Art Histories Seminar
Michael Falser: Revisiting Angkor (Wat) in a Transcultural Perspective
Sound and Light Show at Angkor Wat, 2009. (Personal Archive Michael Falser)
From a conceptual viewpoint, the talk will investigate the formation of the modern concept of cultural heritage by charting its colonial, postcolonial/nationalist and global trajectories. More precisely it will do so by presenting selected findings from my research about the Cambodian 12th century temple of Angkor Wat as different phases of its history unfolded within the transcultural interstices of European and Asian projects and conceptual definitions: from its 'discovery in the jungle' and progressive transformation by French colonial archaeology in the 19th and early 20th centuries within a newly created 'Archaeological Park of Angkor', the temple's parallel representation history through translocated artefacts, plaster casts and full-scale architectural replicas in French museums and universal/colonial exhibitions, its canonisation as a symbol of national identity during struggle for decolonisation, and finally as an icon within UNESCO's World Heritage regime and the global heritage tourism industry.
Michael Falser was trained as an architect and art historian in Vienna and Paris, and received his PhD at the Technical University in Berlin (2006) with a thesis on the political history of architectural preservation in Germany. After practical experiences as a preservation architect in San Francisco and scientific positions as the ETH Zurich and LMU Munich he conducted two research projects at the Cluster of Excellence 'Asia and Europe in Global Context – Dynamics of Transculturality' at Heidelberg University (2009-2017). Leading to his Habilitation (professorial qualification script) in 2014 his project 'Heritage as a Transcultural Concept – Angkor Wat from an Object of Colonial Archaeology to a Contemporary Global Icon' was generously supported with fellowships from the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Deutsche Forum für Kunstgeschichte Paris and the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. The 2-volume monograph 'Angkor Wat – A Transcultural History of Heritage' will be published with DeGruyter/Berlin in May 2019. After visiting professorship at the universities of Kyoto, Vienna, Bordeaux and Paris Michael is currently Interim Professor for Global Art History at Heidelberg University.