Call for Papers: Three Approaches to Three Dimensions

Ben Long, Stag, 2008

Three Approaches to Three Dimensions: Three Workshops and a Conference on Sculpture and Change, The Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum

Call for Papers Deadlines:

  • 1 September 2011 for 14 October 2011 workshop, Reconfigured Spaces
  • 14 October 2011 for 2 December 2011 workshop, Relocated Objects
  • 2 December 2011 for 10 February 2012 workshop, Rewritten Narratives
  • 1 March 2012 for 11/12 May 2012 conference

Over the course of three workshops, this sculpture project at The Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum will seek to explore some of the implications of these issues in a discussion between those who pursue the art-historical investigation of sculpture, those concerned with its curation and display and those responsible for its conservation and technical examination. Each workshop will be thematically focused, without bias to either period or discipline, drawing on a wide range of methodologies and expertise. The resulting dialogue will provide the basis for a conference early in 2012.

Works of sculpture and the places in which they are viewed are more prone to adaptation, transformation, damage and loss than are any other categories of object. Sculpture is frequently intended to be inseparable from the spaces and locations it occupies. In consequence, its removal is often traumatic and recorded in damage to both object and context. The adjustment of buildings, rooms and public spaces to accommodate relocated objects, whether for the purpose of public display or private ownership, results in shifts in the physical status, the implied meaning and the social perception of both the moved object and its altered situation.

However, whilst the removal of sculpture from its intended context changes the thing itself, the space it once occupied and the place into which it is deposited, the ruptures and dislocations associated with such events also provide opportunities for detailed technical examination, the retrieval of previously inaccessible views and the creation of new and unexpected juxtapositions of things and ideas. The new readings that are opened up by such opportunities can relate both to the histories of individual objects and their making and to the wider social, religious and political narratives of which they form a part. In these narratives, the traces of the removal and relocation of sculpture are often the only physical vestiges left of the events they describe.

Workshop 1: 14 October 2011Reconfigured Spaces

How are we to understand the spaces from which sculpture has been removed, or into which it has been inserted?  What are the implications for other objects of the loss of elements of sculpture from their original homes, or their imposition on new locations? How does space function differently when occupied by intended and unintended inhabitants and how can contemporary imaging tools assist in the mapping and (re)construction of emptied, adjusted and requisitioned sites? What kinds of looking are permitted/prohibited by differently inhabited spaces?

The 2007 Henry Moore Institute Conference, Sculpture in the Museum, addressed some of the issues involved in the formal, institutional display of sculpture. This workshop will explore questions raised by the broader relationship between three-dimensional objects and the spaces they are made for, removed from and into which they are placed.

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words by 1 September 2011 to   Papers for this workshop will last fifteen minutes each.

Workshop 2: 2 December 2011Relocated Objects

The ways in which sculptural objects are affected by changes to themselves and their environments are complex. What new opportunities for examination and understanding, then, are presented by the movement of sculpture? How are objects transformed by their removal from/replacement in different contexts? How is physical and social trauma recorded in sculpture and how does it change our view of its meaning? How does redisplay affect the power of the object and the perception of the viewer? Does the trans-national movement of sculpture open or close the possibility of understanding it?

This workshop will focus on the objects of sculpture, and the implications for our understanding of their movement, technical examination, sale, re-use and redisplay.

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words by 14 October 2011 to    Papers for this workshop will last fifteen minutes each.

Workshop 3: 10 February 2012Rewritten Narratives

The histories that have been written concerning three dimensional objects are as various as the objects themselves. But what different kinds of story can be told about sculptures and their contexts in the aftermath of traumatic change, removal and relocation? How do the histories of three-dimensional objects, remade on the basis of technical analysis and documentary research, relate to the creation of new conceptual and social narratives? What new histories are made possible by the opening of new views, by the emptying and refilling of space and by following the transit of objects across periods and places?

Seeking to address the stories both of particular objects and of particular ideas, this workshop will examine some of the narratives accessible as a result of the shifts and changes discussed in the preceding sessions.

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words by 2 December 2011 to   Papers for this workshop will last fifteen minutes each.

Conference: 11/12 May 2012Moving in Three Dimensions: Re-writing the Objects and Histories of Sculpture

The concluding conference of the Three Approaches project will provide an opportunity to explore some of the issues raised by the workshops in three sessions that will each draw out aspects of all three of the earlier discussions. Speakers will be invited to address some of the motivations for changes to sculpture and its contexts, their outcomes and the new approaches to writing their histories which they call for.

Session 1: Conversion, Iconoclasm and Revolution

The discourse surrounding the traumatic events leading to the removal, transport and relocation of sculpture often centres on the acts of destruction associated with revolution and iconoclasm. However, the changes resulting from re-use and conversion, whether spiritual, functional or symbolic, are as important to our understanding of the objects and locations of sculpture in their surviving states as are the records and physical traces of loss.

This session will seek papers concerned with changes made to sculpture in situ, with objects whose location has remained static whilst their function has been altered, and with the disfigurement, dismemberment and disguise of sculpture in the face of radically shifting social and political contexts.

Session 2: Plunder, Export and Sale

Questions of the export and redisplay of sculpture, whether as the result of sale or plunder (and of whether those two means of acquisition can justifiably be separated) are pertinent not only to the kinds of looking which are made available in their aftermath but also to those modes of address to objects and contexts which are lost. Whilst the restitution and re-housing of many sold and plundered objects continues to be sought, it is seldom into their original place of display and begs the question of whether a type of location such as a museum or gallery is significantly (or in any way) different depending on its broader location in a particular city or country.

This session will seek papers addressing some of the issues surrounding the local and global movement of sculpture, its markets, the traces it leaves and the ways in which it is recorded.

Session 3: Competition, Collection and Classification

The study of sculpture has, to varying degrees, been conditioned by the classification of its objects. This has been accomplished not only according to their medium, place of origin and maker, but by the groups into which they have been collected, collections often fuelled by competition between nations, institutions and individuals.

This session will focus on the presentation and investigation of sculpture within the confines of these artificial groupings. It will seek contributions exploring the opportunities for new sculptural scholarship that such groupings present, the ways in which they have determined the course of sculptural historiography and the mechanisms by which they have been brought together.

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words by 1 March 2012 to   Conference papers will last twenty minutes each.

Organised by Dr Jim Harris (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

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