Keynote Presentation: "Blind Self-Portraits: Remaking the Image of Blindness,"
by Georgina Kleege, Lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley

The Department of Visual Arts, University of California San Diego, is pleased to announce the 11th Annual Graduate Visual Arts Symposium, scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018. We seek proposals that rethink or interrogate the primacy of the visual through interdisciplinary approaches in art history, museological studies, curatorial practices and artistic production.

Since Plato and Aristotle, vision has been privileged in Western thought as a harbinger of truth and knowledge. Particularly, visuality has remained one of the dominant approaches to the artwork, defining how the audience engages with the exhibition and/or institutional space. This day-long symposium aims to explore how other sensorial faculties, such as the auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory, can expand the discipline of art and thus reshape the quotidian experience within contemporary life. What sensual elements constitute our perception of an object or a work of art? Which subjects, practices, and narratives are lost through ocularcentrism? How can critical discourses within cultural studies, identity politics, feminist and queer theory, disability studies, as well as performative and spatiotemporal propositions re/consider alternative modes of knowledge production?

Proposals from any sociohistorical context and geographic region are welcome. Topics of interest include:
* The bias of the gaze
* Power and visuality
* Peripheral vision and the periphery
* The spectrum of vision and blindness
* The tactile, olfactory, auditory, and gustatory imaginaries
* Intangible objects, the ephemeral and the performative
* Speculative futures and fluid bodies
* Dis/ability, inclusivity, and rethinking the normative body
* Museological strategies and audiences (e.g., historical definitions of the institutionalized "ideal" audience and contemporary strategies of participatory and inclusive audienceship)
* Neoliberal modes of digital communication (including applications, devices, networks, screens, aids, etc.)
* Media archaeology, archives and the digital humanities
* New media and the sensorial experience in art and design (digital media art, virtual and augmented reality, gamification, etc.)
* Light, sight, and visibility
* The artist as social/cultural producer: constructing and distributing social norms, enforcing or subverting notions of abnormality

Symposium presentations should be twenty minutes in length. We encourage applicants to include their working title and images. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a one-page CV, to by Monday, February 12th. All participants will be notified by Saturday February 17th. If you have any questions you may contact symposium organizers, Yi Liu and Erika Barbosa at

Keynote Speaker

Georgina Kleege joined the English department at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003 where in addition to teaching creative writing classes she teaches courses on representations of disability in literature, and disability memoir. Her collection of personal essays, Sight Unseen (1999) is a classic in the field of disability studies. Essays include an autobiographical account of Kleege’s own blindness, and cultural critique of depictions of blindness in literature, film, and language. Many of these essays are required reading for students in disability studies, as well as visual culture, education, public health, psychology, philosophy and ophthalmology. Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller (2006) transcends the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction to re-imagine the life and legacy of this celebrated disability icon. Kleege’s latest book, More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art (2018) is concerned with blindness and visual art: how blindness is represented in art, how blindness affects the lives of visual artists, how museums can make visual art accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. She has lectured and served as consultant to art institutions around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. Kleege received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Division of Arts and Humanities in 2013, and from the UCB campus as a whole in 2016.

Link to Kleege’s recently released book, More than Meets the Eye: What BlindnessBrings to Art

Organized by Ph.D. students Erika Barbosa, Shoghig Halajian, Marianna Hovhannisyan, Alexis Hudgins, Yiqing Li and Yi Liu.


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