Ranging from exemplary inquiries of auto/biographical writing (Vollhardt, Zhao, Lewis, Zhu), sculptures (Boschung), wax portraits (Gersmann), royal portraits (Greub), contemporary photography (Mersmann), the resumé (Roussel), autobiographical alphabets (Schmitz-Emans) and other forms of biography and portrait, the speakers of the annual conference of the Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies (June, 9-11) addressed and discussed those forms of depiction between open and closed ways to reveal figurations of the particular.
Gottfried Boehm’s evening lecture on Cézanne’s portrait of Ambroise Vollard developed an idea of how the form of the depiction and the object, in this case the person portrayed, were first conveyed in the artistic act with Cézanne’s concept of “sensation.” During the conference, Morphomata fellows got involved into the complex and at the same time instructive discussion on how particularity/individuality is manifested in open, experimental manners – grounding e.g. on certain epistemological prerequisites such as the absence of a temporary teleology (Blamberger) and on an absent assumption of a central feature of a biography or a portrait – on the one hand. The participants discussed on the other hand, if, for example, closed forms of depiction are characterized through an overemphasis of informative codification of what is portrayed (Greub, Krings), or through the isolation of form – for instance in the sense of its self-distinction – from life per se as something “unshaped” (Roussel).
The interweaving of form and life and the mutual reference of “closed” to “open” forms and vice versa eventually led to the discussion of ambiguities in the formation (Boschung, Pollini, Dinter) or the question of the relationship between singularities and the course of life and thus to the paradoxical interconnection of opening and closing, for example in the figure of “open-ends” (Naumann, Mersmann). The presence of a wide range of academic disciplines – Literary Studies, Archaeology, History, Art History and Anthropology – inspired the wealth of ideas and perspectives. Without striving for consensual answers or solutions, the presentations and discussions formed a joined platform of exchanging analytically fruitful terms, hypotheses and new perspectives.