CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

CFP: Visuality and Virtuality – Annual ANKK Conference (Vienna, 24-26 October 2024)

The annual meeting of the ANKK (Arbeitskreis Niederländische Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte) will take place from 24-26 October 2024 in Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Art History of the University of Vienna (co-organizer Sandra Hindriks) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, where the exhibition Rembrandt— Hoogstraten: Color and Illusion will be on display at the same time.

Deadline for submissions is 29 February 2024. Please see the call below for more information.

Visuality and Virtuality: Describing (In)Visibilities of Netherlandish Art

Exactly 40 years ago, the publication of Svetlana Alpers’s book The Art of Describing (1983) sparked a methodological dispute that challenged, shaped and revitalized scholarship in Netherlandish art and beyond. At the time, Alpers’s criticism was directed against the prevailing iconography, which relied on the authority of historical text sources and sought to discern the significance of Netherlandish works primarily behind their realistic appearance. The American art historian, by contrast, called for the meaning of the pictures to be sought in the design of the picture surface, i.e. »in what the eye can take in—however deceptive that might be«. For her, the uniqueness of Dutch painting was rooted in its affinity for the visible and the sensitivity with which it is able to describe visual experience.

Alpers has opened up new interdisciplinary paths and perspectives for research by understanding seventeenth-century painting production as part of a specifically Dutch visual culture in which images made an active, independent contribution to science and knowledge, among other things. 40 years later, art history, Bildwissenschaft and visual culture studies have not only filled the gap identified by Alpers, but have also criticized her position, located it historically and made it the starting point for new questions: Our understanding and awareness are now sharpened for the fact that seeing as well as any kind of giving-to-see are shaped—consciously or unconsciously—by culturally generated ideas and political conditions. Thus, Alpers’s critique of the dominance of iconography has itself been followed by a critique of the blind spots created by the accentuation of the empirical gaze in The Art of Describing. In programmatic terms, Alpers placed too much emphasis on the visual production of knowledge and documentation (not least of cartography) and therefore contextualized art too strongly in the service of »objectivity«. This focus, meanwhile, made it easy to lose sight of the constructedness and historicity of cultural parameters.

In other words: Images, objects, buildings, parks etc. are means of visualization and influence as well as reflection and action. At the same time, visual artifacts are also powerful means of concealing, hiding and overlooking—creating worlds with their own laws. Equally important as to what works of art visualize is therefore what they do not show and do not make virtually accessible. Precisely because images make use of a supposedly descriptive mode and the greatest possible degree of visual evidence, they attempt to convince us of the naturalness of the implicit ideas and often political assumptions in which they are embedded. For this reason, the ANKK Annual Meeting 2024 aims to focus on the (in)visibilities of Netherlandish art.

We welcome contributions that critically review the visual cultures of the Netherlands and neighboring areas 40 years after the publication of Svetlana Alpers’s The Art of Describing. Methodological and historiographical contributions are equally welcome as are studies that refocus questions of visuality and virtuality between the Middle Ages and the present. The following and other questions could be addressed, but are not limited to:

  • Political (in)visibilities: What role did images, objects and architecture play in the visualization and production of power? And what role did they play in processes of marginalization, suppression and forgetting? What visual strategies were used to give normative weight to invisible boundaries and implicit hierarchies?
  • Technical (in)visibilities: Which technical processes were used to shift the boundaries of the visible? Which artistic techniques were suitable for thematizing visual experience and the pitfalls of virtual worlds? What (implicit) assumptions and prejudices could be associated with individual techniques?
  • Material (in)visibilities: What functions did the specific materials of artworks serve in their creation of virtuality? What alternative descriptions did material and other non-visual properties of artworks provide? And in which constellations were these alternatives overlapped by the normativity of the visual?
  • Epistemic (in)visibilities: What visual and other strategies were used to lend evidence to images, objects, and spaces? What role did visuality play in processes of knowledge transfer? How did works of art problematize the limits of (visually acquired) knowledge? And what assumptions could be implicitly inscribed in media of visual objectification?
  • Ecological (in)visibilities: How did artistic descriptions of the visible promote (pre-)modern forms of ecological sensitivity? Which alternative ecologies have been overwritten, perpetuated or designed by depictions of landscapes, plants and animals? And to what extent have visual media not only participated in the progress of knowledge, but also promoted the dichotomy of culture and nature and thus contributed to the ecological crises of our time?
  • Art-historiographical (in)visibilities: Which blind spots can be identified in the examination of Dutch and Flemish art from an art historiographical perspective? Which (in)visibilities have shaped art historical research on visuality and virtuality?

Call for Workshops

As part of the annual meeting, parallel workshops will provide an opportunity to examine the rich holdings of Netherlandish art in the Viennese collections. We ask for suggestions for workshops that may or may not be related to the conference theme. Possible venues for workshops would be the Albertina (Studiensaal), the Kunstsammlungen der Akademie der bildenden Künste (Gemäldegalerie, Kupferstichkabinett), the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (permanent exhibition Gemäldegalerie and Kunstkammer) or the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Sammlung Handschriften und Alte Drucke). Suggestions for workshops at locations other than those mentioned are also welcome! The feasibility of the proposals will be checked by the organization team in consultation with the curators of the collections after submission or upon selection. We therefore ask for as specific information as possible about the collection objects that are intended to be the focus of the workshops, the technical equipment required, the intended group size, etc.

Call for Posters

The annual meeting will also feature a poster section. This additional format is intended to provide Master and PhD students, early career researchers and established researchers with a space for information and exchange on current or recently completed research projects. A focus on the conference topic is welcomed, but not required.

The annual meeting will take place from 24 to 26 October 2024 in cooperation with the Department of Art History of the University of Vienna (co-organizer Sandra Hindriks) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, where the exhibition Rembrandt—Hoogstraten: Colour and Illusion will be on display at the same time. Participation requires ANKK membership or a conference fee of EUR 40 (or a reduced fee of EUR 20 for people with a low income due to doctoral studies, voluntary work or similar). Travel expenses cannot be refunded. Please submit short CVs and abstracts of no more than 500 words for a 20–30–minute presentation, a workshop of no more than 90 minutes or a poster.

We look forward to receiving submissions by 29 February 2024 to the following address: