History of Art Graduate Student Symposium: On Absence: Loss and Immateriality in Art and Architecture
Keynote speaker: Wu Hung, University of Chicago, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History
As historians of art and architecture, much of our work consists in piecing together fragments of the past to produce a clearer vision of lost visual cultures. Indeed, the discipline has long operated on the assumption that the objects and architectural spaces that remain with us in the present can be marshaled to conjure an absent past. But what if we instead turned our attention to the very absences that structure this historical and material record, from lost and destroyed works to intentionally ephemeral art to narratives neglected or marginalized by the discipline? What does the absence or ephemerality of an object or building say about its history and its presence? How does the perception of a work of art change once it no longer exists? In what ways does art historical writing and museum display produce its own absences by the objects and subjects it fails to put “on view?” This symposium will be dedicated to scholarship that seeks not only to fill in but to interrogate these archival and museal gaps and will consider the manner in which absent objects, contexts and narratives shape our understanding of art and its histories. The themes of absence and ephemerality are left intentionally open in order to encourage submissions on works from all time periods, in a variety of media, and produced in a wide range of circumstances and locations.