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Conference Session 2

Friday 11 June 1.30-3.30

Chaired by David Campany (Reader in Photography, University of Westminster)

Professor Briony Fer (Art History, UCL)
Test-site

In Ed Ruscha’s book, Royal Road Test, a typewriter is mangled and so is narrative. The allusion in Ruscha’s title to Freud’s famous saying that ‘the interpretation of dreams is the royal road to the unconscious’ is explored in this paper as a comic gambit as well as a serious provocation. Ruscha’s image of the test-site is reconfigured as a means to put in question what or who is at stake in the work of the artwork.

Briony Fer has written widely on modern and contemporary art. Her books include The Infinite Line (Yale 2004) and most recently Eva Hesse: Studiowork (2009), which was written to accompany the exhibition of the same name organized by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh and which is now showing at the Tapies Foundation, Barcelona. She is Professor of History of Art at UCL.

Professor Robin Kelsey (History of Art, Harvard University)
Random Generation: John Baldessari, Photography, and the early 1970s

In the early 1970s John Baldessari investigated, spoofed, and dismantled photography's often suppressed, sometimes mystified, truck with chance. In series such as Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line: Best of Thirty-Six Attempts (1973), Baldessari lampooned the decisive moment and the elevation of chance to a cosmic principle. At the same time, his engagement with random generation played off the contemporaneous rise of simulation in various cultural domains, from the military-industrial complex to the game industry.

Robin Kelsey is Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University. He has published extensively on the history of photography and received several awards for his scholarship and teaching, including the Arthur Kingsley Porter prize from the College Art Association for an essay on the survey photography of Timothy H. O'Sullivan. He is finishing a book on photography and chance and starting another on photography in America during the Cold War.