but some changes are about to happen to Surface Studies.
Keep watching this space and do get in touch with me if you have any Surface Studies-related news.
What are lines and what do they do?
These deceptively simple questions provided a rich source of discussion at a recent postgraduate workshop on ‘early modern lines’ at the University of York. The event was put together by Craig Farrell, Frances Maguire and myself (Claire Canavan) with the aim exploring the overlaps, intersections and distinctions between material and conceptual lines in early modern Europe across a range of literary, historical, scientific and artistic disciplines. Participants brought a variety of examples along to the workshop, which took us from poetic to perspectival lines, from cartographic to narratological lines, from lines of sight and sound to lines of transmission and exchange. Before the workshop we read Chapter Two of anthropologist Tim Ingold’s Lines: A Brief History (Abingdon: Routeldge, 2007), entitled ‘Traces, Threads and Surfaces’. The taxonomy of lines offered here provided ample material for discussion, as we explored how Ingold’s transhistorical survey matched up with our experiences of early modern lines. We were particularly struck by how Ingold distinguishes between different types of line - specifically the thread and the trace - through their relationship to surfaces. A trace is an ‘enduring mark left in or on a solid surface by a continuous movement’ (43). A defining characteristic of the thread, by contrast, is that it not drawn on surfaces. According to Ingold then, the transformation of threads into traces creates surfaces, whilst the transformation of traces into threads dissolves surfaces.
As Ingold acknowledges though, not all lines easily fall into these two categories; the cut, the crack and the fold each occupy slightly different and more diverse relationships with surfaces. We wondered then how the early modern examples we had gathered might resist as well as conform to this taxonomy. From my own work on texts and textiles, I wondered how early moderns might perceive a piece of needlework as simultaneously thread and trace. I was also curious about what these lines of embellishment might do to our understanding of different types of surfaces. Do sewn lines dissolve the surface of the ground material or thicken it? How might the way that we conceptualise such sewn lines shape the way that we understand the surfaces of early modern rhetoric, in which lines of text or oratory are flourished and embroidered with figures of speech? Many participants were concerned with how material lines might relate to theoretical lines. Might they help us to understand the relationship between material and metaphor? Can they help us to consider how early modern surfaces could make, organise and contain meaning, as well as constructing, structuring and responding to a range of physical, intellectual and interpersonal practices?
As you can probably tell, the workshop raised more questions than we had time to find answers. Fortunately, this was just the first in a series of events for the newly established ‘Early Modern Lines Research Network’. We are currently in the process of putting together a programme for the coming year. If you are interested in becoming involved in the network or would like to be notified about upcoming events, please drop us a line at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Scrutinizing Surfaces in Early Modern Thought
The Second Northern Renaissance Roses Seminar
8-9 May 2015
Dr Helen Smith (University of York)
Professor Richard Wistreich (Royal College of Music,
Run jointly by the universities of Lancaster and York, this interdisciplinary
seminar takes up and develops Joseph Amato’s trans-historical investigation of
how ‘humans, ourselves a body of surfaces, meet and interact with a world
dressed in surfaces’ (2013: xv) in the early modern period. We will consider the
topic broadly, addressing such questions as:
The seminar will take place in the Storey, Lancaster City Centre and the
Regimental Chapel, Lancaster Priory, and will feature a recital of early-modern
music by Lancaster Priory’s Choir.
Funded by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster, ‘Scrutinizing
Surfaces in Early Modern Thought’ particularly encourages early career scholars
and post-graduates working in any Renaissance discipline.
Please send abstracts (c. 250 words) and a brief CV to Kevin Killeen
and Liz Oakley-Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org):
deadline 30 November 2014
Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (University of York):
The Northern Renaissance Seminar:
Herewith some of Liz's Surface Studies highlights since our last post.
I was very pleased that Dr Anuradha Chatterjee was able to find time on her research visit to Lancaster's Ruskin Library in February 2014 to discuss her new collection of essays, Surface and Deep Histories: Critiques and Practices in Art, Architecture and Design (2014), which includes contributions by Anuradha Chatterjee, Molly Duggins, Anna Daly, Stella North, M Hank Haeusler, Peter Kohane, Chris Brisbin, Flavia Marcello and Ian Woodcock. Dr Chatterjee was a virtual participant in Cristián Simonetti and Mike Anusas's 2-day panel on Surfaces: contesting boundaries between materials, mind and body at August 2013's IAEUS Conference, and it was splendid to talk about surfaces with her in person.
