Out of Time and Out of Place: Comparative Approaches in Art History
CAA 2016 Session (Feb. 3-6, 2016, in Washington DC)
This College Art Association Conference session, sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art, was conceptualized by the Material Collective as a way to encourage dialogue across the sub-fields of art history. We are especially interested in receiving proposals from all periods and fields of art history, including and especially non-medievalists! Here is a longer description than the one posted in the CAA CFP:
In the book Medieval Modern, Alexander Nagel proposes to “stage collisions of sorts between medieval and modern materials, with no other purpose than to have one work open new critical insights into the other.” He means to articulate the resonances among works of different times, not so much to create lineages or trace influences, but to see how thinking through disparate works together might illuminate our understanding of them. As much as we can learn about works by asking traditional questions about the original context of its making and display, or by examining the work through any number of theoretical lenses, comparative art history aims to discover new insights through seemingly arbitrary encounters of disparate works. Several other art historians have taken up similar projects in recent years, usually also focusing on the resonances between medieval and modern or contemporary art. Such work has found mixed reception: while many art historians (and members of the general public) find comparative studies illuminating and insightful, others feel that they recklessly flatten the distinctions between cultures and encourage dilettantism among its practitioners.
What are the potentials and pitfalls of comparative art history? What changes when we open up dialogues across the sub-fields of art history? This session seeks to continue this conversation with papers presenting new comparative studies that view works from other cultures and periods alongside medieval art and that also encourage participants (and the audience) to reflect critically on the practice of comparative art history. What critical purchase can be gained by such studies? Does comparative work necessarily call for a diminution of historicist approaches that have dominated art history for several decades? Is that a good or a bad thing? What, ultimately, do we hope to gain from such studies: a better understanding of the art, of the past, of ourselves? The field of art history is increasingly segmented into smaller sub-disciplines that struggle to speak to one another; perhaps comparative art history offers one way to counteract such fragmentation. Ultimately, comparative approaches may help us develop a fuller understanding of the work of art history and its ambitions.
Instructions for submitting a paper proposal can be found here (deadline is May 8, 2015!): http://www.collegeart.org/news/2015/03/05/propose-a-paper-or-presentation-for-the-2016-annual-conference/
Please remember that all presenters must be members of the College Art Association.
Contacts: Jennifer Borland, Oklahoma State University/The Material Collective; and Benjamin Tilghman, Lawrence University/The Material Collective. Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org