Anti-Portraiture - 6th June 2013 Birkbeck College, University of London

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Birkbeck College, University of London

In the disciplines of art history and visual culture, the portrait is often understood as the depiction of a unique human subject. But what are the limits of portraiture? What can a portrait represent other than the visual or essential likeness of an individual or group?

This one-day conference aims to address non-traditional forms of portraiture and self-portraiture, and to explore the potential of the 'anti-portrait' for rethinking the boundaries of the genre. For the purposes of the conference we define the anti-portrait in the broadest possible terms as a work that simultaneously engages with and resists the conventional codes of portraiture.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

Portraits of non-human subject matter: sites, spaces, cities or historical periods

Non-visual portraits: music; sound installation; works which incorporate tactile or olfactory elements

Absence and the anti-portrait: works which evoke non-presence, through the use of traces,fragments or indexical references such as clothing, hair or other fragments

Psychoanalytic approaches to portraiture, based on models of subjectivity that emphasise incoherence or incompleteness.

Alternative portrait formats: object-based, sculptural or environmental assemblage

Non-western approaches to portraiture

Illness or injury and the anti-portrait: if serious illness constitutes a challenge to a coherent selfhood, what does that mean for visual representations of the sick subject?

Historical or theoretical approaches to portraiture that trouble the relationship between representation and referent

The intersections between portraiture and literary forms of subject-representation such as
autobiography or memoir.

We are delighted that the artist Dr Susan Morris has agreed to provide a keynote address. Morris uses scientific and medical technology to create striking visual images from data generated by her movements. Her work has been described by Margaret Iversen as revealing "the 'intermittence' of the self, its memory blanks and involuntary recollections, its fluctuating presence and absence."

Papers should be twenty minutes in length. We welcome proposals from early career academics, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students working in a range of disciplines, including art history, literature, cultural studies and film and media studies.

Please send a 250 word abstract and a copy of your CV to Kirstie Imber and Fiona Johnstone at by Friday 19th April.