'From the scenic essay to the essay-exhibition: expanding the essay form in the arts' - Conference April 27 - April 29 2022 (Ghent University, Belgium)

22 March, 2022 by Eva Van Daele | 0 comments

Conference - 'From the scenic essay to the essay-exhibition: expanding the essay form in the arts'

From April 27 to April 29 2022, Research Centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts & Media), Ghent University invites you to join 'From the scenic essay to the essay-exhibition)

Theme of the conference


More than 400 years after the publication of Michel De Montaigne’s leading Essais, the enduring afterlife of the essay form attests how this ‘heretical form’ (Adorno) not only continues to challenge the literary conventions but also transgresses the borders of the literary field to venture into other artistic disciplines. The genre of the essay film is the most prominent example of this dissemination but the expansion has set out in other fields as well. Art historian W.J.T. Mitchell introduced the notion of the ‘photographic essay’ and theatre scholar Hans Thies-Lehmann coined the ‘scenic essay’ as one of the constitutive elements of postdramatic theatre. In addition, the work of contemporary artists such as Ralph Lemon, Hito Steyerl, Thomas Bellinck, DECORATELIER and Oliver Zahn attest to a commitment to the essay form. More recently, the essay form has entered the curatorial field and the practice of exhibition-making as the ‘essay-exhibition’.


Engaging with this emerging prominence, the conference welcomes scholars and art practitioners to present their academic and/or artistic engagements with the essay form. Unlike the realm of literature and film, the essay form in the field of performing arts, visual arts and curatorial practices has received only modest attention. The goal of this three-day conference is to continue the mapping the essay form in these disciplines. By doing so, the conference aims to enrich the existing vocabulary of theatre and performance studies and aspires to resolve the hiatus between the existing theories on the essay. The conference’s emphasis on the essay form beyond the field of literature and film by no means that scholars or artists operating in these fields are not welcome. On the contrary, by assembling a wide variety of contemporary perspectives on the essay form this conference aspires to create a productive dialogue between more established fields of study on the essay and the new articulations presented during this gathering.


Keynote speakers


Frédérique Aït-Touati


Frédérique Aït-Touati is a historian of literature and modern science, a seventeenth century specialist, and a theatre director. She is a research fellow at the CNRS and a member of the Centre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. She conducted research on the use of fiction and narrative in astronomy in the seventeenth century, as well as the history of images and scientific instruments.  More recently, her research has focused on the narratives and aesthetics of the Anthropocene, particularly in theatre.


Ho Rui An


Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. Working primarily across the mediums of lecture, essay and film, he probes into the ways by which images are produced, circulate and disappear within contexts of globalism and governance.


Thijs Lijster


Thijs Lijster is assistant professor of philosophy of art and culture at the department of Arts, Culture and Media studies of the University of Groningen. In 2012 he received his PhD in philosophy (cum laude) at the University of Groningen, for a dissertation on Walter Benjamin’s and Theodor W. Adorno’s concepts of art criticism.


Ogutu Muraya


Ogutu Muraya is a writer and theatre-maker whose work is embedded in the practice of orature. He studied International Relations at USIU-Africa and graduated in 2016 with a Master in Arts at DAS Theatre in Amsterdam. His performative works and storytelling (Fractured Memory, On Thin Ice and Because I always feel like running) have featured in theatres and festivals across different countries.


Lauren Gabrielle Fournier

Lauren Gabrielle Fournier is a writer, artist-curator, and scholar whose work coheres around visual culture, philosophy, and multi-genre/hybrid genre writing. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto (2021), and received her PhD in English Literature from York University (2019). Her Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Writing, and Criticism (The MIT Press, 2021) is the first book-length study of “autotheory.”



Hannah Hurtzig


Hannah Hurtzig founded Mobile Akademie Berlin (MAB) in 1999, which has since then produced experimental academy models, architectures of knowledge and non-knowledge, essayistic installations and performances and analog and digital archive units. The MAB’s best-known format is the Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge, which has been performed over thirty times internationally since 2004. Since 2010, MAB, has been researching on ambitious forms of existence, the precarious areas between life and death and the milieu of the dead under the embrella of The Dead / The Undead and presented parts of this ongoing research in Hamburg, Lyon and Berlin.


More information about the program & registration: check out our website: https://www.ugent.be/lw/kunstwetenschappen/spam/en/activities/fromthescenicessaytotheessayexhibition






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