The Image in Question - an international arts conference in Sydney

8 July 2014

The image-saturated world that we live in today will be under scrutiny at an international, interdisciplinary conference and exhibition at Sydney College of the Arts from 1-3 August. International researchers led by the University of Sydney's contemporary arts school and philosophy department, together with the Australian Catholic University's Institute of Social Justice, will examine society's position as consumers of images in film, photography, television, the internet and contemporary art.

The conference theme, The Image in Question, is partly inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blow Up, which follows a fashion photographer's quest for verifiable evidence of a murder he has unwittingly captured on film. Underlying the film is a metaphor for the hidden truths revealed in an image - an idea that will be explored at the Sydney conference.

Dr John Di Stefano, Associate Professor, Sydney College of the Arts and one of the conference organisers, said: "Images are generated and disseminated at unheard of speed and volume now more than ever. As consumers, we have become somewhat desensitized by the deluge of images that we encounter through various media daily.

"This conference will consider how the image can still be meaningful today, and what its currency and role is in society. It will also raise philosophical questions about the future of our society and human kind, in a world mediated through photo media," he said.

Visiting Australia for the conference is international cultural theorist and video artist Dr Mieke Bal from the University of Amsterdam. An author of more than 30 books, Bal also makes experimental documentaries on migration and more recently has begun exploring fiction. She will deliver a keynote address on 'Temporal Turbulence', which will examine how imaging and thinking politically might go hand in hand.

Dr Stephen White, another international guest speaker and Philosophy Professor at Boston's Tufts University, will deliver the second keynote on scepticism and the camera as a metaphor for the mind.

Accompanying The Image in Question is an exhibition, The Sceptical Image, which integrates creative art research into the conference. The exhibition sees 11 contemporary artists, including SCA lecturers Anne Ferran, Ryszard Dabek, John Di Stefano, Merilyn Fairskye, Stefan Popescu, Cherine Fahd, Justin Trendall and Margaret Seymour, develop new works across photography, video installation, digital art and film. In a unique forum, the conference will move into the SCA Galleries to examine and interrogate images created by these contemporary artists in response to the conference theme, providing a further avenue for critical debate and exchange during the conference.

In conjunction with the conference, Mieke Bal also presents her latest video installation Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism at the SCA Galleries. Her immersive exhibition is inspired by Gustave Flaubert's 1856 debut novel Madame Bovary, which tells an archetypal story of a doctor's wife's adulterous affairs and who lives beyond her means to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. The installation, comprising 19 video screen projections, follows a similar, modern day tale of human madness and destruction. Made in collaboration with fellow video and performance artist Michelle Williams Gamaker, the work is loyal to the cinema as an art form for revealing images that have big screen political influence.

The Image in Question will draw experts from several other key universities internationally and in NSW and the ACT, who will speak as part of this interdisciplinary conference. For the full program and to register visit

The Sceptical Image and Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism exhibitions are showing at the SCA Galleries until 30 August.

Event details

What:The Image in Question international conference

When: 1-3 August (exhibition opening: 1 Aug and conference: 2-3 Aug)

Where: Sydney College of the Arts, Callan Park, Lilyfield

Cost: $140 adult, $90 concession (Day rate $70/$45)


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