for example, topics such as "Ethics and Spirituality", "The Sensual City", "The Perfect Human Being", and "Beauty in Music". A concluding international conference is set to bring scholars, authors and critics together from all over the world. Finally, the project also embraces workshops for young people and a Net-Art platform.


The House of World Cultures has designed the "About Beauty" project in close cooperation with a network of art experts and scholars. The project has been fortunate in attracting Wu Hung (University of Chicago, Department of Art History) as the exhibition curator, and Ackbar Abbas (University of Hong Kong, Department of Comparative Literature) as curator of the conference series; the concept behind the performing arts programme was developed by the House of World Cultures' Johannes Odenthal.

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