The Pedestal and its Mediations, Conference March 2-3 2012, University of Montreal

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Department of Comparative Literature, University of Montreal
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The Pedestal and its Mediations

Department of Comparative Literature, University of Montreal

The Department of Comparative Literature at University of Montreal 's annual conference will be held on March 2nd and 3rd. This event primarily aims at establishing a stimulating forum of discussion, drawing on interdisciplinarity, allowing the exchange between graduate students from diverse backgrounds. The conference will be devoted to the pedestal and the implications and problematics underlying this figure. Intermediary between the objet consecrated and its consecrators, the pedestal is the locus and the pretext of a singular mediation between the work of art and the world, the artist and his spectators, the writer and his readers.

The pedestal is first to be understood in its technical sense as the plinth of a statue, thus a support participating in the artwork while standing at its boundary. It is equally understood following the lines of Jacques Derrida's La Vérité en Peinture (1968) as a parergon, that is to say a device which, by grafting itself to the artwork, also determines its unity, its integrity, or even its legitimacy. It is a margin of the work that not only enables the exegetic commentary, but calls for it.

Operating between ostentation and dissimulation, we will consider the pedestal as a limit of representation; that which delineates, circumscribes, borders and extends the work of art; that which founds and stabilize it. If the pedestal exhibits what is extolled, it implies also a certain distanciation. In other words, the pedestal is both what makes available and what drives out of reach. It is a scene which invites to participate in disguise and deceit, leading to a certain masquerade. In this sense, the figure of the pedestal allows us to think the staging modalities and strategies of the creator and his work.

With regard to the continuous movement of secularisation affecting the work of art, the crossing of advertising and fine arts, of art and non-art, it is necessary to think the role of the pedestal ; whether it participates in the idealization of the artist or his disparagement. However, it appears important to question the resonances of the expression "to put on a pedestal" in diverse contexts since to consecrate is a gesture which differs according to eras and artistic mediums. Borrowed from architecture, this term will thus need a rethinking according to its literary, aesthetic and philosophical implications. May the pedestal do justice to the work he consecrates? When is it simple duplicity? How to distinguish the pedestal from the work of art itself?

Several lines of inquiry are to be considered, including:

Visibility of media presentation devices in visual arts; their impact on the reception and the conception of different artworks.

Media and mediations between art and audience: distribution and critical views of works, press and publicity.

Erecting its own pedestal: self-staging, auto-fiction and self-promotion of the artist, the writer, the filmmaker...

The recognition of the work of art or the artist, its institutionalization: the pedestal as a seal of authenticity.

The frontiers of the work: relations and confrontations between art and non-art.

Consecration and worship: aura, "sacralisation" and fetishism of the artwork and the artist.

Consecration as a masquerade: parade and parody of the work of art and the artist, irony and the establishment of the pedestal.

The graduate students of all disciplines are invited to submit their proposals – up to a maximum of 300 words – to the following e-mail address:, before December 20th 2011.