CFP: “The Protest Image”. Contesting Powers in Visual Culture, 19th, 20th and 21st Century. Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 13 May 2015

From the beginnings of lithography in Germany in 1796, to the invention of cinema in 1895, from the rise of colour television in the sixties to the digital revolution of the 2000s, the modern era has been, more than any other era before it, that of the fixed and moving image. Born with the construction of nation-states and developed in the wake of totalitarianisms and ideological struggles, this diverse image culture, fraught with political implications, deserves critical attention. If the link between image and propaganda has long been established and studied extensively, the characteristics, forms and implications of protest images “as omnipresent as they are (…) remain little studied by specialists of collective actions”, as researcher Alexandre Dezé recently pointed out. The omnipresence of images in our societies indeed raises questions about their propensity to spread messages which are explicitly or implicitly subversive, and which criticise a certain form of power or specific aspects of a society. As the very notion of protest itself is flexible and varies depending on the time and place in which the term is used, its semantic ambiguities must also be considered. This workshop will focus on the image as a space where power, in its broadest sense, can be contested. We define power as a person or a group of persons enjoying direct or indirect authority over something or somebody. As we wish to confront the use and forms of protest images, we have chosen not to restrict our field of study to the western world and will welcome proposals focusing on different geographical regions.

For the purposes of this conference, we distinguish different types of protest images: those capturing or reproducing an event or an action born as an act of protest, like the manipulated photographs of the Paris Commune in 1871, Marc Riboud’s La jeune fille à la fleur (1967), or Jeff Widener’s Tiananmen Square (1989); those denouncing the abuse of power, like Daumier’s Le Massacre de la rue Transnonain (1834); the ones showing a person or a group staged as an icon of protest – well known examples would be Gavrilo Princip, Che Guevara and Martin Luther King or, more recently, Pussy Riot; and on the contrary images satirising those in power like in Plantu’s cartoons; finally those that could be qualified as original images, intrinsically protesting, like the provocative paintings of Belgian artist Félicien Rops, the graffiti of British street artist Banksy, the photographs of Chinese artist Liu Boilin, the cinematographic movements like the British Angry Young Men or the Yugoslav Black Wave, and more recently the films by Iranian cineaste Jafar Panahi and by American Michael Moore, or the posters promoting actions of movements like the student protests of ‘68 or Occupy Wall Street. The process behind the inclusion of these images in our cultural heritage raises important questions: how does a protest image turn into an artwork, a museum piece? How does the conservation of these images, many of them ephemeral owing to their medium or their channel of distribution (i.e. graffiti), contribute to the work losing its voice of protest? And eventually what becomes of protest images once they have been recuperated by mainstream culture? In order to focus on the study of the image as a visual representation, we choose to exclude studies of the image as a mental representation. Without limiting our field of interest to the following, proposals emanating from doctoral candidates and young researchers on cinema (fiction or documentary), photography, press drawings, caricature, engraving, painting, posters (advertisement), comics, but also graffiti, or even video games, are particularly encouraged.

This workshop is organised in partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

We accept proposals in French and English.

• Forms and medium of the protest image.
• Producers, places of creation.
• Modalities and places of exhibition, reception, conservation.

Sophie Croisy, Anne-Julie Etter, Sandrine Ferré-Rode, Jean-Charles Geslot, Caroline Moine, Dominique Versavel, Jean-Claude Yon.

Anne-Claire Bondon, Dunja Jelenkovic, Philipp Leu, Flora Ngando.
Johanna Amar, Maxime Ambrosino.

• Proposals returned: February 1st 2015.
• Feedback to authors: between March 1st and March 15.
• Workshop: May 13 (UVSQ, Guyancourt).

Proposals should be sent by February 1st 2015 latest. Please send a CV (one page max.) and an abstract of your presentation (max. 250 words) to:

CFP “The Protest Image” 2015

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