Call for Papers: Photography and the Unrepresentable. Deadline: Jan 30, 2012

CFP: Photography and the Unrepresentable

Colchester, United Kingdom, May 15, 2012
Deadline: Jan 30, 2012

Photography and the Unrepresentable:
A History of Photographic (Mis)representation

A One-Day Art History Graduate Conference at University of Essex
15 May 2012, Colchester, United Kingdom
Keynote speaker: TBA


The Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Essex is
pleased to be accepting contributions for the first Art History
Graduate Conference to be held within the School of Philosophy and Art
History (SPAH). Graduate students from MA or PhD programmes are invited
to submit paper abstracts on the theme of Photography and the
Unrepresentable. The conference is an opportunity to take part in the
first interdisciplinary conference within the department and to meet
other graduate students engaged in the study of photography, art theory
and philosophy.

Photographic representation is historically partial, fragmented and
suspect of manipulation. After World War II, the ethical implications
of representation became a primary concern, while the very possibility
of representation of traumatic events was questioned by theorists and
artists alike. More recently work by Georges Didi-Huberman (Images in
Spite of All, 2003; trans. 2007), Jean-Luc Nancy (The Ground of the
Image, 2003; 2005) and Jacques Rancière (The Future of the Image, 2003;
2007) have each subjected art historical narratives of the photographic
image to a critique of the notion of representation itself. We are
particularly interested in extending such questions about the
impossibility (or taboo) of representation to open a discussion on how
the links between photography, trauma and historical memory can be

As is the case for Didi-Huberman’s reflections on the representation of
the Holocaust in his Images in Spite of All, photography perhaps best
functions as a discursive site in which either the idea of the
unrepresentable emerges as self-evident or its fictitious nature
simultaneously manifests, hides, and collapses. Questions arising from
this include: What does the notion of the unrepresentable do to
assumptions of photographic truth? What might the unrepresentable look
like? Is there a representational impossibility specific to
photography? When photography is requested to perform “adequate
representation,” how and in what context does the request become

This conference aims not only at interrogating contradictions and
arbitrariness inherent in the idea of the unrepresentable, but also at
opening up new perspectives on the relationship between photography and
the unrepresentable in artistic, cultural and social practices today.
Contributions might also focus on issues of censorship, the role of
and the impact of digitalization as recurrent themes in a history of
photographic (mis) representation.
We invite submissions from graduate students from all disciplines, on
topics that may include, but are not limited to:

· The unrepresentable and the unimaginable
· The aporia of representation: impossibility or interdiction?
· Photography and the representation of catastrophe
· Montage and historical imagination
· Can photography represent thought? (In particular challenging Michael
Fried’s recent writing on states of absorption in contemporary
· Can digital images be linked to trauma in the same way that analogue
(indexical) ones are?
· Photography and mourning: voice, memory and myth
· Representation and photographic truth ·    Artists who take the
photographic apparatus as the subject of their work. (e.g., Marcel
Duchamp, Gerhard Richter, Robert Smithson and Tacita Dean)
· Links between photographic authenticity and transparency in modernist

Please send 300-word abstracts of 20 minute-papers accompanied by a
short CV to by 30 January 2012. Successful
submissions will be notified by the end of February.

Selected conference proceedings will be published in a special issue of
rebus, the department’s online journal of Art History and Theory.

Please send any other inquiries to

Conference Organizing Committee:

Aline Guillermet (PhD candidate in Art History)
Hugh Govan (PhD candidate in Art History)
Taisuke Edamura (PhD candidate in Art History)

Reference / Quellennachweis:
CFP: Photography and the Unrepresentable. In: H-ArtHist, Dec 16, 2011.

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