Contemporaneity Vol. 5 Call for Papers: Agency in Motion



In the 2013 documentary The Missing Picture Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh revisits his own painful

memories and experiences of the Khmer Rouge genocide by creating miniature dioramas from a deeply

personalized account of historical settings and personages. As Panh said in an interview, "these aren’t just

figurines, they are something else, they have a soul.” Panh’s traumatic experiences relay not only a very

personalized account of the grainy historical record, they give a particular agency to artistic objects.

In its 5th edition, Contemporaneity will focus on the concept of agency in visual culture. As a method, agency

examines the dynamics of visual culture and human relations, questioning the work, its makers, its audience.

The concept of agency has enjoyed increasing currency within multiple disciplines—the humanities and social

sciences among them—opening up new avenues for understanding social and aesthetic interactions,

including anthropologist Alfred Gell’s conception of the art object as embedded in a system of action, Michael

Baxandall’s examination of artistic intent, and the extension of relational and contextual artistic practices by

Claire Bishop. Contemporaneity is seeking submissions that cover a wide range of issues, topics, periods,

and disciplines with an emphasis on the complexity of human and non-human agents interacting in the visual

world. These topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Historiographical/theoretical models of agency

• Virtual agency, avatars, self-fashioning, branding

• Indigeneity, mestizaje, hybridity, trans-/cross-culturation

• Gendered, queer, ethnic, classed, race/racialized identities

• Embodiment, cult objects, iconoclasm

• Curation, patronage, collecting

• Artist intention, artist workshops and collaboration

• War, counter-histories/memories, politics of testimonial and memorial practices

• Political agency, activism, riots

• The disappeared, the dead, the missing, the absent


We are further seeking papers for a special subsection that address, problematize, or work through the

conceptual issues surrounding “Reenactment” as a mode of artistic production. What may be lost, what

may be gained, when one reenacts? Who is allowed to reenact, when, where and to what purpose? How

does one begin to assess the innovative work of artists, like Panh, who seem motivated by alternative

historiographical values such as resurrection, embodiment, and vivification? This includes but is not

limited to the following issues:

• Trans-multi-inter media considerations of reenactment in visual art, film, or theatre and


• Formal strategies of recursive processes

• The body as a means of generating and preserving history

• Paradigms of ritual, re-performance, and altered states

• Revisiting traumatic acts of institutionalized violence

• Techniques of historical staging in curation and exhibition studies

The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2015. Manuscripts (6,000 word maximum) should include

an abstract, 3-5 keywords, and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style. To make a submission, visit, click Register and create an Author profile to get started. Proposals for book and

exhibition reviews, interviews, or scholarly discussions will also be considered, and we recognize that these

submissions may take many forms. Proposals can be directed to the editors at

Contemporaneity is a peer-reviewed online journal organized by the History of Art and Architecture

Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Visit and