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Conferences/Symposia

Upcoming Conferences and Symposia


Figuring Magic Realism – International Interpretations of an Elusive Term

Organized by PhD Candidates Stephanie Huber, Viviana Bucarelli, and Chloe Wyma
October 2, 2020

Keynote Speaker: Andrew Hemingway, Professor Emeritus of Art History, University College London

CALL FOR PAPERS

In 1925, the German critic Franz Roh coined the term Magic Realism to describe the recent turn he identified in European painting from expressionist and abstract modes towards a reconstructed figuration. Commending this tendency, he wrote, “It seems that this fantastic dreamscape has completely vanished and that the real world re-emerges before our eyes, bathed in the clarity of a new day.” Yet even as this new realism seemed to return to mimetic functions remaindered by early twentieth century avant-gardes, it was by no means limited to the reproduction of surface appearances. Rather, the objects—depicted with “unemphatic” clarity and verisimilitude—seemed to radiate with uncanny vitality and power. “With the word ‘magic’…” Roh disclaimed, “I wish to indicate that the mystery does not descend upon the represented world, but rather hides and palpates behind it.” 

A compound of two evidently adversarial terms, Magic Realism inhabits an apparent contradiction. This elastic term, still controversial, has been routinely applied to characterize representations of the real world in various media marked by strange or supernatural qualities that speak to psychological, social, and political alienation or to transcendental states. Artists from Felice Casorati to Georg Scholz, Paul Cadmus to Wifredo Lam, and at times even Edward Hopper to Frida Kahlo have been classified under this slippery label.

Stretched to new limits in the years following Roh’s coinage, Magic Realism soon became characterized by its ease of dissemination and appropriation. In 1927, the term magico realismo appeared in Italian poet and playwright Massimo Bontempelli’s journal 900, where it was first adopted as a literary style. The same year, José Ortega y Gasset’s Revista de Occidente published a Spanish translation of Roh’s essay, which subsequently circulated throughout the Hispanic world. In 1949, Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier invented the term lo real maravilloso Americano to theorize what he perceived as an autochthonous Latin American form of Magic Realism unique to the region’s culture, geography, and postcolonial situation.  

Never a coherent style or aesthetic movement, Magic Realism has spanned the globe, extending from Europe to Asia, Latin America, and the United States, where, in 1943, the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “American Realists and Magic Realists” brought together more than forty historical and contemporary under its amorphous auspices. That the term has been adapted to so many geographical and cultural contexts has only enhanced the difficulty of ascribing it a concrete definition.

We welcome submissions on manifestations of Magic Realism from the interwar years and beyond, embracing all geographical contexts. Current graduate students, recent graduates, and emerging scholars from a variety of disciplines are invited to apply. We will consider papers on the visual arts, literature, poetry, dance, theater, and film, and especially welcome interdisciplinary and imaginative approaches to Magic Realist topics. We particularly encourage proposals that consider the indeterminacy of the category, and how it might relate to notions of identity and agency for the oppressed.

Please submit abstracts of 150 to 300 words, accompanied by a c.v. and a brief bio (of 100 words) by January 24, 2020 to Stephanie Huber, Viviana Bucarelli, and Chloe Wyma at MagicRealismConference@gmail.com.

Topics and questions for discussion include but are not limited to:

  • Magic Realism “after” modernism: questions of temporality, historicity, and anachronism 
  • Magic Realism and the mediation of race, ethnicity, and class
  • Feminist interpretations of Magic Realism
  • Queer readings of Magic Realism and gender
  • Politicizations of Magic Realism on the left, right, and center 
  • Transmedial narratives of Magic Realism 
  • Historical and theoretical debates on realism and reality 
  • Historical and theoretical debates on spirituality, and religion
  • Magic Realism and the state: questions of nationalism, war, and propaganda
  • Transnational histories of Magic Realism: questions of migration, translation, and displacement 
  • Thingness, objecthood, and reification
  • Figuration, humanism, and embodiment 
  • Theatricality, performativity, and camp 
  • Magic Realism and the machine: cyborgs, technology, prosthetics, and the posthuman 
  • Relationships between Magic Realism and Social Realism, Surrealism, Neue Sachlichkeit, Precisionism, and other contemporaneous movements
  • Historiographies and reception histories of Magic Realism 
  • Magic Realism and hierarchies of taste: relationships to elite and popular culture 
  • Perceptions of modernity or post-modernity through a Magic Realist lens
 

  

Past Conferences and Symposia


Super/Natural: Excess, Ecologies, and Art in the Americas

Organized by Ph.D. candidates Danielle Stewart and Gillian Sneed, and Ph.D. student Horacio Ramos
April 19, 2018 2pm-8pm, Segal Theatre, The Graduate Center, CUNY 
April 20, 2018 10am-8pm, the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

The recent natural disasters, environmental destruction, and mounting scientific evidence for the immediate dangers of climate change throughout the Americas have inspired this year’s symposium theme: Super/Natural. The supernatural is what exceeds nature and what is excessive in nature through the insertion of human or mystic interventions. Super/Natural, however, is not just the otherworldly, but the critical interstices between the human abstraction of nature, the tangible natural world, and that which exists around it. 

