CFP: Association of Art Historians Session: Walter Benjamin (UK) (11/11/05; 4/6/06-4/8/06)

full name / name of organization: 
P. Allmer & J. Sears
contact email: 


CFP: Academic Session: "A Tremendous Shattering of Tradition":
Reconsidering Walter Benjamin's 'The Work of Art in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction'

(AAH Annual Conference, University of Leeds, UK, 4/6/2006 - 4/8/2006)

Session convenors: Patricia Allmer, Loughborough University School of
Art and Design, Epinal Way, Loughborough LE11 3TU,

John Sears, Manchester Metropolitan University (Cheshire),
Interdisciplinary Studies, Hassall Road, Alsager ST7 2HL,

Session Abstract:

This session will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of
Walter Benjamin's seminal essay 'Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner
technischen Reproduzierbarkeit', translated into English by Harry Zohn
in 1968 (year of revolutionary discontent) as 'The Work of Art in the
Age of Mechanical Reproduction'.

In 1936 the essay offered a challenge not only to Fascist appropriations
of art, but also to conventional Marxist aesthetics as well as to
phenomenological theorisations of art - witness its problematic
reception by Adorno and others, its expressed discontent with what it
sees as depoliticised modes of aesthetic engagement, and its analysis of
"a world without aura" (Rodolphe Gasch=E9). These challenges are
repeated in different ways in the essay's influence on the turbulent
intellectual scene of the late 1960s. It has contributed significantly
to the development of both Marxist and postmodernist theorisations of
culture, as well as to the ongoing art-historical reassessment of the
art work and its roles in contemporary media-dominated societies. In
short, Benjamin's essay constitutes a major, if continually contested,
contribution to debates about modernism and postmodernism that retain
their currency in the age of digital reproduction, "a period when
politics as spectacle has become a commonplace in our televisual world",
as Susan Buck-Morss argues.

The essay's perennial appeal to discontented Marxist and other modes of
reading modern and postmodern art may constitute one line of enquiry.
Papers are also sought that will explore the essay's continuing
significance for contemporary theories, practices and histories of art.
The essay has exerted a profound influence on the work of key theorists
(eg October) and practitioners (Warhol, Burgin, Sherman); papers may
wish to explore or assess aspects or examples of this influence. Other
topics might include Benjamin's notions of the aura of the art work, of
originality, of reproduction; changes in the significance for art
history of mechanical and other forms of reproduction; the implications
and consequences of accommodating photography and film (Benjamin's
exemplary modern media) within the configurations of art historical
practice, and the essay's contribution to current debates about inter-
and trans-disciplinarity (the 'contents' of the discipline of art
history); the essay-form itself as exemplifying politicised,
interventionist aesthetic practices of modernist and postmodernist
malcontents; the essay itself considered as a work of art, enacting its
own arguments in fragmentary, inconsistent forms; and considerations of
the various publication contexts and initial critical receptions of and
responses to Benjamin's essay.

Papers are invited that address these and other topics in relation to
reconsiderations of Benjamin's essay.

Details for Submission of Proposals:

Papers must not exceed 30 minutes. Please email a 200 word abstract to
the session convenors before the 11th November 2005. Include the title
of your paper, your full name and contact details and institutional
affiliation (if applicable).

Please note that the call for papers for all the conference sessions
will be published in the June edition of the AAH Bulletin and at the AAH

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Received on Tue May 03 2005 - 21:22:42 EDT