“Disassembled Images”: Contemporary Art After Allan Sekula

The Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography, Art and Visual Culture (KU Leuven – Université catholique de Louvain) and M HKA – Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen kindly invite you to their scientific conference.


This international conference takes the US artist, theoretician, critic, teacher and poet Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools/ The Dockers’ Museum (2010-2013) as its point of departure. At the very end of his life Sekula produced this unfinished, multifaceted and variably installable work of art, which contains ca. 1250 objects. Focusing on dock workers and seafarers, Sekula’s Ship of Fools/ The Dockers’ Museum paid tribute to all the joined, past efforts of human labor now irretrievably lost in history – a struggle he identified as “Sisyphean.” In doing so, Sekula wished to provide a message of hope: his last work contributes to imagining possible forms of solidarity in a globalized economy confronted evermore with its own limitations. The conference’s participants will discuss both Sekula’s oeuvre and works by other contemporary artists whose approach dialogues with his seminal legacy.

The conference is organized around three thematic sections:

  • Collecting Folly
  • Maritime Failures and Imaginaries
  • Critical Realism in Dialogue

Each forms a separate session that opens up to contemporary art engaging with Sekula’s influential method of making artwork as “disassembled plays” – a term he connected to the work of Bertolt Brecht, and which served to indicate that he demands a substantial productive and temporal input from the spectators who are experiencing his works.

The keynote speakers of this conference will be W.J.T. Mitchell (University of Chicago) and Marco Poloni (artist, Berlin).

The conference will be held in English. Participation is free and open to all, but prior registration is mandatory. For more information, the conference schedule, and the registration form, please visit:


To download the leaflet, please click here.


Flamenco, as it “really” is

By Jan Baetens

Flamenco culture, which includes cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance), jaleo (vocalizations), palmas (handclapping) and pitos (finger snapping), but which is also inextricably linked with other fields of culture such as poetry and tauromachy (remember Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon? Still the best possible introduction to this complex cultural network) – all of them having to do with the untranslatable notion of “duende” – is known by most of us as a form of “folklore”. It is therefore virtually highly suspect, given the problematic status of notions such as “authenticity”, the “popular”, “spontaneity”, the “people”, etc.


It would be absurd however to deny that “real”, that is both profound and authentic art (but of course the concept of “art” is no longer appropriate here, since the very boundaries between life and art do no longer apply), no longer exists in a modern, mass-media saturated society in which the idea of community has become a caricature, and that it cannot resist and survive the commercial and ideological appropriations that can be made of it. The question is then: how to communicate the “experience” of such an art?  As already argued by John Dewey in his famous book Art as Experience (1932), an often forgotten forerunner of cultural studies, the only way of knowing such an art is byway of experience.

colita-2If you travel to Granada this Spring, don’t go to one of the flamenco shows that litters the touristic areas of the city. Forget about them, and go immediately to the Alhambra; more precisely, the photography exhibition curated by Concha Gόmez (professor at the Carlos III University in Madrid). This exhibition offers an amazing retrospective of the work of Colita – artist name of Isabel Steva (°1940) – one of the first professional female press photographers in Spain who has always been fascinated by the world of the gypsies and flamenco. Speculations on the misrepresentation of real and authentic culture immediately vanish when entering the exhibition, which is a model of great photography as well as curatorial intelligence. What makes the experience so strong is the complete coincidence of the various levels of mediation. One witnesses for example the intimate knowledge of the culture the artist wants to represent (the photographer is not an outsider of the flamenco culture). Furthermore, the curator has built a strong personal relationship with the photographer, as shown by a wonderful filmed interview in the exhibition which refrains from overloading the images with all kinds of didactic captions. There is a strong awareness of the historical and political complexities of flamenco, a longtime marginalized art, created by marginalized people. One cannot therefore simply document flamenco from the outside or by detaching it from the rest of a living culture where current ideas on art prevent us from seeing and feeling what is really happening. An additional level of mediation is the perfect capacity of disclosing the “duende”, the epiphany (?), with an economy of means that is shared by the flamenco artist, the photographer and the curator, and finally, the desire to not only focus on the exceptional value of masterpieces (although neither Colita nor Gόmez tend to hide the empowering presence of exceptional figures).

