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Retrospect: "Salon for Slow Reading and Deep Looking"

11. Jul. 2019

From June 28 to 29, participants of the third "Salon for Slow Reading and Deep Looking" convened at the Hotel Niederwald in Rüdesheim am Rhein. Organized by Profs. Monica Juneja and Sumathi Ramaswamy the salon addressed the theme “Monumental Matters”.

The third iteration of the “Salon for Slow Reading and Deep Looking” convened at a time when monuments and memorials of all sorts, but especially statues, are both troubled and troublesome. During two days, the 15 participants explored the relation of materiality, monumentality and memorializing, reflecting repeatedly on the temporal dimension of matter, imagination and memory. The discussions of concepts such as the “material turn”, the “affective turn” and “statuomania”, were grounded in close readings of articles/chapters and deep looking at images, as well as the visit of the Niederwalddenkmal (Monument of Germania, built in the 1870s).

We debated about the paradoxical dimensions of the “monumental” as a political and aesthetic concept, as indeed a material one. We came to acknowledge the historically contingent and therefore unstable nature of monuments and memorials, shaped as they are by a reciprocal exchange between matter and affect and have explored through many vivid examples their ability to isolate and monumentalize one aspect of history as well as their power to pluralize memories and engender to experience complexity. The salon profited particularly from the participation of the visual artist Atul Bhalla, based in New Delhi, who enriched the discussions with his perspective.

Prof. Annie Coombes, who is Professor of Material and Visual Culture in the Department of Art History at Birkbeck, University of London, and Prof. Kajri Jain, Associate Professor of Indian Visual Culture and Contemporary Art in the Department of Visual Studies at University of Toronto, led the salon as expert interlocutors. The salon brought scholars from abroad and several members of the HCTS together: Anna Andreeva, Atul Bhalla (Artist based in New Delhi), Nachiket Chanchani (University of Michigan), Theresa Deichert, Prof. Monica Juneja, Dr. Banu Karaca (University of Basel), Prof. Barbara Mittler, Çiçek Dereli, Aida Murtić, Jennifer Pochodzalla, Prof. Sumathi Ramaswamy (Duke University), Johanna Ziebritzki, Prof. Karin Zitzewitz (Michigan State University).

This is the third of a series of three annual salons planned by Profs. Monica Juneja and Sumathi Ramaswamy under the aegis of the Anneliese-Maier Research Award that Sumathi Ramaswamy received from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2016. The approach of these salons was partly inspired by the French philosopher Pierre Hadot, as well as by the "slow reading revolution" that is being proposed as an antidote to "the hurried age" of multi-tasking and information overload, at the expense of reflection.

For the reports on the first salon “The Art of Curating in Our Global Times” in 2017 see here and the second salon “A World Beyond Image Wars” in 2018 here.


Find more information on Prof. Ramaswamy's work at the Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies and the Anneliese-Maier Research Award here.

You can find the vision statement and the program of the salon in the following file:


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  • Participants of the 3rd Salon for Slow Reading and Deep Looking at the pedestal of the monumental Niederwalddenkmal