CFP: Poetic Translations: Conversations across the plurality of Arts disciplines in Visual Art Exhibitions (Solent University, Southampton – Online, 16-17 Dec 2020)

We are currently inviting paper proposals for ‘Poetic translations’: Conversations across the plurality of Arts disciplines in Visual Art Exhibitions. 
Solent University, Southampton
Online, 16-17 December 2020

Paper proposal deadline: 15 Oct 2020

A clear distinction between art and other exhibitions characterised the growth of large exhibitions in the nineteenth century. While art exhibitions were staged within a narrowly defined context of European painting and sculpture, all else was displayed within two broader contexts: specific academic disciplines (natural history, history, anthropology, design and industry, book fairs), and/or trade exhibitions. Since at least the mid-twentieth century, this distinction between art and other exhibitions has become blurred. References to the natural sciences, history, theatre, music, dance or literature have been incorporated into art exhibitions, while historical museums have exhibited art works, commissioned art interventions and utilised contemporary curatorial practices. The British museum, for example, hosts ‘permanent’ exhibits of contemporary art works in its collection, as do many other museums.

The rationale of the conference is to explore how the different arts translate across disciplines and to establish exchanges that will allow arts disciplines to engage with contemporary debates and concerns in a non-hierarchical way. In this context the term ‘translation’ is taken from Walter Benjamin through Jacques Derrida’s interpretation, which can be read as yet another translation in a long line of poetic translations. Translation, as Derrida points out, implies a hierarchy: the translation is generally perceived as secondary to the translated material. The translator is thus always indebted to the text/material which is translated, and to its author. And yet, the translator also transforms the translated material and makes it relevant for a different context. The act of translation involves a level of betrayal analogous to the betrayal of the ‘creative act’ it translates (each creative work betrays a tradition through the creative moment). Hence this conference’s use of the term ‘poetic translation’ with reference to the hierarchical tradition and the way it is being transformed through translations to create non-hierarchical structures of exchange. For the ‘creative act’, by definition, introduces an innovative moment. It is this ‘poetic’ innovation, Benjamin insists, in which ‘the unfathomable, the mysterious, the “poetic”, can be reproduced; but only if the translator is also a poet [artist]’.

A wide range of contemporary debates and concerns can be addressed from the perspective of non-hierarchical relationships between a plurality of the arts and across cultures, for example: globalisation, migration, environmental concerns, issues of gender/ethnicity identity. Papers are invited to discuss and/or present exhibitions which are not limited to the European tradition and/or works made by marginalised communities often categorised as craft and those associated with ‘design’ rather than ‘the Arts’. Examples of craft might include textile, pottery and folk art, while design might include fashion, everyday objects, popular culture, even web design.

Below are some suggestions of themes we would welcome, but other relevant approaches will be equally considered:

  • Exploring philosophical and theoretical approaches to ‘poetic translations’ across arts disciplines, and their potentials and limitations in addressing contemporary debates and concerns.
  • Papers by curators, artists and academics who have engaged in projects of translating specific works from different arts disciplines: how were the projects devised, how did they evolve, and what was the rationale for doing it?
  • Papers reflecting on exhibitions where poetic translations from other arts disciplines took place: what was achieved through the translations? How did they address contemporary debates and concerns?
  • Papers by artists, and/or academics reflecting on specific art works in which poetic translations across art disciplines (including cultures) took place
  • Papers which address poetic translations across disciplines in the context of cultural translations.
  • Actual art work, including curated exhibitions, which translate other arts disciplines.

The above list is suggestive, not comprehensive. Any other approaches to the above are also welcomed.

Format of the submissions

We are inviting abstracts of 300 words maximum by 15th October 2020. Abstracts should come as attachments in Word or PDF.

Please submit to:

Papers should be of 15 minutes each allowing for a couple of question. Blocks of sessions will be followed by break-up rooms where longer discussions on specific topics might take place.

We are hoping that the conference will lead toward the publication of an anthology on the topic, selected papers from the conference will be invited.

Full details here.