Appel à publication : « The Geographical Information of Art History », Artl@s Bulletin, 2015. »

Artl@s BulletinArtl@s Bulletin 4, 2 (Fall 2015) : « The Geographical Information of Art History : How and Why to Retrace the Circulation of Knowledge and Facts ».
« Traces by the thousands… it’s the dream of any researcher », but the way to go from the archives or the field is seldom straightforward: »the physical pleasure of salvaging a lost trace is followed by feelings of perplexity and impotence of not knowing what to do with it »[1]. The spatial turn in humanities has enticed various disciplines to deconstruct the making of artistic facts: studying the circulation of artworks and artists now appears to be a fertile way to uncover the rationales, the constraints and the transgressions that shape the historical geography of art[2]. This ‘return to facts'[3] calls for a closer examination of the methods used to identify, collect, re-assemble and interpret the geographical information produced by artistic activity. To examine the traceability of artistic knowledge and facts is the primary aim of this issue of the Artl@s Bulletin.
Depending on the spatial and chronological framing of their studies, researchers are led to work on a variety of documentary material that can inform on the circulation of art: such traces can be written,pictorial, photographic, cinematographic, institutional, individual, collective, etc. In each case, the traces available can be partial and only give access to specific types of information: origin, extension, destination, network, economic model, value, hierarchy, etc. It can consequently hinder or bias our understanding and analysis of artistic facts. The diversity of sources matches the surprising abundance of our conceptual and methodological approaches.
For this issue, we want to confront a wide range of sources catalogues, institutional archives, photographs, interviews, etc.), methodologies (qualitative, quantitative, comparative, multi-situated, cartographic, etc.) and areas of investigation (careers, movements, markets, etc.) in order to highlight the pivotal and problematic role of traceability in the spatial study of art. Contributors from all the disciplines involved in the spatial turn are invited to submit essays that address one or several of the following questions :
– Who produces the traces of art history? Who inscribes art in space? How does that ‘situate’ our scholarship?
– Does the study of specific traces induce specific observation protocols and analysis?
– How can different methods make traces speak? Can a single trace therefore lead to multiple and contradictory conclusions?
– Putting scattered or disparate traces together exposes us to a « biographical illusion »[4] and the risk of artificially creating
meaning. In what conditions can we establish the coherence between traces and trajectories or networks?
– What sense can be made out of the distribution of recorded traces through cartographic representations? Can they give substance to diffusionist notions that have riddled art history such as ‘style’, ‘influence’ or ‘school’? Are they able to contradict or nuance dominant models of thinking such as centre/periphery? Or do they only mirror the situatedness of their recording process?
– Can we index traces in a comparative and global perspective or should the methods relating to traceability take into account the
specificities of local inscriptions?
– How far can/should the quest for traceability go? How do linguistic, cultural or material boundaries affect the legibility of traces? How to balance empirical data and theory?
The Artl@s Bulletin is a multi-lingual, peer-review journal co-published by the ENS and the CNRS, devoted to spatial and transnational questions in the history of the arts. The journal promises to never separate methodology and history, and to support innovative research and new methodologies. Its ambition is twofold: 1.a focus on the « transnational » as constituted by exchange between the local and the global or between the national and the international, and 2. an openness to innovation in research methods, particularly the quantitative possibilities offered by digital mapping and data visualization.
By encouraging scholars to continuously shift the scope of their analysis from the local and the national to the transnational, Artl@s Bulletin intends to contribute to the collective project of a global history of the arts. The Artl@s Bulletin is a free online journal supported by Purdue Press. Currently in its fourth year, it has already a great visibility (more than 5,000 single downloads of articles from December, 2013, to July, 2014).
For all queries, feel free to contact Olivier Marcel, the Guest Editor
of this special issue, at:
Please submit your article by December 8 at:
For guidelines and publishing policies, see:
[1] Arlette Farge, Le goût de l’archive (Paris: Points, 1989), 19-22.
[2] As in recent projects like Artl@s (ENS, Paris), London Galleries
(Anne Helmreich and Pamela Fletcher, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide
12, 1 (2012)) or in the most recent developments in the field of art
geography (Tatiana Debroux (2012), Camille Boichot (2012), Olivier
Marcel (2014), Christine Ithurbide (Forthcoming)) that echo Peter
Jackson’s seminal call to « re-materialize social and cultural
geography »: Peter Jackson, Social and Cultural Geography 1 (2000), 9-14.
[3] Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin, and Béatrice
Joyeux-Prunel, eds., Global Artistic Circulations and the History of
Art (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, Forthcoming).
[4] Nathalie Heinich, « Pour en finir avec l’ ‘illusion biographique' »,
L’Homme 195-196 (2010), 421-430.

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