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When Mar 8, 2018 - Mar 8, 2018
Where Leicester, UK, De Montfort University
Submission Deadline Dec 1, 2017
Categories    material culture   design culture   fashion   arts and humanities

Call For Papers



An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Friday 9th March 2018

Leicester Castle, De Montfort University, Leicester, U.K.

Collaboration between Design Cultures De Monfort University and Fashion Research Network

This one-day symposium examines the contemporary fascination with the surfaces, surveying the (im)material surface qualities of our everyday environment. It brings together scholars and practitioners from a range of disciplines—creative arts and design, architecture, performance, cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, history, literary studies and social studies of science and technology—to discuss the construction, dissolution and deconstruction of the surface.

Siegfried Kracauer wrote, in the 1920s when the Western world was captivated by technology and mechanised production, that urban mass culture was defined by surface affects and described the experience of modernity as being that of a surface condition.[1] Modernity’s obsession with the surface was revealed most clearly in built, designed and manufactured everyday things. The ‘surface splendour’ filled picture palaces [2]; glass architecture alluded to utopian milieu that breeds revolutionary subjectivity [3]; Josephine Baker wore her naked skin like a shimmering sheath [4]; factory spaces full of gleaming machinery were worshipped like a temple; the sleek surface of Bakelite signalled a new era of consumer goods.

Today, almost 100 years on, in the midst of another technological revolution, the creative industries are again preoccupied with the surface and its dissolution, disintegration or efflorescence, accentuating the surface’s function of mediation or passage, rather than that of separation or boundary. The surface evaporates, percolates, become blurred or spectral in Diller and Scofidio’s Cloud Machine; Bill Morrison’s Decasia; Bart Hess’s Digital Artefact; Sruli Recht’s translucent leather collection Apparition. James Turrell’s light architecture is simultaneously material and immaterial, and the surface seems to disappear altogether with Surrey Nanosystems’ Vantablack.

If the everyday surface can be regarded as a site for the projection and display of psychical, cultural, social, and political values, what is the implication of the dissolving surface? How does the (im)materiality of surface affect our experience of the body, self and society today? What is our attitude towards these surface qualities? In what forms does surface materiality exist in the virtual age? What kind of moral, functional, aesthetic values does the surface conceal or reveal?

We welcome papers for 20-minute presentations on themes including but not limited to:

• Material, processual, affective and symbolic aspects of the surface;

• The conflation of diverse surfaces: the surface of the body, garment, product, furniture, interior wall, digital screen, painting, architectural façade;

• Immaterialisation, fragmentation, corrosion, decomposition, disintegration of surface;

• How contemporary art and design express the disruptive potential of surface;

• The ways in which surface conditions can influence surrounding space, going beyond physical structure;

• the (im)materiality of an artistic/technological medium and its potential to create a transgressive surface quality or atmosphere.

Please send an abstract (400 words max.) with a brief profile (150 words max.) to with ‘Abstract submission: Apparition’ in the subject line, using the Submission Form (download HERE). This Call closes on 1 December (midnight GMT).

• Language for the abstract submission and presentation is English.

• Accepted contributors are invited to submit their full chap­ters of 6000–8000 words by 29 June 2018. The edited volume will be submitted for publication to a major academic publisher in September 2018.


• Registration fee (Includes lunch, day and evening refreshment): standard: £15/ students: £10.

• Limited number of free places are reserved for DMU students.

• Information on registration and updates on the programme will be available from January.

Important Dates:

2nd October 2017 – Call for Papers Opens

1st December 2017 – Deadline for Abstracts midnight GMT

5th January 2017 – Notification for acceptance and invitation

12th January 2017 – Confirmation of attendance received until midnight GMT

January 2018 – Registration opens and symposium programme published

6th March 2018 – Registration closes

9th March 2018 – Symposium

29th June 2018 – Full paper submission for publication


Inquiries: Dr. Yeseung Lee (, Dr. Ellen Sampson (


1. Oppenheimer, Sarah (2014) ‘Interview: Giuliana Bruno by Sarah Oppenheimer’, Bomb Magazine, Available at:, Accessed on: 23 December 2014.

2. Kracauer, Siegfried (1995) ‘Cult of Distraction: on Berlin’s picture palaces’, in Levin T. Y. (ed.) The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, London; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp.323–328, first published in German in 1926.

3. Scheerbart, Paul (1972) ‘Glass Architecture’, in Sharp D. (ed.) Glass Architecture and Alpine Architecture, London: November Books, pp. 41–74; Benjamin, Walter (1999) ‘Experience and Poverty’, in Jennings, M.J., Eiland, H. and Smith, G. (eds.) Selected Writings: Vol 2, Part 2, 1931-1934, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 731–736, first published in German in 1933.

4. Cheng, Anne Anlin (2011) Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface, New York: Oxford University Press.

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