It is a good thing to be skeptical about “authenticity”, for it is the best way to experience it when it is really “there”.

COLITA FLAMENCO. El Viaje sin fin/Journey without End

Curator: Concha Gόmez

(Alhambra, Palace of Charles V, Jan. 26 to May 6, 2017, free admission)

European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry

February 7 – 10 2017 // Leuven, Belgium

After 12 successful editions of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry from our partner at Illinois University in the US, we are pleased to announce that the first European edition of the congress will be hosted in the beautiful city of Leuven, Belgium.

On behalf of the Network Qualitative Research Leuven and our distinguished partners, I extend a very warm welcome to qualitative researchers worldwide.

The venue of ECQI 2017 will be KU Leuven, situated near Brussels, the capital of Europe, and a centre of learning for almost six centuries now (founded in 1425). KU Leuven has grown substantially and has become a multi-campus university employing over 11,500 persons and hosting more than 50,000 students, 14% of which are ‘international’ students representing 147 different nationalities.

The 1st edition of the European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry is a unique event for sharing knowledge and seeking new collaboration and partnerships. It provides opportunities for addressing the common challenges that qualitative researchers face in their own geographical regions or research disciplines. Most importantly the Congress is a lively event, providing ample opportunities for interacting with friends and colleagues and learning about the latest developments and innovations in qualitative inquiry. Following the example of ICQI, we offer you a space where you may feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas and critical thoughts and push the boundaries of what we currently perceive as best practice in qualitative research.

Committed to strengthen the qualitative research agenda in Europe, we particularly invite contributions that address the important aspect of quality and reflexivity in qualitative inquiry.  Quality criteria and quality frameworks used to judge our own work and the work of others are constantly negotiated in the context of emerging areas of qualitative methodological innovation and new ways of conceptualizing qualitative inquiry. We recognize the value of flexible, emerging and progressive approaches to qualitative research developed in response to the often wicked, challenging topics we study and welcome contributions that are provocative, creative and critical towards our own established toolbox of qualitative research approaches.  To maximize learning potential, we invite researchers to share transparent audit trails of methodological decisions made in qualitative research projects and reconstruct their research logic for others. We hope to welcome many of you to join us in evolving debates on what constitutes good practice in qualitative inquiry and by doing so, influence the direction, focus and atmosphere of potential future editions of ECQI.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Leuven, a bustling city with many museums, monuments and historic buildings(incl. Unesco World Heritage) and a rich gastronomy, claiming to be ‘The place to beer!’.

On behalf of the Network Qualitative Research Leuven,
Karin Hannes, conference chair

More info: https://kuleuvencongres.be/ECQI2017

More videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdr08GP2w7A&list=PLNormAuTYSJumInVborMzkwg5zXdCvDg8&index=1

Keynote Speakers

norman-k-denzinVirtual introduction to the European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry by Norman Denzin, conference chair of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry.

Norman K. Denzin is Emeritus Professor of Communications, Sociology, and Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Denzin is the author or editor of more than two dozen books, including Indians  on Display; Custer on Canvas; The Qualitative Manifesto; Qualitative Inquiry Under Fire; Searching for Yellowstone; Reading Race; Interpretive Ethnography; The Cinematic Society; The Voyeur’s Gaze; and The Alcoholic Self. He is past editor of The Sociological Quarterly, co-editor (with Yvonna S. Lincoln) of four editions of the Handbook of Qualitative Research, coeditor (with Michael D. Giardina) of 12 plenary volumes from the annual International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, co-editor (with Lincoln) of the methods journal Qualitative Inquiry, founding editor of Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies and International Review of Qualitative Research, and editor of three book series.

