Participation at the conference at Liverpool University and TATE Liverpool : ‘Two clarities make a blur:’ neo-baroque and contemporary culture, 12.05.10-14.05.10

Marjan speaks on Exuberance at the conference:
‘Two clarities make a blur:’ neo-baroque and contemporary culture
14.05.2010 Foresight Centre.
Chair: Jonathan Harris, University of Liverpool
With: Jonathan Harris (University of Liverpool), Helen Hills (University of York), David Craven (Universit of New Mexico), Marjan Colletti (Bartlett UCL, Westminster), Brandon Taylor (Solent University, Southampton).

Neo-Baroque Aesthetics: Art, Architecture, Idology - A critical evaluation of the concept of 'neo-baroque'
15.05.2010 Auditorium TATE Liverpool.
Chair: Jonathan Harris, UNiversity of Liverpool
With: Jonathan Harris (University of Liverpool), David Craven (Universit of New Mexico), Angela Ndalianis (Melbourne University), Brandon Taylor (Solent University, Southampton), Marjan Colletti (Bartlett UCL, Westminster).

Theme of the conference: ‘Baroque’ and ‘neo-baroque’ tend to be conflated in popular usage. To say something is ‘baroque’ usually means it is highly or overly complicated, or obscure, or both – and implies that this quality is dazzling or confusing. This sounds like a criticism: people don’t usually praise obscurity or confusion. ‘Two clarities make a blur’ is a statement by the architect Peter Eisenman – and indicates (perhaps obscurely and confusingly) the interest that recent designers have shown in using complex patterns and reflective materials of various kinds. These are most readily visible in recent or contemporary ‘signature’ architecture by auteurs such as Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind and Frank Gehry. Generally, however, these buildings are praised as the work of geniuses and not dismissed as obscure or confusing. This session attempts to deal with some of the basic questions use of the terms ‘baroque’ and ‘neo-baroque’ raises in relation to contemporary culture. For instance, are these terms descriptive or analytical, or perhaps a confusing mixture of both? Can ‘baroque’ one minute be a good thing (the signature building) and the next a bad thing? What, then, are the bad baroque items in contemporary culture if the term still extends a judgemental hold? In the visual realm, the term has been used to describe buildings, paintings and sculptures, but might it be tenable to call some TV programmes, films and computer games ‘baroque’ too?
Two other questions will be central. Firstly, what is the difference between ‘baroque’ and ‘neo-‘baroque’? This will depend partly on our views of the historical definition of the former term and its relation to other terms in the traditional art-historical syntagm that runs ‘renaissance – baroque – rococo – neo-classicism’ and beyond on to our modernity. Secondly, if items in contemporary culture are in some useful ways accounted for as ‘baroque’ or ‘neo-baroque’ then is this not also a matter of the culture ‘as a whole’ in terms of, for instance, its modes of production, or operative ideologies, or patterns of consumption? Perhaps if in our discussion of these issues we create two or more blurs these might, in turn, help to generate some clarity.