RACAR special issue, to be published in October 2019

Guest editors: Mélanie Boucher (Université du Québec en Outaouais) and Ersy Contogouris (Université de Montréal)
Deadline for proposals: February 1, 2018
Deadline for final contributions: August 15, 2018

While the conceptualization and modern incarnation of the tableau vivant are rooted in eighteenth-century Europe, its origins can be traced back to antique pantomime and to royal entrances in the early modern period. Presented first at the theatre, and then in private settings, for the pleasure and education of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the tableau vivant quickly migrated to other areas of the world, including North America. It decisively marked the beginning of photography and was fundamental to pictorialism and early cinema. Its practice was abandoned during the first half of the twentieth century, then reemerged in 1960s experimental cinema, while its mise-en-scène and its exploration of immobility were exploited in contemporary art during this same period. The use of the term “tableau vivant” to refer to contemporary artistic performances appeared in the mid-1990s, and probably stemmed from the interest then shown for Vanessa Becroft’s practice. In the early 2000s, the markedly growing engagement with the tableau vivant, the re-enactment of performances, and their presentation over long periods of time, in turn deeply impacted on museum practices. If it is in literature studies that reflexive analyses of the tableau vivant first appeared, recent scholarship – whether informed by literature, theatre, cinema, the visual arts, museology, or other fields of knowledge – is contributing to the rediscovery of the tableau vivant and to its recognition as a hybrid practice, the study of which can be productive in different areas.

The tableau vivant raises various issues that relate to its mechanisms of presentation as a performance, among them, theatrical, narrative, spatial, pictorial, and temporal. It also engages with social and political issues such as gender, race, sexuality, class, and the relationship of the subject to the material world. As an object that is collected and exhibited, it is inscribed in the history of analogical museography, but also raises present-day issues linked to conservation and exhibition. As an artistic practice today, it enters into dialogue with other forms of appropriation and relates to practices of re-enactment, reconstitution, remake, citation, and remixing that are particularly popular in contemporary art as well as in other areas of art and culture. What sets it apart from these other practices, its characteristic of immobility, in turn brings into play its own set of theoretical and interpretative questions.

By looking at the tableau vivant from a variety of standpoints, this special issue of RACAR aims to contribute to the knowledge and to the current thinking on this subject. We welcome historical or theoretical pieces that address either specific works or more general concerns relating to the tableau vivant; accounts of artistic and museological practices; as well as portfolios. The call is open to topics relating to all historical periods, all geographical and cultural areas, and all artistic media.

To this end, we are soliciting three types of proposals, in either French or English: articles (maximum 7,500 words, including notes), accounts of practices (maximum 3,500 words, including notes), and portfolios (maximum 10 images and 1,000 words, including notes). The articles and accounts of practices will be submitted to double-blind peer review.

Please submit your proposals of a maximum of 250 words and a short CV before February 1, 2018, to Mélanie Boucher (melanie.boucher at uqo.ca) and Ersy Contogouris (ersy.contogouris at umontreal.ca).