Portraiture in Digital Culture

Session Convenors: 

Fiona Johnstone (University of Warwick) Fiona.johnstone@warwick.ac.uk

Scott Wark (University of Warwick) s.wark@warwick.ac.uk

Please email your paper proposal to the session convenors using the Paper Proposal Form


Digital culture – defined here as the omnipresence of digital technologies in every aspect of our lives – is rapidly producing new configurations of subjectivities and selves.

Historically, developments in portraiture have been closely tied to shifting notions of personhood. The genre has been crucial to the articulation of the modern western subject as a unique, coherent, and self-determining individual (Woodall, 1997), whilst challenges to figurative portraiture made by the artistic avant-garde from the early 20th-century onwards can be understood as part of a drive to dismantle an outmoded concept of ‘humanist bourgeois subjectivity’ (Buchloh, 1994).

This session invites papers that explore how portraiture is responding to emerging conceptions of subjectivity and personhood generated by our contemporary digital condition. The digitalisation of culture has led contemporary artists to experiment with innovative new modes of portrait-making (Johnstone & Imber, 2019); this session actively seeks papers that address portraiture in its most expanded sense.

There is a considerable literature on social media and self-representation, particularly the selfie, but what other forms might digital (self-)representation take, and how else might the connections between digitality, subjectivity, and portraiture be conceptualised? For example, how has portraiture responded to the datafication of the human? The ‘digital subject’ (Goriunova, 2018) or ‘shadow self’ produced by recommender systems and other techniques of online personalisation exists in a recursive relation with the living self; what might contemporary art practices reveal about this relationship? How have artists experimented with self-tracking devices, ‘data selfie’ apps, facial recognition software, or health and/or ancestry testing services? How can concepts such as ‘likeness’ or ‘indexicality’, which have been central to discourse about portraiture, be reconceived in the context of digital culture?

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenors above, using the Paper Proposal Form

You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019

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