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[Commlist] CfP: Music | Video | Spaces Conference
Tue Feb 11 20:47:53 GMT 2020
CFP for MUSIC | VIDEO | SPACES
Conference, November 6-7, 2020 at the University of Zurich (Department
Anthropology and Cultural Studies)
The production and representation of space in film and (pop-)music has
increasing scholarly attention as of late. However, a surprising blank
space appears at the most
obvious intersection of these two fields of study: the music video. This
conference jumps off from the observation that since their inception,
music videos have been highly prolific media of spatial imagination and
From lovestruck skating middle-class teenagers in Californian suburbs
in Air’s “All I Need”
to cartographies of North-American small town childhoods in Men I
Trust’s sentimental Super 8
driven video for “Tailwhip;” from attempts to escape similar spaces and
accompanying mentalities in Tocotronic’s “Hey Du” to nostalgically
rendered images of countercultural nature in Kurt Vile’s “One Trick
Ponies;” from the folkloristic imaginations of a Morris dancing British
village in Stealing Sheep’s “Apparation” to the ironic, touristic gaze
on highly mediatized Icelandic wilderness in Mourn’s “Fun at the
Geysers;” from the hypervertical urbanism of Forest Swords’ “Crow” to
the Google Street View-inspired white middle class gaze on an
African-American neighbourhood in Vince Staple’s “Fun;” from hipsterish
mid-century architecture connoisseurship in Delmoro’s “Dove Siamo
Finito” to the explorations of contemporary city-scapes through the
Mancunian public transport system in Equiknoxx’s “Manchester,” music
videos conceive, depict and perform a variety of imaginary,
communicative, social and natural spaces.
Though the spatialities of music video production and aesthetics have
not been subject to
systematic academic scrutiny yet, some solitary case studies pave the
way. These give a first
impression of the wide scope of spatial entanglements within music
videos, covering diverse
themes including geographical engagements with the semiotics of
high-rise architecture exploring London’s skyline in contemporary
British music videos or housing estates in German gangster rap videos.
Forays into the spatial intersections of political economy and cultural
history have produced important insights into representations of the
disruption experienced in post-industrial Chemnitz in Eastern Germany
but also the depiction of yachts and islands in 1980s British pop music.
Many case studies have zoned in on the role of music video landscapes
and their importance for national imaginaries in Iceland. Other
reflections on nature and landscape have zeroed in on questions of genre
and space, for instance with regard to country music. However, some
seminal pioneering work, e.g. Diedrich Diederichsen’s and Kodwo Eshun’s
TV essay on the representation of outer space in music videos (Fantastic
Voyages 1999), has almost faded into oblivion.
A systematic engagement with music video spaces bringing together
scholarship on music
videos with research on the nexus between music and urbanity, nature and
landscape is still
lacking. The conference aims at contributing to address this gap.
Possible paper topics and
questions could include, but are not limited to:
• How can connections between local music scenes and their music video
described? What relation is there between specific varieties of urban
textures, the mythspaces of renowned music cities and music video
• In what ways is the visual staging of space in the pop music video
connecting with but
also changing the lyrical and musical conjuring of space?
• Genres like hip-hop, grime, country, ambient but also
singer-songwriters etc. have always
been very sensitive to picking up local atmospheres, soundscapes,
ambiances. In what
ways have genres developed distinct music video spaces and how have they
over the decades?
• How are architectural epochs and discourses of landscape and nature
negotiated, especially regarding the imagination and construction of
nationally and locally
distinct pop music cultures?
• How does the increasingly emphasised conflict between
urban/metropolitan and rural,
deindustrialized or otherwise marginalized spaces find its expression in
How can music videos be made productive in these times of surging populism,
polarization, sharpening levels of inequalities and their spatialized
• What is the relationship between pop music as protest music and the
spatiality of music
videos? How do phenomena like gentrification, racism, classism, urban
movements or the neoliberal governance of space figure in music videos?
• In which ways are the aligned spatialities and visualities of recently
regimes, such as Google Street View or the vertical perspectives of
Google Earth or the
proliferation of drone footage, enacted and problematised in music
videos? How are these
enactments related to other highly spatial and mobile aesthetics such as
those of video
games and contemporary cinema’s computer generated images?
• How are music video spaces related to historical and recent
representations of urban
space? Do they function as marketing tools within the increasing
competition among cities
and their accelerating “self-culturalization”? What is their role in
touristification and accompanying ways of seeing and producing images?
• How do built spaces and subjective inner spaces or practices and
emplacement and embodiment intersect in music video spaces? Is the
classical figure of
the flaneur still relevant for contemporary explorations of spatial
• How do music videos address — and maybe even challenge — the classical
tropes of the
sublime and concomitant representations of nature, e.g. forests,
mountains, the sea?
• Which speculative and heterotopic (utopic, dystopic) spaces — outer
space, say, or
imaginations of the natural condition — are mapped out? How did these
change, especially with regard to the perception that we move towards a
state of multiple
crises (Anthropocene, climate change, species extinction)?
Please submit presentation proposals (300-500 words) by 15th March 2020
via email to
Maximilian Jablonowski at (jablonowski /at/ isek.uzh.ch) and Johannes Springer
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for questions and expressions of
The conference conveners seek to raise funding for travel expenses.
Conference conveners: Maximilian Jablonowski (Zurich) & Johannes
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