Call for papers 2011 SOFEIR Conference, 10-11 mars 2011 University of Brest, France

Call for papers 2011 SOFEIR Conference, 10-11 mars 2011 University of Brest, France

Call for papers

2011 SOFEIR Conference

(Société Française d’Etudes Irlandaises)

10-11 mars 2011

University of Brest, France

Freeze Frame : Focusing, Distorting, Restructuring

Images are all-important in our representations of the world, be it in the field of historical archives, political iconology or cultural and aesthetic productions.

The freeze frame and magnifying effect of photography has been extensively used and analysed by historians and the press alike. This is particularly true in Ireland where photographs of “the Troubles”, of the Peace Process and of reconciliation have accompanied, highlighted and sometimes influenced history in the making (cf. Colin Graham’s article : « ‘Every Passer-By a Culprit’ ? Archive Fever, Photography and the Peace in Belfast », Third Text, Vol. 19, 2005). The fixed image which does not belong to a narrative continuity can create spectacular effects, but the spectator and the analyst can still step back, study its inner workings, and appreciate its documentary value as a trace of the past, subjective testimony, restructuring of reality : in fine, one can evaluate its aura of truth.

From the memorable photograph representing Edward Carson and the Ulster Covenant (Belfast 1912) to those showing Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness smiling together (May 2007), famous shots have signalled the milestones of a political and cultural history marked by conflict and division. Researchers are invited to shed light on what lies outside the frame, to contextualize and also to deconstruct the uses of photographs that have come to belong to an official iconography, or that have been so broadly circulated as to progressively become de-contextualized icons (i.e., photographs of  bog bodies or of young Republican demonstrators wearing tear-gas masks).

Whether one approaches photo-journalism, documentary and/or artistic exhibitions, travel photography (one remembers the astounding photographs taken in Ireland by two young Frenchwomen commissioned by Albert Kahn in 1913), or whether one seeks to capture the heart of Ireland (Synge’s photographs of the Aran Islands) or attempts to suggest the invisible ( Beckett’s portraits by John Minahan, Faith by Jackie Nickerson, (2007), Willie Doherty’s work), the focus in always on the authenticity of a relationship between representation and reality. The frontiers between traces, reconstruction and aesthetics often remain blurred, and the fixed image is a privileged site for constant negotiations between mimetic reproduction and powerful fantasmatic imagination (art historian Jean-François Chevrier defines photography as an “extraordinaire piège à fantasmes”- Le Monde, 9/7/2010).

The suspension of time and freeze framing encourage encounters and exchanges between different semiotic and aesthetic systems, fully exploited by literature and other visual arts. John Banville subverts the genre of the travel guide with his Prague Pictures (2003), while Paul Muldoon invents “phoetry” in Plan B (2009). Such cross-media explorations testify to the Medusa-like impact of stills but also to their use as a source of meditation and intersemiotic work, a process participants are encouraged to explore further.

Freezing reality, framing it for show, constructing an iconic synecdoche, historicizing a particular moment, structuring the allegory of an event, framing a postcard view into another semiotic system, transforming a snapshot into a metaphor – all this has been put to use to build historical, political, cultural and artistic representations of Ireland. Participants at the conference are invited to analyse, decode and/or re-contextualize such productions in all fields of Irish, art, history and culture.

The growing technical diversity of production (from silver negative to digital screen photography), its ever increasing rapidity and the globalization of cultural practices tend to favour media hybridation (as in the works of Sean Hillen or Victor Sloan) and radically modify the principle of adherence to reality. Which forms has photography taken in Ireland since it first appeared in the 1840s, and what place does it hold in Irish culture? Can we speak of an historicity of Irish photography? What are its new geographical frontiers (within and outside the island) and how does digitalization bear on its cultural and aesthetic uses?

250-300 words proposals should be sent to Gaïd Girard, Université de Bretagne Occidentale-Brest ( and Anne Goarzin, Université Rennes 2 ( by 15 December 2010, with a short biographic presentation.

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