Elemental Force

Event Date: 
22 Mar 2018 to 24 Mar 2018


Panel at RSA 2018: Hilton New Orleans Riverside, March 22 - 24, 2018

Deadline: May 31, 2017


Elemental Force


Drowning, falling, floating, growing, burning, melting. How are elements figured in Renaissance and early modern artistic representation? From imagery of earth, water, air and fire, to the more ubiquitous sense of temperature, weight, darkness and light, how does visual culture contribute to an understanding of the elements in this period? From the thrusting up of rocks from beneath the earth through volcanoes and earthquakes, to the wide expanse of the cosmos, knowledge of natural phenomena was prominent in the Renaissance and early modern imagination. How do objects harness the elements in their production? What, for example, is the role of fire and earth in metal works and ceramics? Equally, how did elemental forces act upon and alter works of art – from physical damage to the influence of regional topographies, materials and pigments?


The landscape of elemental physics changed dramatically between 1300 and 1700. This history is characterised by a broad paradigm shift from a sublunar, terrestrial world made up of the four elements and their specific material attributes (hot, cold, heavy, light), to a globe experienced through Mercator’s seas, Galileo’s sky and Newton’s earth. Yet the elements, their effects upon the body, their power to manifest material things – and how they are imagined and contested in visual culture – do not always sit easily within this chronology. The representation of these forces is the focus of this panel. It is a subject that has the power to open up broader concerns regarding memory, motion, travel, sensory experience, metamorphosis, environmentalism and networks of knowledge exchange – social, cultural and political.


We welcome papers from across disciplines, from within Europe and beyond Western contexts. Topics might include, but are not limited to:


  • The elements and their early modern properties: Earth/ Rock, Water, Air, Fire; hot, cold, wet, dry, heavy, light.
  • Elements as complex, compound mixtures.
  • Materiality & Making: sculpture and stone, ceramics and glass, metal and fire, water and fountains, earth and pigments.
  • Elemental/ material states: solid, liquid and in-between.
  • The effects of the elements upon the body: falling, burning, pain, joy, drowning, disease, phenomenological and sensory approaches to elemental force.
  • Understanding within academic disciplines: natural philosophy, alchemy, chemistry, theories of metamorphosis.
  • Cosmos: stars, sky, separation of celestial and terrestrial physics.
  • Gravity.
  • Light & Shadow.
  • Manifestations of the elements in nature: wind, clouds, volcanoes, rivers, the sea, mountains, natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, storms.
  • Connections to landscape, geography, environmentalism, catastrophism, the non-human.
  • Water & Travel: wetscapes, navigation and shipwreck, hydrographies.


Please send a paper title, abstract (150 word maximum), keywords, and a brief curriculum vitae (300 word maximum – see RSA guidelines for requirements) to thalia.allington-wood@ucl.ac.uk and sophie.morris@ucl.ac.uk by 31 May 2017


Link: http://rsa.site-ym.com/blogpost/1595526/274633/CFP-ELEMENTAL-FORCE

Submission date for papers: 
31 May 2017