Metamorphosis - ecstases of matter and image

Bodies of Splendor: Between Fluidity And Petrifaction

Metamorphosis, since Heraclitus, has been perceived as a fleeting state in constant transformation of matter. Or, as Empedocles put it, as a cosmic cycle of eternal change, growth and decay of the elementals where love and strife confront each other.

Conference in the series Ecstatic alchemies - elusive ecologies the 'practice of the wild in art'.

Philosophers and phenomenologists, and lately new materialism thinkers projected this sense of the world, condensed in the iconic image of Schelling’s primordial vortex of creation as a wave-wound, whirling sea, following dark, traversed by the brilliance of light. To this beginning – ‘the mother of all beginnings’ – Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Luc Nancy have often returned in their writings – to ”the radiant constitution of being” by which the formless abject was molded into a multitude of brilliant splinters.

This conference aims to take the term “metamorphosis” to task – asking what it means, across nature and art, art and technology, to perform traces and ecstasies of matter and body in metamorphic state. How images associated with the elemental states – the earthly, the aquatic, or the unearthly incorporea and the airy ineffabilia – engaged themselves throughout time, creating chiastic intersections, and poetic fields of morphic resonance? Attentive to their shifting from fluidity to petrifaction, fossilization into the grain of dust, we invite papers to reflect on the wonders of nature and art in their phenomenal manifest splendor. We call for an investigation assumed to examine the magic of nature in art and technology, as well as to unearth the occult nature of nature’s own artistry revealed in the “miracle of being” – “the quasi mineral radiance of the being.”

With this conference, we conjure the return to the delicate interface of image, to what contemporary philosopher John Sallis called “the delicacy of image” by which image manifests its own imaginality. This has been grasped in Warburg’s nimpha, “the elemental spirit, and in Deleuze-Guattary’s emblematic vision of becoming – "the glowing fog, a dark yellow mist" full of affects and motions, fundamentally metamorphic in its nature and ecstatic manifestation. This appears as a unified “sympathetic body” of Stoic extraction, a kind of new materialism beyond itself, for as Elisabeth Grosz argues, here the division between materialism and idealism seems to collapse. How could we understand Grosz’s suchlike term of “materialist imaginary” as a “third form of matter,” and how art in its metamorphic expressions could reflect a comparable “unified body” – both, its sôma and its rhythmic breath (psyche).


30 May: Metamorphic States of Matter and Body: Passions, Porosities, Gestural Nodes

Time Activity
Welcome coffee short intro: METAMORPHOSIS

Nicoletta Isar, University of Copenhagen

Porosities, opacities, tenderness

Chair: Hanna Louise Grønneberg

CORAL – Fleur De Sang
Troubled Origins of Art as Metamorphosis. Nature’s Eikonopoíêsis and its Enigmatic Opacity

Nicoletta Isar, University of Copenhagen

Porous incrustations: Exploring trans-corporeal encounters between stone, shells, fossils, and humans

Thea Møller Jensen, PhD fellow, Art History, University of Copenhagen & curatorial assistant on the exhibition ‘Hosting Lands. Between the Ruin, the Field and the Forest’ 2023-2025 – in six different locations across Denmark

10:45 Coffee Break
In Tender Terrain
What Kind of Space Is This? An artistic Exploration of Botanical Imagery Through Photographic Experimentation

Kirstine Autzen, Visual artist and researcher, Copenhagen

'Mimicry - A (Complicated) Love Story’

Helene Johanne Christensen, Author, teacher, art mediator, and artistic researcher. MA in comparative literature (SDU) Denmark

11:40 Discussions
12:00 Lunch Break
Nodes of bodies, ghosts

Chair: Thea Møller Jensen

Painting as a node of bodies, time and matter. Exploring gestural painting from the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s

Joel Odebrant, PhD Art History, Södertörn University, Sweden

On the Soul as the Form of the Body

Ari Tanhuanpää, Postdoc researcher, Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts Helsinki

Warburg’s “Ghost Story for Adult People”: Architecture, Textile, Animism and Material Metamorphosis

Mehmet Berkay Sulek, PhD Candidate in Art History/ Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, University of Amsterdam

