Call for Texts and Papers

Laboratory: Methods of Interart Studies

Berlin, November 16 - 18, 2009


The Joint Symposium Laboratory: Methods of Interart Studies, organised by the International Research Training Group “Interart Studies” at the Freie Universität Berlin, will take place from November 16 - 18, 2009 in Berlin. Other participating institutions will be the Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies, Literature, and the Arts, and the Goldsmiths College, London.

The Symposium will focus on methodological problems of interart studies. Its title Laboratory refers to the two diverging aspects of any research in this field, the experimental and the laborious. Interart phenomena constitute a new and largely unexplored territory. In order to explore the field, to develop methods of research and to create adequate theoretical instruments, any researcher must advance with both, caution and audacity. Therefore, the different workshops composing this Symposium will fall under two general headings, “Concept Laboratory” and “Close Reading”.

In the workshops “Staging Current Interart-Aesthetics – Theoretical and Artistic Positions” and “Metaphors in Aesthetic Theory”, participants will focus on the circumscription, creation and probing of new conceptual instruments. In the workshops “Problems of Translation”, “Classics Revisited” and “On the Horizon”, participants will be asked to read and discuss theoretical texts in detail.

The symposium is conceived as a workshop focusing on discussion to enable an extensive academic exchange between participants of the partner institutions involved. It shall stimulate engagement with various topics that researchers of interart encounter in their daily work. In favour of dialogue between the participants of the different workshops, the symposium will not revert to the otherwise common approach of individual lectures but will ask participants to propose, read and prepare precirculated texts.

Participants are invited to submit a proposal before October 1, 2009 either via email to or via regular mail to the address above. The proposal (of max. 250 words) should suggest

  • either an appropriate theoretical text to be discussed within the respective workshop, including precise questions, hypotheses and ideas that can be taken up during the discussion
  • or, alternatively, a paper.

Both, theoretical reference texts and papers, will be precirculated to all participants of the respective workshop and should be submitted before October 15, 2009.

Please note that only workshops with a sufficient number of proposals submitted will actually be organised. If there are too few proposals for a workshop, the proposals will be redistributed to other workshops in accordance with the proposer.


I. Concept Laboratory: Staging Current Interart-Aesthetics – Theoretical and Artistic Positions

Pluri-medial performances with their different interart-aesthetics are a central field of research as well as a methodical challenge within current interart research. So far, academic approaches to the relation of the arts predominantly ranged between the discursive poles of the paragonal battle of genres (Paragone), media competition and dominance formation on the one hand, and concepts of art fusion like the Wagnerian “Gesamtkunstwerk” on the other hand. The debate about intermediality rooted in media theory and literary studies offers another perspective.

The workshop’s goal is to create a discussion reaching beyond these positions, to define criteria that can be used to analyse pluri-medial performances and corresponding interart-aesthetics. Artistic strategies, staging and dramaturgical practices will be explored in regard to their interartistic/interart-aesthetic dimensions by using specific examples. In addition, the workshop will examine theoretical terms that focus on the relation between aesthetic experience and e.g. the factors space and time within artistic interart practices. This includes the question on whether and how fundamental transitions within the relation between mimesis, poiesis and aisthesis (Rancière) occur in current interart practices, challenging common modes of perception.

Participants are asked either to discuss empirical material based on pluri-medial performance research and related methodological problems of analysis or to introduce relevant theoretical concepts/texts.

Literature: Juliane Rebentisch, Ästhetik der Installation (2003); Erika Fischer-Lichte, Interart-Ästhetiken, in: Renate Brosch (Hg.), Ikono/Philo/Logie: Wechselspiele von Texten und Bildern, Bd. 2 (2004), S.25-41 (an English version of this article is expected to be available in September 2009); Freda Chapple/Chiel Kattenbelt: Intermediality in Theatre and Performance (2006); Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents (2009).


II. Concept Laboratory: Metaphors in Aesthetic Theory

Metaphors have recently known an immense revaluation in disciplines like cognitive studies and philosophy. This is not only based on the appreciation of the productive potential of metaphors for philosophical thinking but also on the assessment that human cognition is fundamentally metaphorical. Such approaches share the estimation that metaphors are intrinsically irreplaceable/ untranslatable by non-metaphorical terms. In contrast, the role of meta¬phors in describing works of art and in building aesthetic theories still remains largely unexplored although one can easily acknowledge the importance metaphors have here. What kind of metaphors have been and what kind are currently successful and predominant in academic research on art? What makes them both productive and appealing for a large community of researchers? Where do such metaphors emerge from? And most importantly, which new meta¬phors could be developed in order to react more adequately to specific interart phenomena?


III. Close Reading: Problems of Translation

Foucault wrote in French, Benjamin in German. The lingua franca of the international academic world is English. Though scholars are expected to be able to converse and read in several languages, in many cases in their everyday research, they (must) rely on translations. What problems arise with translated theories? How do specific concepts shift their meanings and connotations when they are transferred to another language? Are some debates merely based on a misunderstanding across language borders? How can we follow and integrate academic debates in languages like e.g. Russian, Chinese or Japanese into our research? In this workshop, participants are asked to propose and discuss specific concepts or texts with which they have encountered these or related problems of translation.


IV. Close Reading: Classics Revisited

Some theoretical texts have become so canonical that they are buried under a thick layer of dust. We take it for granted that we have exhausted them in our interpretation, that we have grasped them in all of their details. But exegesis never ends. Some texts might be worth revisiting. Some texts might merit a second look. Also, even with famous theorists, there are always minor, not so well-known texts that tend to be neglected and underestimated.


V. Close Reading: On the Horizon

This section sets out to discuss the latest theories and concepts. What discoveries of new theorists have the participants made lately? What as yet unknown texts promise to become future classics in arts and humanity studies?