Art Out of Place: shifting contexts, contested meanings



Members of the Doctoral and Early Career Researcher’s Committee, Jess Bailey, Nikki Kane, and Sonny Ruggiero are delighted to bring you ‘Art Out of Place’, the Association for Art History’s 2023 Summer Symposium. Held at the Glasgow Women’s Library, an archive, museum, and grassroots community research space in Scotland, this gathering will bring together a group of emerging researchers thinking critically about the relationship between context and meaning. Amplifying current PhD and early career researchers working in fields across visual and material culture studies, each of the symposium’s speakers will focus on a primary artwork or object from their research, sharing how changes in context, use, and interpretation impact our wider study of visual and material culture. What are the specific stakes for an artwork or object’s meaning when it changes contexts?

Artworks change context. They live complex lives beyond their immediate moment of production. An artwork’s meaning is often contested across this reception history. Have you encountered an artwork or object of visual and material culture in your research that has lived many lives, while challenging the interpretive frameworks of art history? This symposium offers an opportunity to examine these objects and questions in detail.

As art historians and researchers of visual and material culture, our own viewership and writing form yet another moment in an object’s reception history. Focusing on the biographies of objects as they move across sometimes vast amounts of time and space, often with acute cultural and political ramifications, also invites consideration of our own positionality. In bringing together a group of researchers and their primary objects of study, this symposium will ask what methods can help us in the face of shifting contexts and contested meanings.

A catered lunch/coffee is included for all attendees.


10.30 – 12.00 | Panel 1 – Subverting Art Historical Expectations Through Object Biographies

Chair: Jess Bailey

Maria Metoikidou, ‘Unravelling the Biography of a Sueki  Cup from the Gregorios Manos Collection: Aspects of Mobility’

Lavinia Amenduni, ‘The decontextualising word: a Chinese base relief between Greek sculpture and Sienese Fresco’

Baylee Woodley, ‘”Old Paper—no value”‘

Elsa Perryman Owens, ‘Temporal Infractions: Shattered window glass from the Great Fire of London (1666)’

12.00 – 13.30 | Lunch Break

13.30 – 15.00 | Panel 2 – Understanding Art Historical Context Through Methodologies of Gender

Chair: Sonny Ruggiero

Tori Champion, ‘Feminist Fabula: Interpretive Subversion in an Eighteenth-Century Watercolour’

Naomi Polonsky, ‘Forms in space’: situating and interpreting Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Ascending Form (Gloria)’

Struan Kennedy, ‘Is he Catholic or Protestant?’ Cú Chulainn: the Ultimate Poster Boy’

Lucy Howie, ‘The Surrealist Art Object in Jacqui Duckworth’s “A Prayer Before Birth”‘

15.00 – 15.15 | Coffee Break

15.15 – 16.45 | Panel 3 – Reshaping Art Historical Memory Through Decoloniality |

Chair: Nikki Kane

Cai Lyons, ‘In the manner of a (white) woman? Gender and Racial Identity in Mary Swanzy’s “Nude Study, Samoa”‘

Bea Gassmann de Sousa, ‘The Past in the Present: Ben Enwonwu’s Memento Mori for a lost culture’

Dylan Volk, ‘Historicity, Remembrance, and Ethics of Restoration in Shu Lea Cheang’s Brandon’

Maria Howard, ‘Column as anachronism’

16.45 – 17.00 | Comfort Break

17:00 – 18:00 | Keynote – George Emeka Agbo, The University of Edinburgh, ‘Re-interpreting Colonial Artefacts in Local Nigerian Communities’

‘The colonial artefacts are integrated into complex local politics, encompassing issues of identity, community, and family histories. They play a significant role in establishing a sense of rootedness within the community and are deployed as means of reclaiming the past, which was originally lost to colonialism. These new meanings emerge as the artefacts get reproduced and transformed through artistic engagement with them’.

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