Review of Art and Cosmotechnics (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 2021) in Leonardo (September 2023)

Reviewed by:
Glenn Smith
September 2023

[A note from the editors: this review is a condensation of an as yet unpublished article ( https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:57909/ ) written in collaboration with the eminent Chinese art historian and curator Gao Minglu.]

“I am neither an art historian nor art critic, and this work doesn’t pretend to belong to those fields.” This statement appears in Yuk Hui’s preface to his landmark 2021 Art and Cosmotechnics; and – true to his word – Hui has written a book about art which, paradoxically, contains only 15 black-and-white reproductions of well-known paintings, and none of which are directly commented upon.

The author of this review has therefore felt justified in fleshing it out with a link to a full-color reproduction of one of those paintings; adding a second not referenced by Hui; and commenting upon both works in some detail, and in accordance with his revolutionary and most welcome thesis: a) we must, at this mature stage in our evolution, “articulate the role of the human in the cosmos”, and with particular attention to the ever-increasing technological aspects of our existence; b) art has a critical role to play in this process as manifesting the imagination of an entire society; c) Chinese art, in particular, has been able to present a vision of an harmonious “heaven and earth” – a cosmos – which has historically included, as is the case today, the presence of an advanced technological civilization; and d) this art therefore creates the possibility of viewing our present circumstances from a far larger perspective – and one in which the future remains open.

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