Association for Art History: Annual Conference 2024

14 March 2024

Association for Art History: Annual Conference 2024

This year’s Association for Art History (#ForArtHistory) Conference takes place at the University of Bristol from 3-5 April 2024. The school is delighted that several of our colleagues will be delivering sessions including:

PhD student Anne Daffertshofer and Dr Alistair Rider will be convening a panel on Anthropocene Mobilities - For Art History. In addition, Anne will be delivering a paper on “Anthropocene Mobilities: Exploring Movement in Times of Ecological Crisis” in the same session. This paper explores the term ‘Anthropocene Mobilities’ and presents it as a framework for engaging with the theme of movement and travel in response to the ecological crisis. This analysis draws on an area of sociological research know as mobility studies, and I focus in particular on the publications of Mimi Sheller, who has written extensively about what she calls mobility justice, and a ‘New Mobilities Paradigm’. Central to her thesis is the claim that the uneven distribution of access to mobility play a critical role in what she calls the triple crisis of climate change, urbanisation and migration. My definition of Anthropocene Mobilities also takes its reference point from another sociologist, Andrew Baldwin, who is responsible for coining the term. While both Sheller and Baldwin mention the need to include other-than-human mobilities in these debates, both maintain a focus that is predominantly anthropocentric. My goal is to redress this by attending more specifically on the movement of non-human entities, including plants, animals, drones and hazardous chemicals, to challenge anthropocentric narratives of humankind as separate, detached or superior. Instead, I want to discuss movement in relation to works of contemporary art that emphasise interspecies entanglement and interconnectedness.

PhD student Bridget Hardiman will be presenting on “Photographing Surrealist Spaces: Denise Bellon and the 1938 and 1947 International Surrealist Exhibitions” as part of the Art, History, Exhibitions: Re-thinking Relationships - For Art History session. Her paper will explore the work of Denise Bellon (1902-1999), a French photojournalist with close ties to the surrealist movement, who photographed several French surrealist exhibitions during her career. Her work is an example of the role of photography and the photographer in the documentation of surrealist exhibition practices. In these images, Bellon not only depicts surrealist artists preparing for the exhibitions as individuals and in groups, but she also captures the labour of preparing for and constructing these exhibitions. Thus, these photographs reveal contributors who are not usually visible in the history of surrealism, such as mannequin couturiers or, even, exhibition photographers. This paper will examine Bellon’s photographs of the International Surrealist Exhibitions of 1938 and 1947 as subjective records of surrealist artwork and exhibition spaces. It addresses how these surrealist exhibitions were recorded by Bellon, particularly through the medium of photography, and who is included as a result. It also examines these interwar and post-war surrealist exhibitions to discuss how certain exhibitions fit within in the global historiography of surrealism. Since Bellon captures the activities immediately surrounding these exhibitions, it is possible to broaden the examination of the French surrealist group at different moments in its lifecycle. A detailed review of Bellon’s exhibition photography can therefore enrich discussions of the legacy of surrealist exhibition practices, networks, and participants – while spotlighting Bellon herself as one of these contributors.

Dr Lenia Kouneni will be delivering a paper titled “Drawing in the Art History Classroom: Why Is It Not Enough To List and Look” in the Keeping up with Fast-Changing Times: Creative Approaches to the Art History Classroom - For Art History session convened by Natalia Sassu Suarez Ferri and Ana González Rueda. Inspired by the student-centred, experiential, affective and sensory approaches of recent art history, this paper will discuss the integration of drawing activities in the classroom as an important part of the multimodal art historical pedagogy. It will present as its case study an honours module on Raphael and his Reception, which incorporates a practice-based seminar entitled ‘Drawing like Raphael’. It will consider this pedagogical method in theory and practice and will reflect on its benefits, challenges and student feedback. Incorporating drawing in the classroom implies methods of learning-by-doing and facilitates slow, deep learning. The task prolongs the time needed for examining, encourages delving into and gives students the possibility to understand historical materials and processes first-hand. Studies have also shown that drawing is superior to activities such as reading or writing because it forces the person to process information in multiple ways: visually, kinaesthetically, and semantically. Drawing involves mental and bodily processes and invites an emotional, affective and sensory approach. It also develops students’ sensitivity to the variety of media, grounds, and their combinations, giving them an experiential understanding of the meaning of materiality. This paper will argue that drawing is a creative and fun way to build skills in visual expression and interpretation, but also one that brings affects and emotions to art historical inquiries and encourages students to bring their own thoughts and lived experiences to their art historical studies.

Professor Julian Luxford will be delivering a paper on “Addressing British Art after the Black Death: Problems and Possibilities” in The Past, Present and Future of Medieval Art in the British Isles - For Art History session. Informed opinion about the late medieval art of England, Scotland and Wales has never seemed more valuable. At stake is the advocacy of many thousands of buildings and sculpted, painted, and glazed objects that exist in a public domain increasingly ignorant of them. A huge amount of material in museums and other forms of storage also risks being undervalued, forgotten, stolen, or discarded. Most of this material is largely or completely unstudied by art historians. This is the background to scholarly activity in the field, activity which is commonly said – at least in the UK – to be in decline. The platitude of declining scholarly standards, familiar to students of most aspects of Western art, invites independent study as an aspect of a broader psychological phenomenon. But it is obviously less vital than what is being said about late medieval art now, and the future pathways this discourse can open up. My talk will touch on several issues that seem to be crucial to current work in the field. These include the persistence of ‘piecemealism’ in scholarship and its relevance to understanding larger corpuses of material; the ongoing reluctance of Art History to take the parish church seriously; the slight attention paid to the nature and effects of foreign artistic influence after the Black Death; the apparent lack of interest in artistic continuities during the long sixteenth century; and the challenge of writing Art History, as opposed to something else, in a labile intellectual climate.

Dr Natalia Sassu Suarez Ferri, along with former staff member Dr Ana S. González Rueda, will be convening a panel on Keeping up with Fast-Changing Times: Creative Approaches to the Art History Classroom - For Art History. How is Art History being taught today, and what does that tell us about the future of the discipline? How do online learning and artificial intelligence reshape the ways in which we teach and assess? What roles can teaching for creativity (Beghetto, 2017) and experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) play in re-engaging students after remote learning? This session concentrates on educators’ constant reinvention of their teaching as we decolonise our curricula and move from teacher-centred to learner-centred pedagogies in rapidly changing times. We are especially interested in strategies that address diverse student needs, foster inclusion and a sense of community, disrupt monolithic narratives, embrace interdisciplinarity and cross-cultural connections, deal with the relationship between local and global or ‘planetary’ perspectives (Pollock, 2014), or consider Art History’s engagement with current social movements. The session explores how educators convey the relevance and aliveness of Art History to their students, the skills they prioritise and how they embed those into the learning process.

For more information check out the digital guide here: 2024 Annual Conference programme - For Art History