The complex relationship between humanity and its surrounding environment has been amply explored by artists and peoples in the Americas. Examples include pre-Columbian art and architecture embedded in the landscape, such as the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman near Cusco, eighteenth and nineteenth-century traveler artist’s tropical fantasies of the land, and contemporary projects in which the human body intervenes directly in the environment. All of these practices demonstrate artists’ and communities’ preoccupation with contesting the often incomprehensible structure of the natural world. By presenting multidisciplinary case studies from a diverse group of scholars, this symposium seeks to open a conversation about the role of cultural production in understanding and complicating our relationship with the environment. The proceedings will historically situate these narratives while keeping in mind current debates on climate change and sustainability throughout the Americas. In what ways do artists engage with and intervene in nature and the land to create extraordinary perspectives? Under what conditions do spiritual practices related to nature and land become visualized in art? When, if ever, are we forced to intervene in the natural world, and what are the risks of such endeavors?

​The symposium will include keynote lectures by Daniela Bleichmar and Eduardo Kac. For more information, please visit the conference webpage

Faculty Supervisors: Anna Indych-Lopez and Katherine Manthorne.

Symposium will be livestreamed at: http://videostreaming.gc.cuny.edu/videos/livestreams/page1/
 

Art and Literature in Contemporary Dominican Republic, Haiti, and their Diasporas
March 15, 2018, 1pm–8pm, C198, The Graduate Center, CUNY

This conference explores the production of literature and the visual arts by contemporary artists and writers in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and their diasporas. This event explores collaboration and intermingling within the current production of literature and the visual arts in both countries and in the diaspora. It will contribute to an essential, growing intellectual discourse about Hispañola and its diaspora in the United States.

This conference is a collaboration with the exhibition Bordering the Imaginary: Art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Diaspora at BRIC, Brooklyn. The first panel will address intersections in literature and theater of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The second, a roundtable, will examine issues in curating Haitian and Dominican art in the United States, with special attention to race, gender, and institutional critique. The event will conclude with a keynote lecture by Dr. Sophie Mariñez who will discuss midcentury poetry and activism in Hispañola that transcends national boundaries. For more information, see the conference webpage. 

Organized by Abigail Lapin Dardashti and Wilfredo Burgos Matos.


"Revolution in the Margins, 1917-2017: Graduate Student Conference on Modern and Contemporary Art from Eastern, Central, and South Eastern Europe"

The Graduate Center, City University of New York
The Skylight Room on Friday, October 13, 2017

Organized by doctoral students from The Graduate Center, CUNY and Harvard University, this conference proposes the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, with its both cultural and historiographical aftershocks in the region, as an opportunity to re-examine the last century of artistic production in the countries of Eastern, Central, and South Eastern Europe. While acknowledging the significant role of the Soviet Union as both a political superpower and an arbiter of cultural policy in the region, a central aim of this conference is to “provincialize” Russia in order to challenge the common perception that Eastern European art can be entirely equated with Soviet politics and aesthetics.” Instead, this conference will highlight the ways in which modern and contemporary artists from these countries—former East Germany, former Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Moldova, and Albania—negotiated their positions within the broader cultural networks of the region.

Faculty supervisors: Romy Golan, Katherine Carl. Co-sponsored by the PhD Program in Art History at the Graduate Center, CUNY and The Center for the Humanities.



Multiple Modernisms: A Symposium on Globalism in Postwar Art
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, November 2-3, 2017, Humlebæk, Denmark

Recent years have heralded a paradigm shift in the way we think about modernity and aesthetic modernism as expressed in notions of multiple modernities (Eisenstadt 2000), global modernisms, and even planetary modernisms (Friedman 2015). In particular, the crucial years of the mid-20th century after the demarcation line of 1945 have been subject to reassessment and new interest in academic studies as well as in curatorial activities. The canonical understanding of the formation of new artistic paradigms during this period has been enriched by addressing parallel artistic shifts from a global perspective and how these alternatively depart or are informed by the former.

The conference will feature a keynote presentation by Professor Romy Golan titled Renato Guttuso’s Boogie Woogie, A Geopolitical Tableau (November 2). For more information, please visit the official symposium website.


