Reciprocal Impact? The Renaissance in Modern and Contemporary Art #2

10 December 2021, 12:00:00 am

Convert to local time with www.timeanddate.com

Session Convenors

Katie Anania, University of Nebraska
Robert Brennan, University of Sydney

Session Moderators

Katie Anania, University of Nebraska

Session Speakers

Dr Karike Ashworth, The KACA Projects, Queensland University of Technology
Caroline Austin, The KACA Projects, Queensland University of Technology
Elyssia Bugg, University of Melbourne
Deirdre Feeney, University of South Australia
Andrew Leach, University of Sydney

This series of three panels explores the relationship between Renaissance, modern, and contemporary art. What uses have modern and contemporary artists made of the Renaissance, and how has Renaissance scholarship responded to developments in the art of its own time? The urgency of these questions lies in the central position that the Renaissance has played in traditional European narratives of modernity. To what extent have artistic encounters with the Renaissance been shaped by competing visions of modernity itself – capitalist, fascist, communist, colonial, indigenous, or otherwise? How have artists confronted the geographical, racial, and gendered exclusions on which standard narratives of the Renaissance have often been based? How might the work of these artists help scholars rewrite the history of early modernity today? How, in turn, might alternative understandings of early modern history help to reorient the art of recent times?

PAPER #1
(Un) Making Genius-Fetish in Visual Art Performance

PRESENTERS
The KACA Projects: Dr Karike Ashworth & Caroline Austin, Queensland University of Technology

Early in 2019, a publicity photo of Australian artist Ben Quilty impersonating Christ sparked debate in Australia about the entitlement of white, straight male artists. Around the same time, a second image appeared in the Art Gallery of South Australia’s promotional materials—a studio portrait by Daniel Boud. Quilty’s positioning in this second portrait echoes da Vinci’s The Last Supper. However, crucially, Christ (Quilty) is alone. Looming behind is Quilty’s painting Irin Irinji (2018) depicting the site of an Indigenous massacre, and splayed out before him are, presumably, the bloody entrails of his tormented process. Quilty is captured not in a pose of humility—with hands outstretched in submission to Judas’ imminent betrayal—his pose can be read as resignedly accusatory. The positioning of Quilty as relatable, suffering savour/genius who labours tirelessly for our redemption, is the subject of this paper and the artwork it spawned—Benny. Benny is a visual art performance that critically engages with ‘the Quilty-conundrum’. Benny attempts to elucidate how, why and in what context contemporary representations of, and by, Quilty are connected, implied and complicit in the making of a still persistent genius-fetish that originated in the Renaissance.

PAPER #2
Reflecting the Renaissance: Authenticity and Mimesis in Giulio Paolini’s Arte Povera works

PRESENTER
Elyssia Bugg, University of Melbourne

Giulio Paolini once argued that, “to be authentic, a work of art must forget about its author.” However in the late 1960’s, Paolini produced a series of pieces that appropriated the work of artists such as Lorenzo Lotto and Michelangelo, involving the artists and this notion of authenticity in a process of endless redux. Within these works, Renaissance imagery is pointedly employed to create and subvert the parameters of a mutual ‘looking back’ that is at once historical and tautological. This paper will ask: what should we make of the multiple reciprocities of authorial and subjective gaze taking place in these works? In answering this, I will examine specific pieces that Paolini produced under the banner of the Arte Povera movement. I will argue that the Renaissance is invoked in Paolini’s work from this period to reflect both a notion of self-awareness as expressed during the Renaissance, and as it was reconsidered in Italy during the 1960’s turn to conceptual and self-reflexive art practices. I will subsequently position the references to the Renaissance in Paolini’s works as being conceptually complex, but nonetheless coherent expressions of the tautological, ‘poor’– or rather ‘pure’–gestures that the Arte Povera movement sought to produce.

PAPER #3
From Renaissance natural magic to contemporary art practice: strategies of (in)visibility for evoking emotional experience using optical image systems

PRESENTER
Deirdre Feeney, University of South Australia

The optical work of Renaissance natural magician Giovanni Battista Della Porta has been criticised for its lack of mathematical rigor and aim of enthralling audiences with optical trickery. Recently however, the relevance of Porta’s experiments with lenses has been reframed as a phenomenological study of optics and ‘how things are seen’. Optical objects formed only part of Porta’s performative methodology. To heighten the magical effect of his optical-image shows, Porta also relied on controlled elements of visibility and invisibility to direct the attention, perception and emotional experience of his audience. While Porta revealed hidden secrets of nature, he kept hidden how he made these secrets visible. This paper discusses the development of contemporary optical-system artworks in response to Porta’s phenomenological approach to optical image-making and his endeavour to evoke emotional experiences of wonder. It elaborates on how, gleaning from Renaissance optics, a contemporary phenomenology of lenses and techne was established by the artist. In contrast to Porta’s practice of hiding the technological cause, it discusses why the developed artworks expose the causal mechanism. Finally, this paper explores how Porta’s perceptual gap between technological cause and wondrous effect is exposed in the artworks, bringing attention to current technological mediators of emotion.

