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Discover & Research

Calls for papers

Both of our venues support new research through academic conferences and early career events.

We also work in collaboration with external organisations to further critical thinking around sculpture and its many associated subject areas.

Currently accepting proposals

 

’Touch-Space‘: The Tactile Imagination in Contemporary Sculptural Practice

 

University of Leeds
Conference to take place on Wednesday 22 March 2023

Call for papers

 

Deadline to apply:
Monday 30 January 2023, 17:00

Congo the chimpanzee stands on a table, partially behind a framed painting, which he is supporting with his left arm. His right arm rests lightly on the front of the painting, palm open, as though caressing it; and his chin rests on the upper left corner of the frame, his head angled downwards to look at the painting he has made.
Congo the chimp with one of his paintings made for the 1957 Institute of Contemporary Arts exhibition ‘Paintings by Chimpanzees’. Image courtesy Leeds University Library Special Collections (BC MS 20c Herbert Read/2B).

This conference is the last in a collaborative season of research events programmed by the Henry Moore Institute in partnership with the University of Leeds. The impetus for the research season is the forthcoming launch of the University of Leeds’ digital exhibition on Herbert Read (1893-1968) and enhancements to its Herbert Read archive.

This one-day conference seeks to examine the continued currency of Read’s assertion that the most important qualities of a sculpture are those which are tactile: its surface, its weight, mass and volume. Read’s contention is not that we need all literally touch a sculpture, but that our ability to imagine these qualities and be moved by them is one of sculpture’s key fascinations.

In a 2011 essay art historian David Getsy describes an entertaining aesthetic quarrel between Herbert Read and the eminent critic Clement Greenberg (1909-1994). Their correspondence was prompted by the publication in 1956 of Read’s The Art of Sculpture and its ambition, as described by Getsy, ’to establish a systematic and prescriptive theory of the medium’. The argument put forth by Read, which incensed Greenberg, was for the primary importance in sculpture of the tactile, the qualities encompassed by Read by the term ‘ponderability’. In Chapter 4, he is perhaps most distinct and didactic: ’The specifically plastic sensibility is, I believe, more complex than the specifically visual sensibility. It involves three factors: a sensation of the tactile quality of surfaces; a sensation of volume as denoted by plane surfaces; and a synthetic realization of the mass and ponderability of the object.’ Greenberg, a firm adherent to the optical in art, responded, ’I have heard of no one who lets his pleasure in a piece of sculpture wait upon his handling of it, and of very few who have succeeded in actually touching most of the pieces they admire.’

The twentieth century saw a rich and wide variety of sculpture produced which chimes imaginatively with Read’s words. Examples can be found throughout Fauvism, Vorticism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, and including work more difficult to categorise such as Kurt Schwitters’ (1887-1948) remarkable small-scale plaster sculptures made in the 1930s and 40s. This continued into the latter half of the century with Claes Oldenburg’s (1929-2022) ‘soft sculptures’, Mike Kelly’s (1954-2012) blankets and stuffed toys, and the felt and fabric work produced by Louise Bourgeois well into the twenty-first century. More recently, as demonstrated in the Henry Moore Institute’s exhibition programme, such concerns can be seen in the work of artists including Michael Dean (b. 1977), Paul Neagu (1938-2004), Rasheed Johnson (b. 1944), Senga Nengudi (b. 1943), Alena Matĕjka (b. 1966) and Lungiswa Gqunta (b. 1990).

In this conference we intend to support research into the ways in which other contemporary artists are interpreting and reimagining tactility and we seek papers, though not exclusively, on the following subject areas:

  • The Artist: the tactile maker; collaborative sculpture; the importance of touch in process and curation
  •  Material and Surface: the cultural and social qualities of materials; subversive materials; domestic materials; skin as surface – the body as material; dematerialised sculpture and tactility
  •  The haptic imagination: memory, experience and sculpture; the ‘expanded field’ and the haptic imagination
  •  Space and context: virtual sculpture; the impermanent, entropy and the role of documentation
  •  Mediation: tactile interaction in the gallery space; tactility, sculpture and visual impairment

To submit a proposal, please upload your abstract and CV to the form below.