 

Art, Institutions, and Internationalism: 1933–1966

Tuesday, March 7–Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Organized by Art History PhD candidates Chelsea Haines and Gemma Sharpe, in collaboration with the Center for the Humanities, and co-sponsored by the Ph.D. Program in Art History and the Rewald Endowment of the Ph.D. Program in Art History

This conference explores links between art production and art institutions internationally between the 1930s and the 1960s. This program includes a one-day public conference and a one-day closed-door workshop session focusing on new methodologies for research in this emerging field. Inspired by recent initiatives that have expanded the field of artistic modernism geographically, this conference examines the shifting stakes and definitions of internationalism before and after World War II. Much scholarship of this period has focused on questions of universalism, or attempts to transcend the cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries of the nation-state. Instead, this conference takes internationalism as its starting point, inviting scholars to explore instances of material exchange of art and ideas among nations during this period.

For more information, see the conference webpage.
 



American Identities on Land and at Sea
April 21, 2017
Organized by Art History Ph.D. Candidates Eva McGraw and Bree Lehman, GC Alumna Shannon Vittoria, Ph.D., with Professor Katherine Manthorne
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Painting and Sculpture, American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Landscape and seascape have been abiding interests in the history of American art, inspiring iconic national imagery and stimulating significant bodies of literature. Many studies have considered how landscape and marine painting encode American culture, politics, and philosophy, often promoting a monolithic notion of American identity. As histories of American art become more culturally and geographically expansive, how can scholars reinterpret images of land and sea? This conference, consisting of papers by established scholars and advanced graduate students, will explore how new approaches to the study of landscape and marine art across media can challenge, subvert, or transform traditional conceptions of American identity.

For further information, please contact: AmericanIdentitiesConference@gmail.com
 



In Black and White: Photography, Race, and the Modern Impulse in Brazil at Midcentury
Tuesday, May 2, 2017, evening keynote panel at The Museum of Modern Art
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, conference at The Graduate Center, City University of New York

This initiative investigates Brazilian modernist photography, its relationship to race, and its place within a dynamic international network of images and ideas. From experimental work that resonates with broader postwar trends of creative photographic expression to modern forms with local and sometimes ethnic inflections, photographers were instrumental in formulating new visual languages in Brazil. Since 1939, the São Paulo-based Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB) nurtured a wide range of avant-garde practices that anticipated many elements of Concrete Art in Brazil featured at the first São Paulo Biennial in 1951. This diverse group included photographers from immigrant communities such as São Paulo’s growing German, Hungarian, Jewish, Italian, and Japanese populations. These artists participated in international networks of exchange around the globe that increased their visibility and expanded their approach.
 
Taking FCCB as a starting point, the conference stretches the boundaries of what we understand as experimental art in Brazil in the mid-twentieth century. Photography has been largely excluded from current scholarship about Brazilian modernism and abstraction, and Brazilian photographers of this era are overlooked in narratives around modern photography.

The events are hosted by The Museum of Modern Art and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. The conference is organized by Abigail Lapin Dardashti, Museum Research Consortium Fellow, Department of Photography, MoMA and Ph.D. Candidate, CUNY, and Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, MoMA.



College Art Association Conference, New York Hilton
February 15-18, 2017

Congratulations to all of our program’s presenters at the CAA 2017 conference in NYC, including faculty: Molly Aitken, Mona Hadler, Cynthia Hahn, David Joselit, Gail Levin, Katherine Manthorne, and Amanda Wunder; as well our 15 doctoral candidates who spoke or chaired panels, including: Paula Burleigh, Andrew Cappetta, Sooran Choi, Mya Dosch, Arnaud Gerspacher, Saisha Grayson, Chelsea Haines, Michelle Millar Fisher, Meredith Mowder, Gillian Pistell, Lauren Rosati, Gillian Sneed, Sydney Stutterheim, Alise Tifentale, and Amanda Wasielewski.

click here for the conference website and the full conference schedule
 



Scales of Visibility in Global Indigenous Art (October 14, 2016)
Organized by Art History Ph.D. students Christopher Green, Joseph Henry, and Ian Wallace with Professor David Joselit
 
This half-day conference convened scholars, artists, and curators to explore how the commodification and visibility of ethnic difference increasingly plays a role in the globalized world of contemporary art. Situated amidst a surge of interest in indigenous art and culture both at the Graduate Center and in the field of art history overall, the conference will take up contemporary art by indigenous practitioners to ask how the institutional understanding of indigenous art is defined, how such artists position themselves in relation to the global art world, how practices oppose the cultural logics of the colonial nation-state, and how a pan-indigenous solidarity might operate, among other queries.



Beyond Connoisseurship: Rethinking Prints from the Belle Épreuve (1875) to the Present (November 7, 2014)
A conference organized by Art History PhD students Britany Salsbury and Allison Rudnick.
 
