Terror, Connoisseurship and Theory at CAA2013

The Art History Newsletter - 4 April, 2012 - 19:36

CAA has announced the sessions for the 2013 conference. The three I’m most looking forward to:

Art and “The War on Terror”: Ten Years On
August Jordan Davis, Winchester School of Art,
March 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (collectively identified by the Bush administration’s rubric of “the war on terror”) featured in myriad ways (both explicitly and tacitly) within contemporary art production, exhibitions, and criticism of the 2000s. This session offers a forum for a timely review of this decade of art and war (and their interpenetration). The session consists of a roundtable of artists, art historians, and critics, including Martha Rosler, Jonathan Har- ris, and Nicholas Mirzoeff, followed by papers. Papers might address the art and activism of Artists Against the War; pertinent curato- rial projects of this period (e.g., the Whitney Biennial of 2006: Day for Night); the work of “embedded” artists; popular culture’s role in shaping narratives of the wars (e.g., films including World Trade Center, Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Stop-Loss); or consider what the legacy of this recent past might mean for art today.

The “New Connoisseurship”: A Conversation among Scholars, Curators, and Conservators
Gail Feigenbaum, Getty Research Institute; and Perry Chapman, University of Delaware
A conversation on the past, present, and future of the “new connoisseurship” brings together leading figures from the academy, mu- seum, and laboratory to consider what matters about the material objects we study. The aim is to go beyond stocktaking to recuperating and repositioning the material object as subject for art-historical research. What lessons can we learn from the ever “new” and serially “scientific” connoisseurship, from Morelli’s forensics to Berenson’s reliance on photographic evidence, to today’s “technical art history”? Given the fate of the Rembrandt Research Project, as well as what scholarship has revealed about artistic practice in the workshop, can or should we aspire to establish a corpus of “authentic” or “autograph” works, or is this a chimera, the wrong question to ask? At this moment can we look squarely and constructively at connoisseurship, a word that has come to be spoken with disdain by so many schol- ars, redolent of an outmoded practice? “Close looking,” so fetishized and admired and freighted a concept, neither accounts for what is below the visible surface, nor recognizes the interventions and transformations of appearance of that surface resulting from the vicissi- tudes of time and restoration. What can be gained from research and rethinking the historical record as it becomes increasingly available in conservation archives? How can we ask better questions and benefit from our varied categories of knowledge going forward? What can or should art historians do to take advantage of—and to train a generation of “new connoisseurs” conversant in—new developments in conservation and technical studies?

The Changing Complexion of Theory
Ian Verstegen, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia,
This panel is devoted to registering the fundamentally chang- ing nature of contemporary theory. For many years, theory was influenced by post-structuralism, and the theories of Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault were largely language-based and devoted to forms of nominalism. More recently, with the sociological determinist approach of Pierre Bourdieu, the materialism of Slavoj Zizek, the realism of Jacques Deleuze (at least as imputed by Manuel de Landa), and Alain Badiou has disrupted this status quo. Today, we are more likely to take for granted the relevance of biology and the natural sciences, while the return of Marx has been more serious than countenanced by Derrida or Foucault. This panel not only seeks to trace the influence of such newer ideas but also raise the very question of theory in the humanities. Papers are sought that go beyond the exegesis of
recent theorists and discuss the relation of theory and the func- tion of relativism and objectivism in the academy.

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