CFP – Activation. Staging Strategies of Mobile Artworks in the Early Modern Hispanic World 

International and interdisciplinary conference
Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History Rome

16 – 17 February 2023
Deadline: June 20, 2022

Conception and scientific organisation: Dr. Sven Jakstat, Dr. Johannes Gebhardt, Prof. Dr. Tanja Michalsky

The temporary activation of mobile works of art and cult objects can be traced back to antiquity and continues to play an essential role in the communication of religious truths and manifestations of political power today. The inclusion of mobile artworks in ritual ceremonies is closely linked to terminologies of animation, evidence, mediation, performativity, presence and presentation, staging, and vivification, which have shaped the discourse on images. These terms have developed different connotations in each of the various humanities disciplines and now embody manifold dimensions of meaning.

Powerful examples that can be subjected to theoretical and critical analysis from an interdisciplinary perspective can be found, for example, on the Habsburg-dominated Iberian Peninsula in the seventeenth century. With the Spanish viceroyalties of the Kingdom of Naples and New Spain, Iberia is the conference’s geographical focus.

This conference seeks to analyze how objects from the sacred realm, like those carried in processions, and those employed in a profane context like courtly ceremonials, achieve their effective power during their temporary activation. Its emphasis is on processional figures such as pasos or imágenes de vestir, relic and cult image presentations, but also ephemeral fountain installations or festive architecture. In this context, disciplines often neglected in humanities discourse, such as engineering (and thus aspects of production aesthetics), will also be considered.

Contributions may explore (but are not limited to) the following questions:
To what extent can performative or ritual actions integrating artworks be reconstructed? What were the theological and political ideas underlying these staging strategies? What role did music, singing, light, and olfactory effects play in the presentation of these objects? What mechanical devices were used to create special effects, and how did they work? What was the role of different social groups, such as artists, clergy, secular elites, and laypeople? To what extent was the temporary activation of such artworks considered during production, for instance, in the choice of materials or the integration of specific mechanical devices? What consequences did awareness of their temporary activation have for the objects’ reception outside their ritual use?

Presentations dedicated to concrete case studies, as well as theoretical or critical examinations of the concepts mentioned above, are both welcome. This interdisciplinary conference seeks contributions from scholars of art history, history, literature, musicology, philosophy, and theology, among others.

Please send proposals not exceeding 350 words for twenty-minute presentations, together with a short CV and list of publications of no more than two pages to Raffaele Rossi ( by 20 June 2022. The organizers will provide accommodation, and travel costs may be reimbursed.

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