This year’s biannual Department of History of Art graduate symposium On Absence: Loss and Immateriality in Art and Architecture, held October 25, was a great success. Joined by a diverse group of graduate student speakers from across the country and supported by a range of university departments, this event explored the very absences that structure the historical and material record, from lost and destroyed works to intentionally ephemeral art to narratives neglected or marginalized by the discipline.
The keynote speaker, esteemed art historian Dr. Wu Hung of the University of Chicago, gave a stimulating presentation titled "Absence as Presence: Exploring a Fundamental Representational Mode in Chinese Art and Visual Culture," which clearly highlighted the themes of the symposium. In addition to the keynote lecture, the talks of the day were split into four panels: Censorship and Iconoclasm, Immateriality and Invisibility, Monuments and Memory, and Absence and Imperialism. All of the talks, especially the keynote lecture, were well-attended by people of a variety of disciplines.
Throughout the day, there were multiple opportunities between panels for the University of Michigan community to speak one-on-one to the guest speakers. These times were filled with lively, invigorated conversations among faculty and students from both home and visiting institutions. The symposium surely enriched the academic community here at the University of Michigan and provided impetus for further study on the theme of absence in material culture.