CFP - "The Indiscernible"

Published: 2 November 2010



A One-Day Graduate Conference at McGill University - April 28, 2011 – Montreal, QC.


The Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University is pleased to announce this year’s graduate conference, “The Indiscernible”.  The conference will be held at the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University on Thursday, April 28th, 2011.  Graduate students at the M.A. or Ph.D. level from all disciplines are invited to submit abstracts for presentations of twenty minutes.  Participation in the conference provides an opportunity to present scholarly research, meet graduate students from a variety of different fields, and benefit from engaged discussions as well as valuable responses to papers.

This year’s symposium will seek to interrogate the value and status of what is indiscernible to direct experience.  From the rise of nanotechnologies on the one hand to the overwhelming size and complexity of global systems and networks on the other, artistic, theoretical and daily practices are confronted with realities that lie beyond immediate perception.  Placed at the centre of artistic practice -- or even used as an interpretative prism for the tracing of lineages through the history of art -- the indiscernible offers a valuable way of entry into discussions of the invisible, the blinding, or that which lies beyond the realm of the sensible at large. Similarly, from the perspective of theoretical practice, opacity, murkiness, ambiguity, and grey areas may be thought of as obstacles to knowledge, yet we can also understand the indiscernible as a necessary aspect of knowledge production.  Thus, we may ask whether revelation requires mystery, or whether a will to action requires a poetic yearning in the face of unfathomable constraints.

As an object of inquiry the indiscernible opens up a space of desire that motivates both thought and action.  In an age when many of us have immediate access through Internet technologies to a global storehouse of information, and perhaps an overabundance of opportunities for discernment, is the space of uncertainty shrinking along with the power of folklore and myth?  Or is the inability to discern the relative value of information felt more acutely than ever before?  In the political realm, does the indiscernible represent an impasse to judgment and action, or is it simply the constant condition of contingency that provides a ground for decision?  Along with these questions we are particularly interested in papers that address:

- questions of gender ambiguity, performance, or “passing”
- biometrics, surveillance, or the racialization of bodies
- attempts and failures at mapping information, social relations, or spaces
- economic structures, relations, and the commodity form
- the shifting materiality of artistic production that can be seen in practices such as “bioart”
- phenomenological approaches to experience and its mediations and technological extensions

As an interdisciplinary conference we invite papers from various fields.

Papers in both English and French are welcome.

Keynote Speaker: TBA

Please join us on Friday, April 29th, 2011 for the Art History and Communication Studies Faculty Symposium, a special session featuring members of the AHCS faculty, organized by Dr. Amelia Jones and Dr. Darin Barney.

Abstracts for submission should be no more than 300 words, accompanied by a short biography or CV.

Submissions are due Monday, January 17th, 2011, and should be submitted via e-mail to the conference committee at: ahcsconference [at]

Successful participants will be notified by Friday, February 18th, 2011. Please send any other inquiries to: ahcsconference [at]

For more information about the conference please refer to our website:

AHCS Conference Organizing Committee:
Caroline Bem (Communication Studies)
Sara Kowalski (Art History)
Elizabeth Lista (Communication Studies)
Paulina Mickiewicz (Communication Studies)
Cayley Sorochan (Communication Studies)

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