On the occasion of the launch of Picturing, the first volume of the Terra Foundation Essays, a new publication series exploring themes of critical importance to the history of arts and visual culture of the United States, the Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris, and the Terra Foundation for American Art are jointly organizing a conference that will further the transatlantic dialogue about what pictures are and what they do. Since the 1980s, theories of visual studies in Anglo-American scholarship and of Bildwissenschaft in German art history have expanded the field of potential subjects for study, building an extensive body of literature and introducing innovative methodologies and approaches. Developed nearly contemporaneously, these theories about the nature and reception of images have run parallel to one another. While on the Anglophone side visual studies have branched out to a wide range of media following a socio-critical impetus, Bildwissenschaft finds origins in Aby Warburg’s methods and (among other approaches) is notably nourished by a hermeneutic perspective.
Over the last decade on both sides of the Atlantic, new avenues of inquiry have questioned the purely visual nature of images to consider them as objects that possess agency or vitality in and of themselves. Pictures are now understood as inviting complex experience in which the entire body, not only the eye, is solicited, and as invoking multiple temporalities, by collapsing past and present. Attention is called to the materials that constitute the object world and the ways in which their circulation creates social relationships that become part of their meaning over time. In alignment with object-centered approaches in anthropology, material culture, media studies, and philosophy, recent theories of the visual have raised questions of affect, subjectivity, and medium in Anglo-American scholarship, while socio-historical considerations have gained particular ground in the German literature. As renewed attention to the art work’s “materiality” shifts the terms of investigation, this conference invites speakers to reflect on the differences and convergences between the intellectual traditions of visual studies and Bildwissenschaft. Are there ways to think about pictures anew by bringing these models more closely together? Does the move away from visuality towards the material offer possibilities for overcoming early differences between these two approaches?
We seek proposals for 20-minute talks introducing new ideas and propositions. We especially welcome submissions from early- and mid-career scholars. Presentations are encouraged to focus on specific objects and historical conditions in order to anchor theoretical questions. While binary considerations of comparative methodologies and the scope of national traditions will certainly arise, the discussion will be plural and interdisciplinary, inviting reflections on the various forms of study of the visual arts in Europe, the United States, and beyond. Please submit abstracts no longer than 500 words in English along with a CV, to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 25, 2016. The symposium will cover travel and lodging. Selected participants will be notified by February 15, 2016.