Modernism brought about radical transformations in print culture. Once relegated primarily to the field of image reproduction, the graphic arts were taken up by large numbers of artists who experimented with diverse forms of printmaking: from the deluxe belles épreuves of the etching revival to Jules Chéret’s mass-produced posters, Andy Warhol’s silkscreened canvases to Tracey Emin’s monoprints. Despite the prevalence of printmaking as a constant in artists’ practices, however, it is still often perceived as secondary to painting and sculpture and interpreted using traditional, connoisseurial approaches. As a result, prints seem fated to be seen as parallel to, rather than integrated within, the scholarship of modern and contemporary art. This conference, timed to coincide with the 2014 IFPDA Print Fair, sought to present alternatives by highlighting the work of scholars who are engaging innovative methodologies to address printmaking (from ca. 1875 to the present) and connect it to broader theoretical trends within art history. 



 


Exhibit A: Authorship on Display (April 7, 2014)
A conference organized by Art History PhD students Chelsea Haines, Grant Johnson, and Natalie Musteata
 
In the last two decades, the study of exhibition history has grown exponentially: a recent surge of publications, conferences, courses, and reconstructions of historical exhibitions has fostered a new body of knowledge. However, discussions on exhibition history are conspicuously bifurcated, shuttling between a small coterie of curators on the one hand, and a select number of scholars on the other. In curatorial circles, discourse often focuses on individual practices, with little sustained reflection on broader historical and museological implications. Meanwhile, in academic circles, the history of exhibitions is often situated in terms of spectatorship, without directing attention to the various forms of authorship involved in exhibition making. This conference sought to sketch a typology of authorial roles in contemporary exhibition practice by assembling a range of perspectives-artists, curators, art historians, and emerging scholars-for a day-long conversation.
 



Sexing Sound: Aural Archives and Feminist Scores (February 21, 2014)
A symposium organized by Siona Wilson (PhD Program in Art History), Valerie Tevere (Artist, College of Staten Island, CUNY) and Katherine Carl (Curator, James Gallery)

Pop and rock music has long been an important forum for experimentation with gendered performance, audience identification, and different models of authorship and collaboration. What happens, we ask, when the complex affective and social dynamics of popular music cultures are put into a dialogue with more rarified notions of audio cultures or sound art? Taking the issue of sexual difference and sexuality as its central concern, this symposium brought together an international group of artists, writers, educators and curators to address the gendered complexes of “music cultures,” “audio practices,” and where these two realms intersect in contemporary art. Presentation topics included the feminist sound archive Her Noise, women in early punk, the voice, and the soundscape. The symposium ended at 5pm with a performance of a composition by Annea Lockwood performed by Kristin Norderval, followed by a reception at 6pm in the James Gallery with a set by JD Samson. Cosponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Seminar on Images and Information, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the PhD Program in Art History, The Graduate Center, and the Division of Humanities and Social Science, The College of Staten Island.
 



The Status of Sound: Writing Histories of Sonic Art  (November 20, 2012)
A conference organized by Art History PhD students Andrew Cappetta, Meredith Mowder and Lauren Rosati
 
What is “sound art”? Should we define it within the context of experimental music or the visual arts or both? While the term first came into being in the 1980s, sound in the visual arts has a far longer history, ranging from Modernist experiments with synesthesia to the avant-garde exploits of Dada and Futurism. Sound art also has a distinctly musical heritage, emerging from the compositional experiments of John Cage, Tony Conrad, La Monte Young, Maryanne Amacher, and Pauline Oliveros, among others. This conversation will serve as the keynote to an all-day interdisciplinary conference on sound art and experimental music. The primary purpose of the conference was to tackle some of the methodological issues we face as art historians, dealing with sound art within a discipline couched in the visual. Rather than attempting to link “sound art” to a particular history, this conference provided some fruitful options for how to frame a history that is informed by both experiments in art and sound together using new theoretical and methodological models. Panelists included Miki Kaneda, Amalle Dublon, David Michael Perez, Hisham Awad, Seth Cluett, Rahma Khazam, Charles Eppley, and David Crowley. The event was generously supported by The John Rewald Endowment, Art History Department, The Graduate Center; The Center for the Humanities; and the Doctoral Students Council.
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The Now Museum: Contemporary Art, Curating Histories, Alternative Models
10-13 March 2011
A conference organized by Claire Bishop (Professor, PhD Program in Art History), Kate Fowle (Director, Independent Curators International) and Eungie Joo (Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs at the New Museum).

What do museums of contemporary art stand for today? The last two decades has seen an unimaginable diversification of the museum as a place for exhibiting art and telling histories, producing innovative education models, promoting international collaborations, forming alternative archives, and facilitating new productions. This conference aimed to tackle key questions around the museum as an institutional entity and contemporary art as an art historical category. Speakers provided an overview of developments across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Particular attention was paid to the construction of historical narratives (or their abandonment) through collection displays, the role of research in relation to contemporary art, the alternative models that are already having an impact, and their relationship to more traditional museum infrastructures.