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Conference Report: Art History in Quarantine

From Ecuador to Berlin, from the west coast of California to a small Swiss village, from Erlangen to New York City, scientists have joined forces for "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures". They connected worldwide via video conferencing software. Some of the international speakers gave their lectures from their rooms in strict quarantine. More than 300 participants came together, spending 3,5 hours in scientific exchange.

Fig. 1: Conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", April 10th, 2020, speakers (zoom video conference, the first minutes online, screenshot)
Fig. 1: Conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", April 10th, 2020, speakers (zoom video conference, the first minutes online, screenshot)

Among the highlights were: Paul Jaskot (Duke University) delivers a critique of the visualization practices and scenarios of the corona crisis. Infographics and diagrams on the course of the pandemic are the subject of dispute in terms of critical visual studies. Jaskot analyzes current information visualization images of the corona crisis (fig. 2). He also draws international comparisons (fig. 3), showing the individual tendency of each piece of infoviz to emphasize certain parameters, like either emphasizing cure or disease. The power of the images is to emphasize. One could say: image science was there when it was needed. The talk gained resonance.

Fig. 2: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 2: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 3: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 3: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 4: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 4: Paul B. Jaskot, presentation "Digital Art History in a Time of Barbarism: The Iconography of COVID-19", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)


Keith Haring´s declaration "Together we can stop AIDS" ("Todos juntos podemos parar el sida", mural painting, Barcelona, 1989, today: Museu d´Art Contemporani de Barcelona), originally art in public space, generated, 31 years after its creation, another echo, now in virtual public space, technologically reconstructed by Justin Underhill (University of California, Berkeley; see fig. 6, sketchfab https://sketchfab.com/artdotrip). The red-figured demonstration (see fig. 5) of human determination, unity, helplessness and energy in the face of the deadly disease, metaphorically depicted by Haring as a mighty snake monster, accompanied the participants in their thoughts - in California into the day, in Berlin into the night.

Fig. 5: Justin Underhill, presentation "Embracing an Epidemic (again)", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 5: Justin Underhill, presentation "Embracing an Epidemic (again)", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot)
Fig. 6: Justin Underhill @artdotrip, presentation "Embracing an Epidemic (again)", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot), click into the image -> link to https://sketchfab.com/artdotrip
Fig. 6: Justin Underhill @artdotrip, presentation "Embracing an Epidemic (again)", conference "Art History in Quarantine: Digital Transformations, Digital Futures", 4/10/2020 (video conference, screenshot), click into the image -> link to https://sketchfab.com/artdotrip

The organisation was in the hands of the editors of the International Journal for Digital Art History, Harald Klinke, Liska Surkemper, and Justin Underhill. Some aspects of the discussions can also be viewed in retrospect via the Twitter hashtag #AHinQuarantine. Links to individual presentations and sets of slides were also shared online, such as the contribution by Peter Bell and Jacqueline Klusik-Eckert (both Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) from the Working Group on Digital Art History
Arbeitskreis Digitale Kunstgeschichte on the subject "Building a Support Group for Digital Teaching".

The conference reached well over 300 people. It was anything but boring. It will not have been the last event of this kind. The people, united in the boat of the pandemic, spent 3,5 hours together in scientific exchange.

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