In March 2014, I was equally delighted to meet Sarah Gilligan at Lancaster University's Screening Style: Costume, Cinema and Performance symposium organised by Bruce Bennett and Catherine Spooner. I enjoyed preparing my talk on 'Outlaw Style: Surface, Screen, Sensation (1580-1980)', and the event included many papers which scrutinized surfaces - for example fur (Bennett), plastic (Spooner), and wool (Gilligan) - in theoretically stimulating ways. Donatella Barbieri's plenary, 'Absences and re-encounters: archived costumes and the performances they hold', was a broadly phenomenological exploration of select objects in the V&A's archives. Her discussion of the costumes worn by Harry Payne, the nineteenth-century clown, was particularly memorable. An earlier version of her paper is available in the V&A Online Journal 4 (2012).
I managed to catch the final day of the Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels exhibition at The Museum of London (April 2014). I was intrigued by the ways in which the juxtaposition of twenty-first century technology and early-modern craft fashioned surfaces for display. I'm currently working on an article called 'Shakespearean Surfaces: (Touch)stone, skin, stage, screen (1599-2006), thus I was especially interested in the exhibition's curation of the means by which Lydian stones were used to test gold alloys. It was great to see Werner Jacobz van den Valckert's Portrait of a Man with Ring and Touchstone (1617) placed amongst the objects themselves.
The combination of Nigel Stewart's paper 'Turning Bodies and Textures of Light: Russell Maliphant's Afterlight' at the Screening Style: Costume, Cinema and Performance and my first visit to the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to see the Edward's Boys production of John Lyly's Galatea (c.1588) on 27 April 2014 has initiated my interest in photology and surfaces. In the wake of Stewart's provocative discussion, I was alert to the ways in which the candlelit performance of the early-modern drama rendered the actor's bodies.
There will be news about our latest Surface Studies activities in the not-too-distance future.
Beckie and I have just had our first virtual Surface Studies 'meeting' since her move to Goldsmiths, University of London in September 2013. Part of our discussion concerned Goldsmith's Diagrams, Lines and Patterns working group and possible surface-related topics for my invited talk at a proposed conference on costume design.
A very diverse and thought-provoking panel on Surfaces: Contesting Boundaries Between Mind, Body and World at the IUAES conference in Manchester yesterday. Thanks to Mike Anusas and Cristian Simonetti for convening!
Although we missed the first session on Tuesday, we got a really good sense of work being carried out on surfaces in anthropology (and allied disciplines). Tim Ingold and Susanne Kuechler (Anthropology, UCL) gave very helpful responses to the papers, and raised a number of issues about current and future directions of work on surfaces.
Most interestingly for us, these included how we might pay attention to the indexicality and topology of different surfaces, methodologies that need to be developed for researching surfaces, and where we might find resources to develop them. Kuechler suggested that social sciences and humanities might look to science to provide answers. We were interested in when and how this distinction between science and art was made, with Liz's work on the early modern period suggesting that pre-Enlightenment, the distinction wasn't made/doesn't hold.
Ingold's suggestion that attention to surfaces involves a shift from a 'Russian doll' or container model of understanding the world to a processual model seemed especially significant. In line with a range of other recent cultural theory, Ingold suggested that surface studies explores the in-between, or the 'in the midst of'; in media res. Kuechler suggested that 'surface studies' might signal that theory is on the cusp of inventing a range of new concepts and methods for understanding change and movement.
First responses from the panel are that we are interested in thinking more about are the status of the body and/or embodiment within this potentially new paradigm and, relatedly, the relationship between materials and materiality. We're also considering organising a second 'surface studies' event on lines in the new year.
Details of the panel on Surfaces: Contesting the Boundaries Between Materials, Body and Mind at the IUAES 17th World Congress in Manchester, 6-7 August 2013 available here.
The panel, which runs across two days, is convened by Cristián Simonetti (University of Aberdeen) and Mike Anusas (University of Strathclyde), and includes papers on smoke, light and shadow, water, surface and volume, bioarcheology, cinematography, architecture, clothing, and temporality.
Beckie and Liz are talking about the relations between practices of screening, tactility and texture.