CFP: New Voices 2014 ‘A Picture of Health: Representations and Imaginations of Wellbeing and Illness’

New Voices 2014
‘A Picture of Health: Representations and Imaginations of Wellbeing and Illness’
Birkbeck and Wellcome Trust, London
7 November 2014

Call for Papers

Keynote Speakers

• Dr Suzannah Biernoff, Department of History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London
• Christine Borland, BALTIC Professor, Northumbria University
Introduction by Ross MacFarlane, Research Engagement Officer, Wellcome Library
What is the relationship between art and health, and how has it varied across different historical periods and disciplines?
Paintings, drawings and sculptures have long played a significant role in the care and portrayal of the sick, from the 16th-century Isenheim altarpiece, painted for a monastery that nursed plague sufferers and patients with skin diseases, to contemporary art and medical research collaborations, outreach workshops and the art collections of modern-day hospitals. Artists themselves have engaged with medicine in a number of different ways, ranging from technical illustration to expressive portrayals of the subjective experience of illness, while historical psycho-biographical readings of art and modern-day biopics have perpetuated the association between mental illness and ‘creative genius’.
In recent years Medical Humanities has emerged as an important new area of interdisciplinary study. Scholars have increasingly focused on images and art objects in their enquiries into the culture of medicine. What distinctive methodologies can the practice of art history offer this new field? What different conceptual models might be appropriate for considering the function and purpose of art in relation to issues of illness and health? How can art help us to negotiate our own sense of wellbeing, and what is the mediating role of the artist in this process? What can art tell us about historical relationships between doctors and patients, changing conceptions of the human body, or the representation of illness as distinct from ‘good’ health?
Paper Proposals
We welcome contributions from those working with visual materials in a wide range of disciplines including but not limited to art history, fine arts, film and visual culture, art therapy, medicine and literary or cultural studies. Topics might address notions of art and health across all periods and contexts, at both ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ levels, from specific case studies about particular artists, works or medical collaborations, to broader historiographical investigations. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Art and illness as metaphor
• Self-portraiture and illness
• Psycho-biographical readings of art
• Medical illustration
• Technologies of the body
• Medical and visual culture collaborations
• Perceived healing powers of devotional objects

Papers should be 20 minutes in length. Abstracts of 250 words and a brief biography indicating your institutional affiliation should be submitted as a single Word.doc by email to All speakers must be members of the AAH.
Paper Proposal deadline: 1 August 2014
This event is supported by Supported by the Wellcome Trust and Birkbeck School of Arts & Centre for Medical Humanities

Convenors: Sophie Frost, Fiona Johnstone & Nicola McCartney

AAH Members £15
Non-members £25
See more at:​


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