Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing


organized by Olga Bush and Avinoam Shalem

Art history as a discipline has focused on vision as the main tool for gathering knowledge. With the coining of the term "Iconic Turn" and the establishment of the field of visual studies within art history departments, a shift occurred in scholarly interests. Various directions were undertaken, such as investigations in bio-neuro system of the gaze and its interaction with the body; the mechanics of instruments that enhance visuality; and the methods for the rendition of the phenomenological world into aesthetic expressions and imagery. The history of art history can be re-named as the history of gazing. But these new areas share basic Western conceptions of the gaze with more traditional approaches to art history (e.g., the scientific, philosophical and artistic dimensions of Renaissance perspective), which have thus been imported into the study of Islamic art.

This conference aims at examining the gaze and the aesthetic experience of the beholder as they are constructed, depicted and theorized within the culture-specific frameworks pertinent to the field of Islamic studies, through approaches developed in the fields of art history, visual culture and anthropology. Within the broader categories of the functions, constructions and limits of the gaze, we intend to explore, among others, the following topics:

- Astonishment, the overwhelming of the eye at the first encounter with an object, and the embodiment of vision at interface with multisensory experience;

- The empirical eye as a scientific tool and its impact on the artist's perception and production, and as a concept in the historiography of the phenomenon of sight and the acquisition of knowledge;

- Directing the gaze in its various constructions, including political, social and gender manipulations;

- The mind's eye and the supra-image in imagination, fantasy and dreams; the poetic tropes of the image making;

- Visualizing the invisible, concealing and revealing in the expressions of the sacred and of the mundane;

- Repositioning the gaze in the colonial and postcolonial discourse.

With these goals in mind we hope to reconsider the role of the gaze in the study of Islamic art.

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
Photothek - Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze
Dott.ssa Ester Fasino  
Telefon:+39 055 24911-49

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