The Challenge of the Object

Well, here I am at the CIHA2012 Conference in Nuremberg.  With a title ‘The Challenge of the Object’, it instantly struck me that this might be something for me.  When I registered and applied for the Postgraduate Programme, I don’t think I’d really thought that this was an Art History Congress, more that it was about objects, and that’s what appealed, and that’s what my paper and poster are about. But in the months that ensued, I began worrying that I wasn’t really a real Art Historian – would that matter?  Would I understand the language of the ‘art historian tribe’?  Would they understand me and my perhaps unorthodox views on handling the physical stuff?  Do I belong here?

Well, after one day, I needn’t have worried.  I sat next to an interesting woman from S.Africa on the U-Bahn who I mentioned this to first thing, and she immediately extolled the virtues of interdisciplinarity.  Good.  Anyway, I am exhausted and bewildered, yes, but have heard some fantastic papers already…  So this morning, I attended the session on musealisation of objects – just my thing.  And I was really excited to hear Geraldine Johnson speak about sensory engagement with Renaissance Sculpture – actually handling, while eating, listening to music – that wondrous overload of sense experience.  And to have her still puzzling over why museums struggle with this was really inspiring too.  Following a short break, I then attended a few papers on religious objectifications.  In particular, I found Milada Studnickova’s paper about theological metaphor – looking particularly at exegesis and the symbolism of flies and spectacles.  Wonderful and stunningly illustrated with little medieval flies.  Interesting debates too about the scale of such flies, and the trompe l’oeil effects as actually being representative of the devil/sin – since they fool us into thinking that a fly really is on that page…

Lunch was brief as it was the postgrad poster launch at the same time, and I got embroiled in a really complex discussion about Hans Haacke with my next door neighbour poster exhibitor.  Super intelligent and well read – but made me think I need to read some Benjamin (and a whole load of other scary sounding things).  I then had a bit of a pause before going back to the Museums session, then escaped altogether to a fascinating but totally random (for me) talk on Matisse’s paper cut-outs and the copyright and design implications of his family estate then selling them on to family homes, museums etc as ceramic tiles, instead of the paper decorations they originally were…

Then I just had to escape as I am absolutely exhausted…  So back to nice quiet hotel for a brief sit down before the evening reception which I am now heading off towards…

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