Return of the Basket: On Art and Environment

Lecture | October 31 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

 Daniel Niles, Associate Professor, Geography, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (Kyoto)

 Archaeological Research Facility

Baskets are the original bags. They are among humankind’s earliest technologies, speaking especially to distant human interaction with plants. For as long as it is possible to measure, people everywhere made and used baskets in order to make life easier. In the modern imaginary, however, basketry is common, perhaps too common, and so tightly linked to pre-industrial life that it appears not just folksy, but underdeveloped and even anti-modern.

And yet, in 2017-2018, baskets from Japan have been featured in a quick sequence of individual exhibitions at notable museums in New York, Tokyo, and Paris. How to explain basketry’s surprise presence in the three capitals of modern art? With examples from California and Japan, this presentation suggests that there is an important but illusive environmental component to the basket’s unusual aesthetic power, one that begs understanding today.