Canons Vs. Icons

A Re- Interdisciplinary Network Seminar Series about the cultural production and reproduction of aggregates across time and space, the social corollaries of these imaginary formations, and their putative ‘queering’ potentials.

By co-organisers Cristina Baldacci (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice/ICI Berlin), Clare Foster (CRASSH, Cambridge),and Francesco Giusti (Bard College Berlin/ICI Berlin)

What gives rise to a canon, or makes something iconic? How are those processes similar, and different? This series explores different kinds of aggregates (category, label, type, genre etc), what controls their definitional parameters, and where they are located – in objects, events, or learned capacities to recognise (both human and machine). Have the visual and verbal ever been, in fact, as distinct as we like to think? What is NOT available to canonisation or iconicity: what conditions avoid tradition, celebrity, virality? Is, as Susan Bennett says, everything available to ‘brand affinity’?

A canon has been understood as a historical selection of cultural objects, characters, or persons imposed by an institutional or cultural elite via a top-down model of propagation, which tends to repress multiplicity; icons, on the other hand, have been more associated with popularity, chosen and shared according to a more horizontal process of circulation. Canonical objects are often associated with objective qualities and a shared cultural identity; iconicity with an inherent power to generate personal affective responses. Looking at canons and icons together raises questions of agency; of community; of network formation; and of the interplay between deliberate and incidental repetition. It asks whether cultural objects and subjects are mediated by gatekeeping authorities, or end-users; and encourages a view of culture not as encounters between subjects and objects, but as sets of tensions and relations in a constant state of change – in which familiar objects are a resource for saying, or doing, something else.

What gives rise to a canon, or makes something iconic? How are those processes similar, and different?

The series is opened by Andrea Pinotti (University of Milan), who, in conversation with Cristina Baldacci, will ask what happens to the boundaries between image and real world when immersive and interactive virtual environments blur this traditional distinction and perceivers feel they are part of a new world. Icons negate themselves and become an-icons, thus undermining the very paradigm of Western theories of representation.

Going back in time to silent cinema, Maria Wyke (UCL) will explore how the Roman city of Pompeii got iconized, and how intellectual and elitist engagements with Classical history and archaeology were democratized as cultural objects for mass consumption.

Gabriella Giannachi (University of Exeter), in conversation with Cristina Baldacci, will discuss how self-portraits and selfies re-enact icons, primarily in the context of visual and performing arts.

In the context of current re-orientations in critical vocabularies and looking at the networks of relationships in which art works are entangled, Rita Felski (University of Virginia), in conversation with Francesco Giusti, will examine how and why we get stuck to works of art and will make a case for attachment as a much-needed key word for the humanities.

Finally, Gabriele Brandstetter (Freie Universität Berlin) will discuss the curation of her current exhibition The Century of Dance at the Academy of the Arts (Berlin) on dance, archive, bodily memory, and iconic body images.  Prof. Brandstetter explored ideas of ‘Re-‘ in her 2016 keynote speech for the International Federation of Theatre Research. Clare Foster will moderate a conversation between Brandstetter, Norwegian theatre director Lars Maggerø (Kent) and Dr Lucia Ruprecht (Cambridge).

Programme

Towards An-Iconology: Environmental Images

16 October 2019, 3 – 5 pm

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Prof. Andrea Pinotti (Milan) and Dr. Cristina Baldacci (Venice)

Iconising the Classical: Pompeii in Silent Cinema

30 October 2019, 5 – 7 pm

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Prof. Maria Wyke (UCL) and Dr. Clare Foster (Cambridge)

Re-Enacting Icons: Self-Portraiture and Selfies

13 November 2019, 2.30 – 4.30 pm

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Prof. Gabriella Giannachi (Exeter) and Dr. Cristina Baldacci (Venice)

Passionate Affinities: Literature and Networks

02 December 2019, 5 – 7 pm

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Prof. Rita Felski (Virginia) and Dr. Francesco Giusti (Bard College Berlin)

Dance and the Archive: Politics of a Re- Perspective

09 December 2019, 5 – 7 pm

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Prof. Gabriele Brandstetter (FU Berlin), Dr. Clare Foster (CRASSH), Dr Lucia Ruprecht (MML, Cambridge) and theatre director Lars Maggerø.

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