“Portrait of a Type, Type of Portrait: Composite Portraiture between Science and Art.” Raul Gschrey (Gießen, Frankfurt)
Abstact of my presentation at the conference „Doing Face“ at Goethe University Frankfurt, October 2016.
The photographic technique of composite portraiture superimposes facial views of different people in order to create a collective portrait. The frontal views of the surreal blurry figures usually look straight at the viewer and create an uncanny feeling of familiarity. In contemporary arts and popular culture we encounter a variety of these facial compositions that are predominantly digitally produced. But the origins of the technique lie in late nineteenth-century, when the relatively new medium of photography became established as a scientific tool. Presupposing the alignment of outer appearance with inner dispositions, Francis Galton, who is better known as the founder of eugenics, developed composite portraiture as an analytical technique to visualise typical appearances of groups of people. The photographic superimpositions sought to give a face to phenomena such as criminality, physical and psychological illnesses, race, but also to more positively connoted notions such as health, likeness and family resemblance. The technique enjoyed a considerable popularity in positivist scientific circles of criminology, medicine and psychiatry, anthropology, racial science and eugenics that only abated in early twentieth century. Apart from a small number of examples, the technique fell into disuse and only resurfaced in the 1980’s at the eve of another visual revolution, when media artist Nancy Burson took up composite portraiture and developed techniques of digital facial morphing. In recent years artists have questioned the explanatory value of the visual constructions, they have translated the technique into moving images and explored their potential in times of an omnipresence of self-portrayal and identification in social networks.
The paper will try to make sense of the special type of portrait and examine the nature of the visual constructions between their functions as averaging, as well as typifying devices. How was the founder of composite portraiture “doing face” and staging the “face as event” and which central impulses, preconceptions, and discourses formed the technique’s utilisation in nineteenth-century? This historical perspective will be expanded with late twentieth and early twenty-first-century artistic positions that explore the technique in times of interconnected digital media and computerised facial recognition.
Eine Tagung an der Goethe-Universität nimmt unter dem Titel „Doing Face: Gesicht als Ereignis“ die unterschiedlichen Dimensionen der Gesichtlichkeit in den Fokus. Veranstalter sind das Forschungszentrum Historische Geisteswissenschaften Frankfurt und das Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin.
Das Gesicht ist die Visitenkarte des Menschen, sein Aussehen prägt den wichtigen ersten Eindruck. Das Gesicht ist die Bühne, auf der sich unsere echten Emotionen abspielen, auf der wir uns aber auch ganz bewusst inszenieren können. Auf der Theaterbühne spielt es denn auch seit jeher eine große Rolle. Die Bedeutung der „Gesichtlichkeit“ wächst jedoch noch im Zeitalter der digitalen Medien, Fachleute sprechen von der „fazialen Gesellschaft“. Eine Tagung an der Goethe-Universität nimmt unter dem Titel „Doing Face: Gesicht als Ereignis“ die unterschiedlichen Dimensionen des Themas in den Fokus. Veranstalter sind das Forschungszentrum Historische Geisteswissenschaften Frankfurt und das Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin.
Kunstgeschichte, Medienwissenschaft, Literaturwissenschaften – die Konferenz bringt Vertreter verschiedener Disziplinen zusammen und bezieht auch Erkenntnisse aus anderen Wissenschaften wie der Biologie und der Psychologie mit ein. Zudem werden Bilder des weißrussischen Künstlers Maxim Wakultschik gezeigt, der sich in seinen fotografischen Arbeiten mit der Produktivität des Gesichts in der Gegenwartskultur auseinandersetzt.
Programm Doing Face weiterlesen
Workshop: Addressing each and every one: Popularisation/populism through the visual arts
April 21 and 22 2016, Justus Liebig University Gießen, Main Building (Ludwigstrasse 23), 3th floor, Seminar-Raum
The workshop brings together scholars from art history, film studies, theatre studies, political theory, sociology and philosophy of religion from several European countries. It discusses the ways (iconic figurations, aesthetic styles, rhetoric figures etc.) through which visual culture addresses its audience and gets involved in the constitution of a public sphere. It is in particular interested in how the visual arts – understood as both visual popular culture as well as fine arts – becomes involved in popularisation practices and populist criticism.
The workshop approaches this subject by focusing on the central iconic figure that these practices bring into play: the “everybody” (which stands for “all of us”, but is at the same time also a “nobody”, a “common man”, a “common woman” and sometimes even a “new man” or a “new woman”). It presents spotlights of a genealogy and an iconography of the everybody and discusses political and philosophical theories about how the mediating force of this iconic figuration can be understood and valuated. In doing so, the workshop pays particular attention to the ambivalent role this figure plays, especially in most recent history, in triggering both desire and enthusiasm as well as resentment and hate.
Programme below Addressing each and every one weiterlesen
Law’s Pluralities ׀ Conference & Exhibition 06.05. – 09.05.2015
In May 2015 the conference “Law’s Pluralities” will take place at Justus Liebig University Giessen/Germany. In a series of keynote presentations by experts and in panel sessions and discussions, as well as in an exhibition it will explore cultural constructions of law.
06.05. – 24.05.2015 exhibition at „Neuer Kunstverein Giessen“ & during the conference „Law’s Pluralities“ at Liebig University Giessen, Germany. Artists: Il-Jin Choi ׀ Raul Gschrey ׀ Mi You ׀ Manu Luksch
The interrogation of the cultural construction and negotiation of legal practices in the conference „Law’s Pluralities“ offers an interesting occasion for the presentation of an exhibition of artistic works dealing with the topic. The international artistic positions reflect on the social and legal frameworks and find means to visualise phenomena that often remain abstract. Furthermore here the artistic interventions themselves contribute to the differentiation and development of “legal writing”. Through their explorations, contestations and subversions, they participate in an alternative production of knowledge and function as mediators of and shape legal practices. The exhibition will be located at the conference venue and in the close-by “Neuer Giessner Kunstverein”, a local art association. This will expand the exhibition’s and conference’s reception towards a non-academic public open the discourse on the politically and socially relevant topic to a larger public.
The conference and exhibition is organized at Justus Liebig University Giessen by the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) in cooperation with the Department of English, the Rudolf-von-Jhering Institute, and in cooperation with the Neuer Kunstverein Giessen.
“Ambiguities & Asymmetries”, Review of the SSN Conference, Barcelona, 2014
The bi-annual conference of the Surveillance Studies Network 2014 takes place in the centre of Barcelona, on the campus of the University of Barcelona and the adjoining cultural institution CCCB. This year’s conference’s topic opens the floor to discussions of “Asymmetries and Ambiguities” in Surveillance Studies. The attention for the conference is unusual, not only in academia, as it becomes obvious in the comparably large number of 170 participants, but also in exceptional public and media attention. This surely has to do with the revelations of Edward Snowden and the so-called NSA scandal, which have proved true or surpassed the often dismissed observations of the surveillance studies community. Here especially “asymmetries” come to the fore: between an all-encompassing state-run surveillance assemblage, drawing on private sources, on the one side and disempowered individuals on the other.
In the evening panel discussion (videos available online) with Caspar Bowden (a privacy advocate and former Microsoft executive), Katarzyna Szymielewicz (human rights lawyer, Panoptykon Foundation), and Ben Wizner (Snowden’s lawyer) who is participating via video connection, these asymmetries become apparent. Ambiguities & Asymmetries weiterlesen