We will reimburse travel and accommodation costs within the UK.

Previous calls for papers

You can see examples of the types of conferences and open calls we hold below.

 

William Mitchell in Context: Post-War Sculpture, Architecture and Urban Renewal

 

University of Bradford
Wednesday 26 October 2022, 10:00–17:00

Call for Contributions

 

Deadline to apply:
Monday 3 October, 17:00

As part of Bradford’s 2025 UK City of Culture celebrations, the Henry Moore Institute and Bradford City Council will present a season of research and cultural events exploring the role of sculptors in the context of post-war architecture and urban renewal.

Using the work of sculptor William Mitchell (1925-2020) as a catalyst, the research season will explore not only Bradford’s post-war cultural heritage, but the wider subject of post-war regeneration and the spirit of internationalism within which Mitchell and his contemporaries operated. Known for his abstract designs and innovative use of materials, including glass reinforced concrete and poured resin, Mitchell’s work of the post-war years can be found in cities across the UK. His career took him as far afield as Qatar, California and Hawaii, creating decorative and architectural schemes for zoos, train stations and city squares.

As well as Mitchell’s work and legacy, the research season will also examine, from a post-war perspective: issues surrounding commissioning and collaboration between architects and sculptors; sculpture in towns and cities; urban planning; international exchanges and influences, as well as the continuing challenges of preserving the UK’s sculptural heritage.

As a first step, we would like to invite those working on these subjects to join us in Bradford for a networking event on October 26 2022, to share research and work in progress and to discuss different ways to approach these issues. Participants are invited to present a brief summary of their work and to share ideas as we plan for the research season in 2025.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • The role of sculptors in post-war architecture and town planning
  • The commissioning process
  • Relationships between sculptors and architects
  • Collaborative projects
  • William Mitchell in the USA
  • Post-war internationalism and the global context for sculpture
  • Overlooked practitioners, particularly women in the field of sculpture and architecture
  • Materials and processes
  • Heritage, preservation and documentation
  • Reassessing and conserving our post-war heritage

We welcome contributors from any related field, including art and architectural history; fine art, design and sculpture; urban planning; heritage studies; archaeology; material sciences. Presentations may take place in-person or remotely.

Two black and white archival photographs showing Herbert Read as an older man, sitting behind a small perspex sculpture by Naum Gabo.
Herbert Read in his study with a sculpture by Naum Gabo. Courtesy Leeds University Library Special Collections BC Read.

New Approaches to Herbert Read

 

Leeds University
Wednesday 2 November 2022

Call for participants for a one-day workshop for PhD and Early Career Researchers on the work of Herbert Read.

 

Deadline to apply:
Wednesday 7 September 2022, 17:00

This workshop will mark the beginning of the Henry Moore Institute’s 2022-23 research season dedicated to Herbert Read. Building on the foundation of scholarship that reassessed Read in the 1990s, it asks how his legacy has shifted into the twenty-first century.

We welcome proposals for short, 5-10 minute papers intended to simulate discussion and introduce new research or creative interpretation of Read’s work. Topics may include:

  • New research into any area of Read’s writing
  • Read as curator, editor, or translator
  • New perspectives on Read’s influence over modern and contemporary sculpture
  • Read and the nineteenth century
  • Read and the Anthropocene
  • Read and the ethnographic artifact
  • Read’s anarchism and his political context
  • Read’s position within the New Modernist Studies
  • Read at home: the North Riding, Leeds, Hampstead, Stonegrave
  • Read’s role at the ICA
  • Word, image, ekphrasis
  • Read beyond the canon
  • Read and imperialism
  • Read and popular culture
  • Read and landscape