Coffee Break

Chair: Kirstine Autzen

Multiple portraits and ephemeral picture titles: Dieter Roth's criticism of James Joyce's A Portrait

Tobias Weilandt, M. A. in Cultural Studies, Law and Philosophy from the Universities of Frankfurt (Oder), Malmö (Sweden) and Marburg, Researcher and Head of Science Communication at German Research Center für AI in Osnabrück

Embodied ghosts. Structures of beholding and dissolution of the Self in Bonnard's late self-portraits

Mario De Angelis, PhD fellow in History of Arts at Ca' Foscari University of Venice

Coffee Break
Elemental anguish

Chair Emily Kivistö

“The Root of ‘Care’ is Grief”: Ecological Loss in a forecast, a haunting, a crossing, a visitation

Gabrielle Tillenburg, PhD fellow Art History and Archaeology, the University of Maryland (UMD).

Depicting the sea. A Pre-Raphaelite obsession

Maria Aivalioti, Art historian, Ph.D. the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Discussions & Final discussions of the day

31 May: Occult-Uring Nature, Body, And Media: Sympathy, Telepathy, AI

Chthonic metamorphosis, moving onshore-unshored

Chair: Nicoletta Isar

Time Activity
Keynote Lecture: ANARCH / PHARMAKON

Peter Mark Adams, Author, poet and essayist, Associate Member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). Warburg Institute’s School of Advanced Studies

With exclusive participation of Gast Bouschet, Visual artist and occult philosopher, The Ardennes, Belgium

What kinds of becomings must the human undergo in order to form communication and relating across human and nonhuman species through artistic performative practices?

Kristine Agergaard, Visual artist and researcher, Copenhagen Denmark

10:45 Discussions
The Intersection of Materiality and Imagination: Exploring ‘Ecstasis’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ in Contemporary Thought

Cristina Moraru, PhD in Philosophy, Lecturer at the National University of Arts in Iasii, Romania, art theoretician, researcher and curator

Occulture in Performance Art & Chthonian Spring Rites

Emily Kivistö, MA Art History University of Copenhagen, Art Gallery Assistant Gallery Maria Friis, Denmark

11:45 Discussions
12:00 Lunch break
Subtle metamorphic

Chair: Mathias Srisakul Larsen

Occult body? A question of the sensible in AI

Hanna Louise Grønneberg, MA Modern Culture and Visual Culture, University of Copenhagen, and cultural studies research assistant at Copenhagen Business School

On telepathy: “I used to think a lot about nature but my thoughts spiraled out of control, so I once considered brain surgery but then I changed my mind”

Paul Wiersbinski, Freelance artist and researcher, Berlin

Mermaids: Visuality and Identity from the Sea to Internet environments

Joy Pepe, MA Museology, and Curatorship (AMaC), the University of Bologna

Coffee Break
Folds – corporeal incorporeal

Chair: Kristine Agergaard

Materials of Excess – The Sympathetic Nature Found In Banal Materials

Mathias Srisakul Larsen, MA Art History University of Copenhagen, Assistant Editor: ”Cobra – de kvindelige kunstnere”, Museum Jorn, Gallery assistant Gether Contemporary, DK

Activating The Fold : The Haptic Structural Book, Its Spatial Interiority, Materiality & Non-Linear Narratives

Guy Begbie, Senior/Associate Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Illustration/Graphic Design & Fine/Applied Arts, Wales, UK

Deborah Turbeville, The Metamorphosis of Ella M

Denise Birkhofer PhD, the Collections Curator at The Image Centre, Toronto Metropolitan University

Final discussions and conclusions
Book launch event
Phenomenology, New Materialism, and Advances In the Pulsatile Imaginary: Rites of Disimagination

Palgrave MacMillan (March 2024), ed. Nicoletta Isar, which includes chapters signed by Lilian Munk Rösing, Stefanie Heine, Michael Kjær, Hanne Louise Grønneberg, Thea Møller Jensen, Kristine Agergaard, and other important international authors, like Marcia Cavalcante Sá Schuback and Nidesh Lawtoo.