Call for Papers: Between Figure and Ground. Seeing in Premodernity

 

The terms “figure” and “ground” became fundamental to art critique and art historical scholarship over the course of the twentieth century. However, to what extent these dichotomies can describe premodern art and artifacts remains largely unquestioned. The international conference "Between Figure and Ground: Seeing in Premodernity" aims to critique and expand vocabularies used to describe, analyze, and interpret medieval and early modern pictures. The conference brings together art history, image theory (Bildwissenschaft), historiography, and methodological reflections. It offers the opportunity to productively revise anachronistic attachments to modernist paradigms. What can be seen and described between picture planes and pictorial spaces and thus between figure and ground?

We encourage proposals that critically engage images and textual sources.
Additional points of reference may be:

  • historiographical sources on early conceptualizations of “figure” and “ground”
  • historical (emic) language for “figure” and “ground”
  • written sources such as handbooks and technical manuals on medieval and early modern image-making
  • practices of concealing by means of metal covers and fabrics, screens and frames
  • emergences of figures: lines, contours, silhouettes, hatchings
  • emergences of grounds: “all-over” strategies, mimicry, camouflage
  • patterns, margins, ornaments
  • heraldry and heraldic rules
  • gold ground and gold leaf applications
  • came glasswork and stained glass
  • crossfading, obscurity, and functions of (depicted) light
  • transparencies and opacities
  • kippfiguren, anamorphoses, picture puzzles, and hidden faces (Vexierbilder)
  • negations and continuities: non-grounds and non-figures  

Please send your proposal (a short description of your paper, max 2 pages as a PDF) by December 22 to Saskia C. Quené, saskia.quene@unibas.ch Travel expenses (international or intercontinental flights), lodging, and meals will be covered. The conference is hosted by Saskia C. Quené (Basel/Bern) and Matteo Burioni (Munich) and made possible by the generous support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the University of Basel, the Ellen J. Beer-Foundation, the University of Bern and the Humboldt University of Berlin.