The Institute of Art History – The Cvito Fisković Centre in Split calls for papers for an international conference of academics and professionals organized as part of a week of events in scholarship and research
Across the globe, the year 2020 was unexpectedly marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photographs of empty public spaces – the locations of historic events, celebrations, protests, social gatherings, crowds of tourists – from Milan, Paris, London, Istanbul, and Hong Kong to Dubrovnik and Split… these sights stir up bittersweet emotions. On the one hand, these pictures are intensely beautiful. They recall artist’s books and historical photographer’s monographs whose authors took pains to produce scenes devoid of people. On the other hand, they remind us how important human interaction is for any given place.
This period in history will be marked, among other things, by a questioning of personal and collective memory – of the past and the present, but also of a future that we are all anticipating, although we are still unsure how it will look. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we consider the present by reflecting on a past that contains a collective future. At the moment, the linear nature of time has been reduced to a “time loop” where hopes, boredom, fear, memory, and many other aspects of human life circulate. It is necessary to consider all of them outside of the established methodological patterns, using the experience of “repeat performances” (or at the very least, the imagining of them), as well as posing questions that are, perhaps, even more important than their answers. Can visualisations of empty spaces focus our attention on the act of waiting, can we escape excessive consumption (which in any case has a negative influence on productivity)?
Inspired by the Institute of Art History’s project Exposition [Ekspozicija]. Themes and Aspects of Croatian Photography from the 19th Century until Today, which is financed by the Croatian Science Foundation, we have decided to organise an international conference entitled Watching, Waiting – Empty Spaces and the Representation of Isolation. The experience of working on a project that brings together the work of experts in the fields of art history, ethnology, medicine, architecture, and others highlights the importance of a range of diverse approaches to the theme of this conference.
Inspired by the current situation, this interdisciplinary conference will be dedicated to the history and theory of representing empty space through the media of photography, film, and other artistic practices. The conference is likewise open to the themes of empty spaces, isolation, and loneliness from the perspective of other scholarly disciplines.
We hope that this conference will be held after we have already returned to our cities, in the postisolation period, when the experiences gained during our separation from public space will begin, in various ways, to contribute to the long-term improvement of life within it, and which will require sensitivity, patience, and care to overcome the dystopian ideas caused by the pandemic.We therefore invite all those who wish to study the history and theory of representations of empty space and the phenomenon of emptiness, isolation, and loneliness in an interdisciplinary dialogue, primarily through the medium of photography, to send a 250-word abstract and a short CV to: [email protected].