International symposium

From B to X. Making Art (History) since John Berger

When: 11 et 12 octobre 2018
Where: 11 October: IDHEAP, aula, UNIL-Mouline, 1015 Lausanne; 12 October: Musée de l’Elysée, Avenue de l’Elysée 18, 1006 Lausanne

Please register by 1 October 2018 at Participation is free of charge. The number of seats is limited.

New room (11.10): the symposium will take place at the aula of the Institut de hautes études en administration publique (IDHEAP). 


The first episode of Ways of Seeing, the 1970s television series broadcast by the BBC, opens with a long take in which the presenter, British writer, artist, and art critic John Berger (1926-2017), cuts up Venus and Mars (1483), a painting by Sandro Botticelli that is housed at the National Gallery in London. In the very opening images of the film Berger cuts out the head of Venus and later lays it out flat on a stack of photographic prints. Surprising, worthy of a vandal, and unexpected within the context of the museum, this gesture reveals the materiality of the painting as well as the practical and pragmatic dimensions of the discourse on art. It also highlights the implicities of the museum world and the iconoclastic impetus in Berger’s critique of western art history.

From B to X. Making Art (History) since John Berger

The Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), the Musée de l’Elysée and the University of Bern propose to examine the production of alternative, politically engaged discourses on art and their reception over the past 50 years. This international symposium will focus primarily on specific practices of image-making, whereby performativity, display and materiality are explored as creative motors and epistemological processes.

More broadly, this conference is also the opportunity to discuss the future(s) of art history as a discipline, within the university and museum contexts. The title of our proposal, inspired by Berger’s book From A to X. A Story in Letters (2008), offers a prospective incentive that is non-dogmatic. Far from claiming to be either exhaustive or prescriptive, this symposium is intended as an opportunity to assess the methods and scope of art history.