Declinations of Risk: An Archeology of Aesthetic-Literary Imaginaries from the 20th Century to the Present

deadline for submissions: 
December 20, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Centro Studi Arti della Modernità

Declinations of Risk

An Archeology of Aesthetic-Literary Imaginaries from the 20th Century to the Present

28-30 March 2022, University of Turin


Organised by: Department of Humanities, University of Turin in collaboration with the ANR Project ALEA


Despite its centrality in a wide range of disciplines - from mathematics to physics through economics and social sciences - the concept of risk, a crucial element in post-industrial societies that have emerged from the modernisation process (Beck, 1986), has so far received little attention in the humanities. One speaks about risk when a project is commensurate with possible adverse events that could threaten the integrity or safety of individuals, companies, systems or organisations. Thus risk implies the possibility of the unexpected, the existence of some uncertainty about the future and the question of how to manage it (by calculating probabilities, inventing anticipatory narratives, etc.).


The conference, to be held from 28 to 30 March 2022 in Turin, aims to show the presence and relevance of the concept of risk in literature and art throughout the European 20th century up to contemporary times. We would like to understand how risk is involved in artistic and literary practices, allowing us to shape not only new social practices and lifestyles, but also new forms of planning, rationality, and care for the world. Indeed, risk may appear as the way a project (rational or, more generally, of configuring the world) is challenged by the hypothesis of its possible failure. We will thus ask ourselves what remains, in the valuations and devaluations of the risk in the art and the literature of the twentieth century, of a humanist definition of arts still coherent with a rational project.

Based on these premises, the conference will investigate the following objects:

1- the artistic, literary, musical works, etc., that bring into play representations or realisations of risk from the avant-garde of the early 20th century in Europe up to contemporary times and the aesthetic questions about the Anthropocene (Logé, 2019), the "Capitalocene" (Bourriaud, 2017) or the Post-Futurism (Berardi, 2013);

2 - discourses on literary, musical, artistic works, etc., which directly or indirectly focus on representations or implementations of risk;

3 - theoretical discourses from other fields (philosophy, science, sociology, anthropology, linguistics) that explicitly serve as a reference for the above-mentioned discourses on the artwork or constitute their implicit context.


The aim of the conference is to sketch a History of the ideas and themes of risk from the 20th century to the present day by bringing out the mechanisms of constitution of imaginaries and theoretical complexes related to risk.


The scientific committee of the conference will consider communication proposals that fit into the following axes.


a. How has the common idea, born in the 19th century, according to which there is an isomorphism between art and risk, evolved over the 20th century? It seems that in the 20th century the idea that a work of art can or should be defined through notions such as rupture, innovation and surprise (Benjamin, 2012) took shape and consistency, as if an artistic or literary experience were unthinkable without an openness to risk. Is it possible to historicize this notion by placing it within the aesthetic possibilities with and against which it developed? Which rhetorical narratives reflect the isomorphy in question (think of mythobiographies or biopics)?

b.  How to define the contextual situation of risk valorization discourses? How do valorizations of risk in the artistic sphere reflect discourses dealing with risk outside the aesthetic sphere? How do these valuations echo historical events and discourses on history that do or do not underline the possibility of an inevitable end? What ethical and political posture of creator, critic and theorist emerges depending on whether or not one adheres to this or that valorization or devaluation of risk in the artistic field (Jullien, 2018)? Is there a link between aesthetic practices of risk and revolutionary theories or, on the contrary, can these practices be articulated with certain fiercely conservative positions?

c. How is the hypothesis of failure ( which defines risk) articulated in the critical discourse? What is the function of this hypothesis (Le Breton proposes to consider risk as a way of "pallier un sentiment de perte de sens et d'identité")? Does the recognition of the possibility of failure allow for the emergence, by contrast, of new definitions of art at a time when its traditional definitions are in crisis (T. Macrì, 2017)? What are the criteria for a possible failure? What do they imply about the eventual success of the work?


Proposals of about 250 words may be submitted to convenors through by 20 December 2021, together with a bio-bibliographical profile. Proposals will be read and evaluated by 10 January 2022. The time of delivery for each paper should be no more than 20 minutes.


ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: Emanuele Arielli, Alessandro Bertinetto, Franca Bruera, Pietro Cavallotti, Franca Franchi, Andrea Malvano, Valeria Marino, Benoît Monginot, Nicola Perullo, Armando Petrini, Valeria Sperti

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE: Olivier Caïra, Paola Cattani, Gaetano Chiurazzi, Laurent Demanze, Anne Duprat, Roberto Gilodi, Alison James, Valerio Magrelli, Alessandro Pontremoli