Call for papers: "Aesthetics and Rock Art IV Symposium"

International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO) Congress "Global Art", National Park Serra da Capivara, Piauí State, Brazil, 29 June - 3 July 2009.

Convened and coordinated by Thomas Heyd, Department of Philosophy, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 3P4, Canada; Facsimile 250 - 721 7511; ; and John Clegg, Archaeology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; .

Symposium rationale

Our previous three symposia on aesthetics and rock art (1998 IRAC in Vila Real, 2000 IRAC in Alice Springs, and UISPP Congress in Lisbon 2006) succeeded in bringing together a variety of very good papers. Since then we have been successful in publishing a number of them in our volume Aesthetics and Rock Art (Ashgate 2005) and in the UISPP Proceedings (BAR Press, forthcoming 2008). We would like to further encourage research on the aesthetic dimension of rock art with an a new call for papers, this time at the IFRAO Congress in the National Park of Capivara, NE Brazil, which marvelously combines natural beauty and outstanding rock art sites.

Call for papers

Contributions from the variety of disciplines that engage aesthetics, particularly from archaeology, anthropology, psychology, art history and philosophy, are welcome.

We would be delighted to have presentations that, on the basis of a concrete example (a picture, a panel, a site) show how the aesthetic approach can be productive of new insights and understandings about the particular rock art on view.

We would, moreover, like to encourage fellow researchers to especially address the following questions, though we are open to other topics not covered in this list.

1. Despite much discussion (e.g., Heyd and Clegg, 2005) there are still practicing archaeologists and other rock art researchers who suppose that focussing on the aesthetics of manifestations on rock means importing narrow European standards of beauty and appreciation. Supposedly this kind of focus means that context will not be given the kind of consideration that it deserves (cp. Novell in UISPP Proceedings, forthcoming 2008). So, one question that still needs clarification is, is a focus on aesthetics compatible with archaeological method?

2. We may suppose that the discussion around 'the beginning of art' or, more precisely, concerning the beginning of items that in some ways function similarly to art works, is not to be settled simply by empirical means but calls for conceptual reflection. What relevance do Pleistocene images on rock have for our understanding of what might have been first artworks? Do we have reason to believe that prehistoric rock art has some connection to first art? Or, are Pleistocene pictures actually far removed from first art - either because Pleistocene pictures come too early, because there cannot be art before the development of our present concepts of art - or because they come too late, because art must have begun much earlier?

3. The term 'aesthetics' has to do with the sensible, imaginative and cognitive engagement with the ways in which we experience the world, that is, with the way it appears to us. Can aesthetics, so conceived, be of practical relevance, and even utility, to rock art researchers ( who may have a diversity of skills, interests and backgrounds, and who come fro a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines, including archaeology, history of cultures, anthropology, geology, conservation, or interpretation/display)?

4. It has been observed that images on rocks sometimes show distinct patterns of distributions as, for example, in some caves with prehistoric art. Location of these images has been explained in various ways. Does location also have aesthetic significance, either in terms of aesthetic motivations for particular placements, or in terms of aesthetic impact on viewers?

5. We may suppose that the aesthetic perspective on rock art can contribute something to the project of understanding other societies. Can the aesthetic perspective on rock art also contribute something to the project of understanding the scope of aesthetics and aesthetic appreciation?

6. In the history of aesthetics a number of theories of art have been offered. Can any of those theories be of use in understanding rock art? And, can rock art confirm or disconfirm any of those theories? Or throw some light on their usefulness?

Please send expressions of interest and abstracts as soon as possible. Provide the title of your paper and a 200 - 300 word abstract to both of the coordinators from September 1 st, but not later than December 31st, 2008 at the very latest.

Further information on the 2009 Congress, is available at, and

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