What do images in public space do?

In the field of visual studies, important recently-published or translated works address the agency of images. In parallel, the concepts of performance and performativity have been more and more invoked in the social sciences, and now especially in geography.

This conference, organized by the School of social sciences of the University of Geneva, stands at the intersection of these scientific agendas, is about the work of images in public space. Advertisements and political posters, statues, portraits; giant screens, or projections; artistic installations, and street art; photographic exhibitions, etc.: indeed, images of all kinds, exercising very diverse functions, proliferate in public spaces.

To what extent do these images affect, create, or transform the places, actors and practices with which they are associated?  How are images created with, and in, public space? What symbolic, social and political stakes does their presence hold? The conference will revolve around these questions, which have hardly been explored, yet are important for both visual and urban studies.

These interrogations seek to take up two challenges. Visual studies, on the one hand, often place more emphasis on images than on the apparatuses of their visualization, their spatial context, or the social networks within which they are inscribed. Thus, works on the agency of images often focus on specific images deemed particularly powerful or performative, for instance works of art, while giving little attention to more banal or vernacular images, the conditions proper to their agency, or the spectators themselves. On the other hand, for the social sciences, and geography in particular, visual culture has hardly been an object of investigation, particularly as tied to urban life.  Some studies have certainly addressed the image of the city, or art (especially artistic performances) in public space, but rarely visual culture in its popular sense and its place in the city.

By reflecting on the role of images—all images—in public space, we hope to advance on both these fronts.

We will have the pleasure to welcome W. J. T. Mitchell, professor of visual studies, University of Chicago. 
He will give a lecture at the symposium as well as a public lecture on Wednesday 18.01 from 7 pm (UniDufour, room U600)American Psychosis: Trump and the Nightmare of History.

Scientific committee

Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, Institut de Géographie Alpine, Université Grenoble-Alpes

Dominic Bryan, Queen’s University, Belfast

Dominique Crozat, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3

Pauline Guinard, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris

Katharina Hohmann, Haute école d’art et de design de Genève

Michel Lussault, Ecole normale supérieure, Lyon

Laurent Matthey, Université de Genève

Malcolm Miles, Plymouth University

Gillian Rose, Open University, Milton Keynes

Reuben Rose-Redwood, University of Victoria (Canada)

Ola Söderström, Université de Neuchâtel

Mercedes Volait, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris

Mechtild Widrich, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Photo affiche colloque_MireilleGeorges_400.jpg
[Mireille Georges, 2015]