mats-alvessonMats Alvesson is Professor of Business Administration at the University of Lund, Sweden, and, part-time, University of Queensland Business School, Australia and Cass Business School, London. He has done extensive research and published widely in the areas of qualitative and reflexive methodology, critical theory, organized culture, knowledge work, identity in organizations, gender, organizational change, management consultancy etc. He has published 20 books with leading publishers and hundreds of articles, many of which are widely cited and used on higher levels in university education. Recent books include Understanding Gender and Organizations (Sage, 2009, with Y. Billing), Reflexive Methodology (Sage, 2009, with K. Sköldberg), Interpreting Interviews (Sage, 2010), The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, higher education and work organization (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Constructing Research Questions: Doing interesting research (Sage 2013, with J. Sandberg)

About his talk: Identifying and solving mysteries in empirical research. A methodology for generating novel and interesting theories is by challenging the links between empirical material and theoretical conclusions. Many researchers approach robust quantitative or qualitative data (generated through grounded theory, experiments, ethnographies, observations and so forth) as both the basis delivering theoretical insights through proper analysis and as the final arbiter of their theories’ truthfulness. I, by contrast, do not regard empirical material as the royal road to theory, no matter how diligently and rigorously it has been collected and how technically well it has been analysed. Instead, I see theory and empirical material in a constant interplay with the latter as a source of inspiration rather than as the ultimate arbiter for the latter. Theory and empirical material must be in constant dialogue, interrogating and refining each other, with special attention being paid to discontinuities, paradoxes and mysteries. I consequently suggest a methodology for theory development through encounters between theoretical assumptions and empirical impressions that highlight breakdowns. It is the unanticipated and the unexpected – the anomalies that puzzle the researcher – that are of particular interest in the encounter. These do not just appear, they need to be creatively created. Accordingly, theory development is stimulated and facilitated through a special interest in what does not work in an existing theory or in received wisdom. The ideal of this research methodology can be summed up as including two elements, the identification of a mystery and its solution. It means the active use of empirical material not to confirm and reproduce but kick back and challenge dominant ideas and developing something unexpected and novel. The talk is based on Alvesson and Kärreman: Qualitative Research and Theory Development, Mystery as Method, Sage 2011).

This key note is sponsored by the Faculty of Economics, KU Leuven.

maggie-maclureMaggie MacLure is Professor of Education in the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). She leads the Theory and Methodology Research Group in ESRI. Her most recent research projects have centred on early childhood education, and the issue of ‘behaviour’ in school. Maggie is the founder and director of the Summer Institute in Qualitative Research. Her book, Discourse in Educational and Social Research, won the Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association.

About her talk: Rethinking reflexivity in the ‘ontological turn’. Reflexivity has been a powerful concept for qualitative research. It has challenged narrow definitions of ‘objectivity’, and attempted to repair the fatal breach that such definitions posit between researchers, participants and knowledge. However I want to reconsider the status of reflexivity, from within the ontological or materialist ‘turn’ in theory. This ‘turn’ – a loose confederation of disparate influences from Barad, Braidotti and Deleuze, among many others – is prompting a radical rethinking of the methods and the conceptual architecture of qualitative inquiry. It presents a profound challenge to the humanism that still underpins much of the research endeavour, with its privilege of language, discourse and culture over matter and nature. Can reflexivity be rethought within the new materialisms; or is it irrevocably tainted through its association with human entitlement, and the distancing effects of language and representation? Barad asserts that ‘we’ are components of each research apparatus that engages the world: that we are born from the ‘agential cut’ that also produces the ‘data’ and our relation to it. What would an immanent reflexivity look like, and how would it work? I suggest that we might think of reflexivity, after Laura Cull (2011), as a kind of immanent attention or ‘ontological participation’, and explore some of the methodological and ethical implications for qualitative inquiry.