Expansive Realities: A Longer History of the “Virtual” in Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture

History of Art Graduate Student Symposium, University of Michigan

September 29, 2018

Stern Auditorium, University of Michigan Museum of Art,

Ann Arbor, MI


Keynote speaker: Kristina Kleutghen, David. W. Mesker Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Chinese Art and Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis


The History of Art Department at the University of Michigan invites graduate students to submit proposals for 20-minute presentations for consideration for its biannual Graduate Symposium, Expansive Realities: A Longer History of the “Virtual” in Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture.


As artistic practice increasingly engages with digital media and the virtual, our symposium aims to foster discussions of the theoretical, social, and cultural nature of this phenomenon. While often linked to the digital age, the virtual implies imagined and immersive spaces that defy material and physical boundaries. To this end, we welcome papers that examine intersections between art and the virtual in a variety of historical and cultural contexts, investigating the virtual not only in relation to contemporary visual culture, but also as a phenomenon extending to the pre-modern periods of the history of art.


“Expansive Realities,” adopts an intentionally broad rubric, so as to encourage submissions on works from all time periods, in a variety of media, and produced in a wide range of circumstances and locations. Papers might address such disparate topics as:

  • Virtual pilgrimages

  • Visualizing colonial landscapes (e.g. frontiers, borderlands)

  • Festival, feasting, and Carnival culture

  • Illusionism and trompe-l'oeil

  • Optical devices and technologies (e.g. panoramas, dioramas, peepboxes)

  • Immersive environments (e.g. augmented reality, virtual therapy, video games)

  • Boundaries of bodies and machines (e.g. robots, cyborgs)

  • Dreamscapes and representations of utopia, capricci

  • 3D modeling or reconstructing of objects, architecture, micro-architecture, and urban spaces

  • Virtual reality in museums (e.g. exhibitions, didactics)

  • Digital humanities as method and pedagogy

Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and must be accompanied by a CV. Submissions are due by April 5th, 2018, and should be submitted to the Symposium Committee by email at umichsymposium@gmail.com.  Responses will be emailed by May 1, 2018.