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Department of University Relations

University of Pretoria to host a Visual Culture Conference


Posted on 02 June 2009

The University of Pretoria’s Department of Visual Arts will next month host the 25th Annual Conference of the South African Association of Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH).

The conference, which takes place at the Law Building (Hatfield Campus of the University), will start on Thursday 9th July and ends on Saturday 11th July 2009.

The theme of the conference is “THE POLITICS OF CHANGE: Looking backwards and forwards.”

Local and international scholars from various related disciplines – art historians, visual culture specialists, anthropologists, drama theorists, etc - are expected to attend the conference.

Among the speakers is Prof Ruth Phillips, Research Chair and Professor of Art History of the Carleton University’s Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture, Canada

“This conference reflects on the history of the visual arts within (South) Africa and engages with the diverse and changing contexts of art (history) and visual culture in a critical manner. This discourse necessarily involves the dialectic of local and global politics that forms the backdrop to image making in (South) Africa,” said Prof Jeanne van Eeden – conference organisor and head of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria.

She said that through this conference, organisers hope to sketch a historical overview of the nature and practice of art (history) and visual culture; and to engage with the polemics of documenting history and theorising change in a global landscape.

“This conference engages with the nature and variety of visual culture in the contemporary world and debates its importance in the creation of a range of identities: gender, ethnic, sexual, global and national. Visual culture is contextualised to show its overwhelming importance in current society, not only in reflecting and commenting on social ideas, but also in constructing them,” said Van Eeden.

The papers to be presented by various speakers at the conference deal with diverse topics such as tapestries and Aids awareness, shopping malls and public sculpture, postcards and tourism, art and national identity, monuments and commemoration, films and magazine covers.

“Anyone who is interested in the intriguing power of the visual in today’s culture will find something of interest at this conference. Books will be on sale and there will also be an exhibition of student art,” added Van Eeden.

The SAVAH Conference is an annual event. Last year, it was hosted by the University of Stellenbosch. The University of Pretoria hosted it in 1988 and also in 2002.

The conference is kindly sponsored by the NRF KIC fund.

NB. Registration fee is R800. Anyone interested in attending the conference should contact organisers (numbers listed below).



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