Thursday, 3 March 2011

CFP - 'History and the Image', Tate Modern, November 2011

A call for papers has been launched for a 'History and the Image', a conference arising out of the Colonial Cinema project ( to take place at the Tate Modern on November 17th-19th 2011.

Details and CFP below:

Although the privilege of the photographic or filmic image as the crucible of special kinds of truth has long been appreciated, the nature and quality of this privilege has received relatively little attention.
We know that films and photographs can record the past with all the accuracy particular to the medium, and from them we can identify a face, witness an event, or confirm a location. The personal photo album, the family 8mm film, the pictures saved to the hard drive – all of these recall to us events, people and places which start to distance themselves in time as soon as the shutter clicks.

But as passing time makes the moments captured on camera ever more remote from us, so their messages become increasingly general and indistinct, and the ways that they can be read and understood begins to multiply. The photographic past can be mined for more than historical evidence and verification, and can provide more than documentary confirmation. Recorded images can be strategically deployed to provide pathways to broader historical truths, and films and photographs can be pressed into giving up startling and original testimony about the time and place of their creation. The editor of the compilation film, the interrogator of the photographic archive, the film-maker working with historical footage – all are engaged in complex and nuanced encounters with the concrete material of the past. In these encounters, the film or photographic image can function as more than the illustration of a written history or the demonstration of a historical thesis, and become the bearer of vital and powerful revelations about the past.

In the hands of artists and film-makers, the capacity of the visual image to act as a medium of thought and analysis offers a challenge and an opportunity to the historian or cultural critic. From Shub’s defining /Fall of the Romanovs/ to Monnikendam’s 1995 /Mother Dao, the Turtlelike/, the compilation film has enabled the historical image to speak with multivalent eloquence about the circumstances of its creation. Such films may be seen as siblings to the photomontage of Heartfield or Hoch, the transformative approach to documentary evidence found in Benjamin’s incomplete /Arcades/ project, or the vertiginous historical awareness of W. G. Sebald. In the digital age the fundamental technology of the compilation film is available to a broader public than ever before, and as the photoshopped picture or youtube film montage becomes a standard method of public response to the visual image, a powerful modernist visual language can be seen to have passed into the demotic. At the same time, the novel quality of the creation and consumption of digital images presents a renewed challenge to those who hope to map the pathways through which images both join and help re-channel the currents of history.

This conference aims to examine the terms of engagement between history and the recorded image, and hopes to examine the relative status of interventions in archival collections when made respectively by artists and historians. We welcome contributors from across the disciplines as we hope investigate and elucidate the unique capacity of the recorded image to illuminate and enrich our understanding of history. We especially welcome contributions from historians, and seek submissions on such topics as the historical interpretation of the photographic image; the critical re-reading of historical events via film and photography; art and film in the archive; compilation film-making in relation to contemporary historical events; the montage as a means of politicising of the photographic and film image, and related subjects that address the problematic interpretative depth that can be projected into the indexical or digital film or photographic image.

‘History and the Image’ will take place between 17-19 November, 2011 at Tate Modern, London. It is organized by Tate ( in conjunction with the London Consortium (, and is timed to coincide with the official launch of the Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire project (

There will be a gala screening in the evening of Thursday 17th November. Confirmed participants include Filipa Cesar; Lee Grieveson (UCL); Isaac Julien (; Colin MacCabe (Pittsburgh University/ Birkbeck College); Laura Mulvey (Birkbeck College); Michael Renov (University of Southern California); Patrik Sjoberg (Karlstad University).

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