CFP: 47th Annual Cleveland Symposium (11/2/2021)

The Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University invites graduate  students to submit abstracts for its 2021 Annual Symposium Aura: Authenticity, Experience, and Art. The Cleveland Symposium is one of the longest-running annual art history graduate symposia in  the United States, organized by students in the joint graduate program with the Cleveland Museum  of Art.  

In 1935, Walter Benjamin asserted that the aura of a work of art derives from authenticity,  originality, and site specificity. This aura has been observed in a variety of forms based on first-hand  experiences with an object. Throughout time, objects have also had effects on viewers that extend  beyond their aesthetic qualities. Benjamin also argued that “mechanical” reproductions are without  an aura and that reproductions can tarnish the art object’s originality but can also “emancipate…  the work of art from its parasitic subservience to ritual.” (Benjamin, 106) By reproducing the art  object and removing it from ritualistic settings, the work can become more available and become  relevant to contemporary culture. Questions about authenticity and experience continue into the  twenty-first century and intensify, as commercial, digital, and mechanical art shape the course of  art history, artistic practice, and museum and gallery display. Very recently, digitization has become  a necessity and we have expanded our outlook on how digital reproduction can help, rather than  harm, the goals of artists, historians, heritage preservation specialists and museum professionals.  While we continue to consider the aura of objects, we also explore a future of increasing the  accessibility of art through digital reproduction.  

How do we expand our celebration of the aura of an object to encompass its many forms? How  do we grapple with the subject of originality and authenticity in an increasingly digital world? How  do artists and museum professionals address the history of the aura and issues of reproduction,  circulation, and access in their work? In what ways do reproductions benefit or potentially harm  the original art objects? This year’s symposium welcomes innovative research papers that explore  issues of authenticity and reproduction in and around the creation, reception, and circulation of the  visual arts. Submissions may explore aspects of this theme as manifested in any medium as well  as in any historical period and geographical location. Different methodological perspectives are  welcomed. 

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to: 

Social functions of objects: religious, ritual, sentimental, etc. 

Contemplating the sensorial aspect of object and site specificity 

Developments in connoisseurship utilizing digital technologies 

Destruction, looting, and defacing art objects 

Uncovering lost or forgotten objects, narratives, and perspectives 

Collecting intangible artworks and the digital art market 

Open Access and the future of the field of object study  

Artists recreating past works or reconfiguring materials into new works  

Objects and images referencing famous art pieces 

The reuse and commercialization of artwork in popular culture  

With keynote speaker Adam Lowe of  Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation 

Adam Lowe founded Factum Arte  in 2001. Factum Arte is a Madrid based team of artists, technicians,  and conservators dedicated to digital  mediation. Their projects include the  production of contemporary artworks  and the creation of facsimiles as an  approach to preservation. The work  of Factum Arte is internationally  celebrated for setting new standards  in digital documentation that are  redefining the relationship between  originality and authenticity. Creating a  bridge between technology and craft is  at the heart of Factum Arte’s mission.  In 2009, Lowe founded the non-profit  organization Factum Foundation for  Digital Technology in Conservation,  which “develops tools and skills which  help professionals, scholars, and  local communities in documenting,  monitoring, studying, recreating, and  disseminating the world’s cultural  heritage.” Together, these two  

organizations develop, implement, and  share technologies that are changing  our approach to the preservation and  conservation of the material evidence of  the past.  

For more information, visit and 

Current and recent graduate students  in art history and related disciplines are  invited to submit a 350-word abstract  and a CV to clevelandsymposium@ by Friday, July 2, 2021.  Selected participants will be notified  by the end of July. Paper presentations  will be 20 minutes in length and should  be accompanied by a PowerPoint  presentation. Three papers will be  awarded prizes. 

Please note: Planning for this year’s in person symposium is already underway,  but given the current situation with the  COVID-19 pandemic, we understand  that plans may need to be amended.  Alternative arrangements are being  made to transition to an online platform  should an in-person symposium not be  feasible.  


Please direct all questions to Julie  Polsinelli and Jessica Long at