Call for papers



International conference in Bialystok, Poland

from the 16th-19th September 2021

Organised by

The A. Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art

Branch Campus in Bialystok, Poland and

University of Bergen, Norway



This conference is concerned with the agency and life of material objects and evolves around the investigation of two interlaced objectives. First, the conference will shed light on understudied aspects of medieval visual culture, focusing in particular on the agency of images and material objects. Second, it will provide new cutting-edge theoretical reflections and methodologies con­cerning the study of material agency and “living images” today. We argue that the cultural use of and interaction with images may be regarded as more than mere historically or culturally specific phenomena. Rather, it concerns the ontology of images and constitutes a fundamental aspect of our life with im­ages, in the premodern as well as in the contemporary. It is our contention that images are embedded in social interaction and that animation is deeply consti­tutive of the production of meaning. Animation, we argue, is not only located in the mind of the beholder, but in the epistemology, creation, interaction and materiality of images. Furthermore, we will argue that medieval animation may inform contemporary views on animation and provide us with a more precise vocabulary to capture current phenomena for instance in the digital world. The conference aim to be interdisciplinary and transhistorical in its perspective and targets scholars of visual studies, material studies, study of religions, anthropology, medieval studies and theology. It is also relevant more generally for current discussions about the life and agency of seemingly dead matter.

There are four main topics of the conference: 
– Physical/mechanical animation of artworks and other artefacts (sculptures, reliquaries, paintings etc.)
– Mental animations of images and objects (artworks, and other artefacts)
– Animation in a theatrical context (mystery plays, liturgical plays and staging’s, puppets and other theatrical use of figures and sculptures)
– Medieval and Early Modern animation in the 20th century and contemporary theatrical practices.

The conference takes as its point of departure the work of the newly organized international research-project: The Living Image (LIMA): On the ontology, agency and personhood of living images and objects – medieval and modern. This project is coordinated from the University of Bergen, Norway, and consists of a group of researchers from Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Poland, United Kingdom, and USA, and the work of the international research network: The European Network on the Instruments of Devotion – ENID:

The conference in Bialystok is designed to be a platform for the exchange of opinions, ideas, and historical documentation, as well as the starting point for a publication. We plan to publish a collection of articles offering an interdisciplinary academic survey of the topic of animation in the Middle Ages, and its reception in the 20th Century.

Confirmed key-note speakers: 
Peter Dent, Ph.D., University of Bristol, GB
Prof. Cynthia Hahn, The City University of New York, USA
Prof. Hans Henrik Lohfert Jørgensen, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Amy Whitehead, Ph.D., Massey University, New Zealand

Scientific committee: 
Henrik von Achen, Professor, Dr. Art., Director of the University Museum, University of Bergen, Norway
Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland, Professor, Ph.D., MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Norway
Barbara Baert, Professor, Ph.D., Art History, Faculty of Arts, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Jørgen Bakke, Associate Professor, Dr. Art., Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen, Norway
Carla Maria Bino, Professor, Ph.D., Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Brescia, Italy
Christophe Chaguinian, Associate Professor, Ph.D., College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, University of North Texas, USA
Peter Dent, Senior Lecturer, Ph.D., Department of History of Art, University of Bristol, Great Britain
Rob Faesen, Professor, Ph.D., Department of History of Church and Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Cynthia Hahn, Professor, Ph.D., Medieval Art History, Hunter College, The City University of New York, USA
Hans Henrik Lohfert Jørgensen, Associate Professor, School of Communication and Culture – Art History, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Jon P. Mitchell, Professor, Ph.D., Social Anthropology, University of Sussex, Great Britain
David Morgan, Professor, Ph.D., Religious Studies & Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University, USA
Salvador Ryan, Professor, Ph.D., Ecclesiastical History, Pontifical University St Patricks College, Maynooth, Ireland
Zuzanna Sarnecka, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., Institute of Art History, University of Warsaw, Poland
Laura Katrine Skinnebach, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., School of Communication and Culture – Art History, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Allie Terry-Fritsch, Associate Professor, Ph.D., School of Art – Art History, Bowling Green State University, USA

Conference organised by: 
Kamil Kopania, Ph.D., The A. Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art, Branch Campus in Bialystok, Poland (
Henning Laugerud, Associate Professor, Dr. Art., Department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen, Norway

The language of the conference is English. Each contributor will be given 20 minutes to present his/her paper.
Please send abstracts of no longer than 500 words, together with a short CV and personal data at the following email:
Deadline: April 1, 2021

The conference will take place in Bialystok at the:
The A. Zelwerowicz National Academy of Dramatic Art
Branch Campus in Białystok
(Puppet Theatre Art Department)
Sienkiewicza 14, 15–092 Białystok, Poland

General information
See also