Forum eikones, Rheinsprung 11, 4051 Basel
EIKONES - Zentrum für die Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes, Universität Basel
Expression: Processes of Form and Mediation in Art
“Expression” counts among the key aesthetic concepts of modernity. Tensioned between intentional acts and accidental creation, the idea that expression mediates between the individual and the world in art has been widely discussed, defended, and disputed since the late eighteenth century. Yet even in early modern art, numerous visual phenomena can be observed that can be described as expressive processes of form creation, including subiconographic pictorial structures such as gestural, or informal applications of color as deliberate means of expression. Against this background, the international conference “Expression: Processes of Form and Mediation in Art” aims to investigate artistic processes of form making from the early modern period to the present day that either specify or reflect particular modes of expression in art.
Whereas structuralist approaches initiated in the mid-20th century increasingly questioned the interpretive guiding concept of subject-centered expression, the societal acknowledgment of diversified subjectivities in recent decades, and the relevance of marginalized identities in today’s methodologies of art history, call for a reassessment of expression as an aesthetic concept. In contrast with the common neuroaesthetic conflation of expression and emotion, the conference seeks to consider expression as a way to conceptualize art as a site of intermediation between notions of “interior” and “exterior” reality as well as between self-determination and the determination of others. We aim to expand the aesthetic concept of expression to consider its social and ethical dimensions and to explore its art-historical and art-critical value in times of increasing diversification and heterogeneity.
The conference seeks to address this concern by exploring three thematic strands in particular:
1) Gesture, Blot, Trace - on the Subiconography of Expression
This section is dedicated to the pre-iconographic repertoire of pictorial means of expression. Before a figuration becomes recognizable as a vehicle of expression, the elements underlying or preceding it are themselves already subject to artistically individual modes of expression. In addition to questions about individual style, i.e., about the personal repertoire of expression, this focus concerns in particular painterly processes that include randomness, free gesture, and the intrinsic qualities of painterly means as consciously adopted means of expression.
2) Figurations of Expression
This section focuses on depicted figures as agents of expression. Since artistic expression in modernism is primarily discussed as an issue of formal means of representation, the significance of the figure as a conveyor of models of subjectivity in art is relegated to the background. Contributions reconsider this aspect of expression by focusing on continuities, ruptures, specific artistic claims, and critical reactions to figural expression throughout the history of art.
3) Expression and Intention
Expression and intention are two fundamental and highly controversial concepts in art theory. They have been perceived historically as synonymous or complementary terms, as undermining each other, or as altogether untimely concepts. The section addresses their complex intertwining. Contributions will provide concrete case studies, art historiographical reflections, and new methodological approaches that foreground this interweaving.
Speakers: Laura Bruni, Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, Lisa Cornali, Larissa Dätwyler, Agniezska Dziki, Yannis Hadjinicolaou, Joseph Henry, Laura Indorato, Charles Palermo, Christian Scherrer, Paula Stoica, Barbara Stoltz
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