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Conference Session 1

Friday 11 June 10.30-12.30

Chaired by Dr Dawn Phillips (AHRC 'Aesthetics After Photography' Project Research Fellow, Philosophy, University of Warwick).

Professor Carol Armstrong (Art History, Yale University)
Automatism and Agency Intertwined: The Spectrum of Photographic Intentionality

My aim will be to address the different ways in which photography since the 1960s has joined, rather than opposed, the processes of automatism and agency. Beginning with an address to the manner in which photography works by way of happenstance more than other media, followed by a discussion of the historical convergence of post-‘sixties practices with anti-authorial discourse, I will argue that the photographic artist intervenes to make use of the aleatory event in an interaction that defines photographic intentionality.

Carol Armstrong is Professor of History of Art at Yale University, where she teaches and writes about 19th century French painting, the history of photography of both centuries, and feminist theory and criticism. Among her publications on photography are the October book Scenes in a Library: Reading the Photograph in the Book, 1843-1875, published by M.I.T. Press in 1998, along with numerous essays on women photographers in October, and pieces of criticism in Artforum. She is also a practicing photographic artist.

Associate Professor David Davies (Philosophy, McGill University)
Agency, Automatism, and the Possibility of Photographic Art

Appreciative interest in an artistic manifold is always interrogative, seeking to understand its ordering in terms of motivated agency. The automatism of the photographic process therefore challenges the artistic pretensions of photography. I examine different responses in recent photographic theory and practice to this tension between automatism and agency. I argue that an interrogative interest in the photographic image itself, and thus properly photographic art, requires that the image issue from a process in which they are mutually constraining forces.

David Davies is Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University. He is the author of Art as Performance (Blackwell, 2004), Aesthetics and Literature (Continuum, 2007), and The Philosophy of the Performing Arts (Blackwell, forthcoming). He also edited a volume on the cinema of Terrence Malick. He has published widely on issues concerning photography, cinema, literature, music, and the visual arts, and is currently studying the nature and appreciation of artworks, like photographs and cast sculptures, that can have multiple instances.