Imaging the Public Square. International conference within the framework of the „Piazza and Monumento“ project at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut (Florence, 22 – 24 October 2015)
Recent broadcasts of scenes playing out in Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine have reinforced our awareness of the significance of the public square as a venue of action and assembly. As a consequence of protest movements, but also independently of them, images circulated in various media have participated in the construction of a visual culture of the public square. Each of these images should be historicised and analysed according to its own logic. The conference, organized by the collaborators of the “Piazza e Monumento” project at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Institut, will take the image and imagination of the square as a point of departure for a discussion, ideally through comparative analysis, of the following themes:
I THE PUBLIC SQUARE IN ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS AND THE PLANNING PROCESS:
The square is often the result of a pictorial concept in the architectural planning process, whether it results in entirely new venues or the partial alteration of older ones. Carl Linfert has provided a methodological model for this kind of research in his investigation of tactile responses to the architectural drawing. Regarding the depiction of the public square in architectural designs, the question likewise arises: how do approaches to representation shape the image of the square, and how do they relate to structural, formal-aesthetic, legal, and urban-spatial conditions and possibilities? The built city and the designed city are mutually dependent entities. The degree to which architectural designs are capable of intervening in the existing structure of a city is thus worthy of consideration. In other words, to what extent do such plans and drawings develop a dynamic of their own, above and beyond the function assigned them, leading in the long term to changes in the existing built environment?
II ARTISTIC REPRESENTATIONS OF THE CITY SQUARE: The square is often the main feature of a picture, situated in a larger spatial context, and it can be regarded as an embodiment of the city – regardless of whether we are looking at prints of the Early Modern era of the Meidan in Isfahan, built by Shah Abbas I, Menzel’s painting of the Piazza della Erbe in Verona, or photos of Tahir Square in Egypt in the 1950s. Since images of squares vary historically and culturally, but also respond to one another and are subject to processes of change, images of piazzas should also be analysed as pictorial solutions. What perspectives on the public square, and thus on the city and the territory, are developed pictorially? What artistic media are employed in the process, and who are the makers and recipients of these pictures?
III SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON THE SQUARE AND THE CITY: Images of squares find their way into many publications, whether as illustrations, elements in a visual argument, or the focal points of research itself. From Renaissance architectural theory and pre-modern engravings to modern architectural and urban anthologies, images of squares are important players on theoretical and methodological levels. What is the significance of these images in architectural and urban studies – including from a history of science perspective – and what social, political and cultural conceptions of society are linked to them?
IV THE MEDIATISATION OF THE SQUARE: The public square is the subject of popular media in various forms, ranging from film, literature and comics to (often anonymous) newspaper, television, and cell phone images. To discuss the square’s mediatisation is thus also to consider the rapid blending of media reality with social and political reality, and to take the pictorial history of the square into account. How much do pictures tell us about the square when protestors climb onto monuments with fluttering flags, as in Kiev? Does this form part of the visual history of liberty, whose canon includes works such as Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’, and which can be examined against the background of studies such as Jutta Held’s ‘Monument und Volk’? What impact does the mediatisation of the square have on the ephemerality of certain elements (platforms, public artworks, protest signs, etc.) that temporarily re-design and semanticise the square? And what is the relationship between the visual focus on the square and the construction and transformation of squares? In other words, what effect do experiences of the square from near and far have on not only its perception, but also on its material-physical constitution?
The conference is intended for art historians as well as representatives of neighbouring disciplines. It welcomes case studies and synthetic reflections on the above-suggested themes, which can be treated individually or together, as well as on other topics. Papers should not exceed 25 minutes. Please send your proposal (max. 300 words) and a short CV in German, English or Italian to Dr Brigitte Sölch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Stephanie Hanke (email@example.com) by 15 January 2015.