Session at AAANZ Conference 2019: Ngā Tūtaki – Encounter/s: Agency, Embodiment, Exchange, Ecologies

From its ‘complete poetic reality’ (Bachelard, 1942), through the material liquidity of paint or ink, to water as surface and depth, unto and within which cultural artefacts are produced, deposited and found, water is as much a crucial element to life as an omnipresent component of art. Cutting across this liquid mass and its overwhelming relevance to artistic contents and forms, waterways stand apart as specifically utilitarian and transitory realms. This session examines waterways, defined as navigable bodies of water, as sites of artistic practices, representations and archives. Streams, rivers, canals, lakes and maritime waters are means of transport, artificially diverting a natural resource for commercial, political and scientific purposes. Their uses contrast with images of water as immobile and non-human landscapes: rugged ocean cliffs, remote waterfalls and stormy seas. Yet alongside vessels of goods, peoples and ideas, waterways carry bodies of artworks, texts and cultural objects that cross formal and generic borders, providing common grounds for examining, for instance, Louise Bourgeois’s Ode à la Bièvre, the Sawos people’s canoe prow ornaments from New Guinea’s Sepik river, or Steve McQueen’s Ashes. Waterways are also inherently political — their surfaces, depths and hinterlands serving as repositories for traces of traumas, left behind by past and present histories of wars, colonisations and migrations.

This session invites contributions on visual, literary, architectural, musical and/or performance-based representations of navigable waters, and the inter-arts connections they produce, as well as considerations on waterways as possible theoretical tools in transnational and transdisciplinary approaches to art history.

  • Session convenor: L.a Vuong (The University of Sydney)
  • Submit paper proposal to: [email protected]