Collections, Displays & the Agency of Objects, Keynes Library, Cambridge, 20-23 September
How do objects enter language? How can they be addressed, become significant, or even expressive? Within the field of cultural studies, discussions of these questions currently tend towards two dominant approaches: either objects are regarded as requiring interpretation by a subject, i.e. as signs relating to an encompassing language system, or they are attributed the status of eloquent agents in their own right.
This conference proposes a third approach with a different starting point: not the objects or subjects, but a situation – the exhibition of objects. As such, this approach deals with artefacts’ framing devices, and the ways in which they enable the objects to be addressed, to act on viewers, or even to speak. It aims to study individual cases of the agency of the frame, the showcase or the pedestal, in order to rethink the relations that exist between objects and their agency in exhibition contexts.
Organized by the Department of Art History in Cambridge and the research program ‘Parerga and Paratexts – How Things Enter Language. Practices and Forms of Presentation in Goethe’s Collections at the Department of Art History at the University of Bielefeld, this conference will bring together for the first time scholars from the history of art, religion and science, archaeology, and museum studies, to consider the agency of the frame in all possible varieties.
The conference will be held at the Keynes Library, The Cambridge Union Society, 9a Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UB.