UNTIE THE KNOT: Open call for conference

KONTEJNER | bureau for contemporary art praxis in partnership with Photography association Organ Vida is organizing a two-day international conference "Untie the Knot: Redefining Normativity in Love" as part of the Extravagant Bodies festival. The two-day conference will take place at the Grand venue of Cinema Europa in Zagreb on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st, September 2019. We invite everybody interested to propose scientific, theoretical and other investigative works on the topic of love!

Stahl Stenslie (NO) talking at the Extravagant Age symposium 2013

Untie the Knot: Redefining Normativity in Love

Even though love is an emotion experienced by virtually everybody everywhere, the ways in which we live sexuality and intimacy, as Lauren Berlant argues, “have been profoundly shaped by theories” (Berlant 2012). While psychoanalytic theories have long served as the dominant explanatory models of sexuality, subjectivity and desire, other modes of explanation “have been offered by aesthetics, religion, and the fantasies of mass and popular culture, which are not usually realistic but often claim to have distilled emotional truths about love’s nature and force” (ibid.). There are several aspects in which we wish to approach the topic of love through this conference.

We begin with the most obvious connection - the relation between love and sexuality. Here we’re interested in examining the concept of mononormativity and tackle the alternative ways of constructing intimacy and thus challenging common (mis)perceptions of polyamory. This also involves exploring the connection and the difference between sexual and non-sexual ways of loving and further discussing the broad spectrum of asexuality, gray-asexuality and considering numerous manifestations of love as caring labour.

We’re also focused on examining the link between love and politics. Following bell hooks, who argued that love is a material power capable of empowering both individuals and collectives, and drawing from Michael Hardt’s conception of love as a generative and collective force, we wish to challenge the modern concept of love - one that is limited to the “the bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family”(Hardt, Negri 2004). We want to move away from the understanding of love as a strictly private affair and consider it as a site for collective “becoming-different” instead. On this note, we’re questioning love as a commodity, considering the salability of love as a product mostly marketed towards heterosexual couples and in that way normalizing heterosexuality and monogamy.

In times of the ongoing rise of fascism and right-wing extremism on a global level, we believe that it is necessary to think of the complex ways in which love towards another “can be transferred towards a collective” (Ahmed 2004). We want to understand not only love’s radical and transformative potential, but the different ways in which it can be a source of exclusion, domination and violence. Here we want to stress the importance of the political struggle over the question - who has the right to declare themselves as acting out of love - as posed by Sara Ahmed in The Cultural Politics of Emotion.

Finally, we wish to investigate the relationship of love as subject of culture and that of science. Looking at love as a distilled set of symptoms, we want to question cultural and societal agency related to what we understand as being or falling in love, but also terms such as unconditional love widely used in familial settings. We are interested to see how neuroscience, psychiatry, pharmacology, biology and other related fields of research analyze, hypothesize and explain what love is and how it is shaped either by chemical, cultural, biological or societal rules and characteristics. Ultimately, we seek to explore whether this knowledge and technological advances yield forms of misuse and abuse.

We invite researchers, academics, artists and others to submit their paper proposals for the conference program. We are interested in presentations that challenge existing theoretical as well as material and embodied practices of love in order to move towards more unrestrained conceptions of love.

The deadline for submission of abstracts (up to 500 words) and CV is June 1st 2019 on midnight.
Submissions can be sent to the following email address: kontejner@kontejner.org and conference@organvida.com
If you have any questions, please contact us via emails kontejner@kontejner.org and conference@organvida.com

Organization committee:

prof. Jasna Galjer, PhD (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb)
prof. Žarko Paić, PhD (Faculty of Textile Technology, University of Zagreb)
prof. Sandra Vitaljić, PhD (Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb)
prof. Leonida Kovač, PhD (Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb)
KONTEJNER | bureau of contemporary art praxis
ORGAN VIDA — International Photography Association