PAPER #4
The Dome and the Square Kilometer Array

PRESENTER
Andrew Leach, University of Sydney

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is administered through an international scientific agreement and involving sites in the UK, Africa, and WA, linked through efforts formally initiated in 1993. A series of networked machines in remote locations, free of light pollution, it feeds an astronomical data collection project. It serves, in one sense, those roles once bound up in the figure, form and significance of the dome. The achievement of this form has long been regarded an achievement of technology that has mediated humankind’s relationship with the heavens. The trajectory from the Pantheon in Rome to the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST, completed 2016) in Guizhou is one in which that history is mediated by a single form. The SKA is a moment of dissolution, extending the project of looking to the stars in the absence of a singular structure. Regarding this dispersed architecture, we argue that the SKA sits in a moment of tension between two legacies of Renaissance culture. It documents the enduring importance of the project to locate humanity in the universe as it documents, too, the dissolution of the dome as a mediating device approximating the cosmos and anchoring it to the terrestrial world.

Asterix.png

Biographies

Katie Anania, University of Nebraska

Katie Anania is an assistant professor of modern and contemporary art history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She writes about histories of graphic communication, particularly drawing, and the ways that linear and graphic expression have engaged throughout modernity with anxieties about the body’s place in the world generally. She is currently working on two book projects: one examining the shifting position of drawing in American studio practice in the long 1960s, and the other on hunger and depletion in 1970s queer and feminist art.


Robert Brennan, University of Sydney

Robert Brennan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Art History at the University of Sydney. He received a PhD in art history in 2016 from New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, and subsequently held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. His first book, titled Painting as a Modern Art in Early Renaissance Italy, was published by Harvey Miller in 2019. His current book project looks at sixteenth-century Italian art, exploring how transcultural exchanges of artifacts, words, and concepts restructured Italian notions of "art" itself in this period.


Dr Karike Ashworth, The KACA Projects, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Karike Ashworth and Caroline Austin are the artistic collaboration, The KACA Projects. Ashworth and Austin are multidisciplinary artist-researchers living and working in Brisbane.  The KACA Projects are inspired by Michel Serres’s foundational work that explores how human relations are identical to that of the parasite to the host body. Serres’s arguments are that by being pests, minor groups can become major players in public dialogue. Within this frame, The KACA Projects tries to intervene in public dialogue—creating diversity and complexity vital to human life and thought.


Caroline Austin, The KACA Projects, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Karike Ashworth and Caroline Austin are the artistic collaboration, The KACA Projects. Ashworth and Austin are multidisciplinary artist-researchers living and working in Brisbane.  The KACA Projects are inspired by Michel Serres’s foundational work that explores how human relations are identical to that of the parasite to the host body. Serres’s arguments are that by being pests, minor groups can become major players in public dialogue. Within this frame, The KACA Projects tries to intervene in public dialogue—creating diversity and complexity vital to human life and thought.


Elyssia Bugg, University of Melbourne

Elyssia Bugg is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on theories of performativity as they relate to early sculptural works from the Arte Povera movement. She is also the co-convener of the inaugural Archipelagic Encounters Symposium, with LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, and is a member of the Centre of Visual Art Graduate Academy in Melbourne.


Deirdre Feeney, University of South Australia

Deirdre is a cross-disciplinary artist and researcher with an interest in optical-image systems as perceptual tools for generating wonder and awareness of how emotional experience is technologically mediated. Her work is informed by and created through historical and contemporary technologies and technological ideas. Deirdre’s background in glass-making and the projected moving image were pivotal to her current practice encompassing material and digital methods to create hybrid systems that include image, device and viewer. Deirdre’s artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally and she is currently a Lecturer of Contemporary Art at the University of South Australia.


Andrew Leach, University of Sydney

Andrew Leach is Professor of Architecture at the University of Sydney. Among his books are What is Architectural History?, Rome (both Polity), Manfredo Tafuri (A&S books) and Crisis on Crisis (Standpunkte). He is editor-in-chief of Architectural Theory Review.