Appel à communication : « The Production of Ornament: Reassessing the Decorative in History and Practice »

The Production of Ornament: 

Reassessing the Decorative in History and Practice
21-22 March 2014, University of Leeds
with the support of the Henry Moore Foundation
Keynote speakers:
- Susanne Kuechler, Professor of Material Culture in the Department of Anthropology, UCL
- Alina Payne, Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard
The descriptive terms ‘decorative’ and ‘ornamental’ are in many ways synonymous with
superfluity and excess; they refer to things or modalities that are ‘supplementary’
or ‘marginal’ by their very nature. In the West, such qualitative associations in
made objects intersect with long-standing and inter-related philosophical oppositions
between ‘form’ and ‘matter’, ‘body’ and ‘surface’, the ‘proper’ and the ‘cosmetic’.
Accordingly, this has weighed both on determinations of value in artistic media, and
on the inflexions of related histories – particularly histories of ‘non-Western’ art,
design and culture, where a wide range of decorative traditions are deemed unworthy
of critical attention.
Yet such frameworks are no more historically stable than they are culturally universal.
 To take one very clear and‘central’ counter-example, decoration in some strands of
Renaissance architectural theory (Filarete, Alberti) emerged as a rigorous codification
of meaning, as an essentially functional (political) language. In many ways the history
of ornament may itself be seen as a process of marginalisation of such ways of thinking,
and the separation of ornament from any form of social practice.
This two-day conference seeks to explore the various ways in which ornament might be
regarded as itself productive of its objects and sites. How might the technologies,
techniques, and materials of ornament be related to the conception and transformation
of modes of object-making? How might ornament be understood to inform its objects,
disruptingthe spatial categories of ‘surface’ and ‘structure’, and the temporal
models in which ornament‘follows’ making? What are the relations between ornament
and representation, and what is at stake in the conventional oppositions between
these categories? What are the roles of ornament in larger dynamics of copying,
hybridisation and appropriation between things? In what ways have practices
and thinking on ornament staged cultural encounters, and
engendered larger epistemological and social models?
The conference will explore the production of ornament across a broad range
of historicaland geographical contexts. We invite proposals from researchers
and postgraduates working in  any discipline, as well as practitioners,conservators
and curators. Proposals of no more than 300 words, along with a CV, should
be sent to Dr Richard Checketts and Dr Lara Eggleton
at by Friday the 13th of December 2013.


Leave a Reply