CONF Aug 31, 2005

Fact and Fiction: Gender-Art-Science (Nijmegen, 14 Oct 05)

Claudia Krops



Fact and Fiction:
Gender in the Interplay of Art and Science

Institute for Gender Studies
Radboud University Nijmegen, NL

Friday October 14, 2005


In 2005, the Institute for Gender Studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen,
the Netherlands, will
celebrate its 20th anniversary. A number of festive activities, taking place on
the University
Campus from October 10 to 14, will serve to mark this event. The celebrations
will culminate in a
one-day interdisciplinary conference, focusing on 'Gender in the Interplay of
Art and Science'.

About the Conference

At the end of the 19th century, the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot
gained great notoriety
through his research on hysteria, an affliction that was largely attributed to
women. The
Salpêtrière amphitheatre formed the stage on which Charcot exhibited his
knowledge, enlivening his
lectures with live experiments on hypnotized "hysterical" women. Tout Paris was
present while he
offered a splendid show; science was spectacle, exhibition, performance. The
lecture hall was filled
to the brim with writers, journalists, actors, and students, among whom,
Sigmund Freud and André
Breton. Charcot’s performance becomes the place of birth for both
psychoanalysis and modern art.

Charcot’s amphitheatre can be seen to prefigure the relations between art and
science as they
continued to develop in the course of the 20th century. Science is art and art
is "displaced"
science. Gender comes to fulfil the need for differentiation: the one who looks
and the one who is
being looked at, the one who investigates and the one who is being
investigated, the subject and the
object of the artistic as well as the scientific gaze are gendered, defined in
terms of masculinity
and femininity respectively.

The interrelations between art and science are varied, multiple, and complex.
Their respective
domains overlap, intersect, and diverge; there are points of contact,
crossover, and differences.
Art may be regarded as a form of scientific practice, as a laboratory for
testing ideas, as a
privileged site for investigating aspects of existence, while science can be
considered a form of
art, a specific mode of representation and imagination, installation or
exhibition, with distinct
aesthetic qualities and emotional effects.

To celebrate its 20th Anniversary, the Institute for Gender Studies at the
Radboud University
Nijmegen proposes to interrogate the interrelations, contact zones,
divergences, and intersections
between art and science. In the knowledge that the Institute for Gender Studies
has, since its
foundation, served as a theatre for interdisciplinary research, Nijmegen will,
a week long,
function, as a stage for the study and performance of the multiple relations
between art and science.

Keynote address:
Professor Bracha L. Ettinger
AHRB Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory & History, School of Fine Art,
History of Art & Cultural
Studies, University of Leeds.
BEZALEL Academy of Art, Jerusalem
Senior Clinical Psychologist, Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary



-1- Materialised Meanings and Artistic Representations of Mary I & II
-2- Gender & Performance I & II
-3- Posthumanist Science/Fiction I & II
-4- 'Boundary-Making, Boundary-Breaking': The Gender Politics of Boundary-Work
in Science,
Technology, and Arts
-5- First Things First: Facts and Fictions about Sexuality
-6- plenary - Roundtable on Art, Theory, and Criticism

Materialised Meanings and Artistic Representations of Mary I & II

This workshop is organised by the genderstudies research group on The power of
Pilgrimage. A
Comparative Study, a research programme funded by NWO's The Future of the
Religious Past.

Coordinators: Prof. dr. Willy Jansen (RU), dr. Grietje Dresen (RU) and dr.
Catrien Notermans (RU)
Panelists Session I: dr. Catrien Notermans, drs. Janine Klungel (RU), Prof. dr.
Willy Jansen
Panelists Session II: Prof. dr. Colleen McDannell (University of Utah, USA),
dr. Grietje Dresen (RU),
Intermezzo: Choir Divae Mariae: Songs of Mary o.l.v. Herma Timmer

Though biblical texts do not elaborately explain the person and life of Mary,
there is probably no
woman who is more often represented in art and popular culture than she is. At
the beginning of the
21st century, regardless of secularist trends, Mary has become a trendy icon
also outside sacred and
museal places. The modern Lady virtually appears at the Internet where she
reaches millions of
visitors through websites and chat boxes, and sets the fashion in many shopping
areas. She is
represented on consumables such as clothes, handbags, jewellery, notebooks,
cookery books and flower
pots to make them more charming and stylish. Moreover, commercial
representations of the Holy
Mother, whether taken in boutiques or in pilgrimage places, easily become
powerful objects of
religious devotion.

Theologians and theorists of religion have frequently discussed and thus
created theoretical
dichotomies between the sacred and the profane, piety and commerce, art and
kitsch, and the
spiritual and the material. The materialist aspects of religion and whether
they belong to ‘real’
religion is often contested, both within and between churches. If one looks at
what Christians do
rather than at what they think, the continual scrambling of the sacred and the
profane has to be
noticed. Religious artefacts constitute a vital aspect of people’s religious
lives and it is the
continual interaction with objects and images that makes people religious. This
workshop wants to
contribute to the study of these material, artistic and commercial aspects of
religion. It does so
from a multidisciplinary perspective through presenting both theological and
reflections on Mary’s material representations.

11.30-12.00 Catrien Notermans Moving Objects.Materialised Meanings of Mary in a
Pilgrimage to Lourdes
12.00-12.30 Janine Klungel, Mary Crushing the Serpent. Protective Icon of Women
in Guadeloupe
12.30-13.00 Willy Jansen Making Images of Mary on the Internet

14.15-15.00 Colleen MacDannell, God Called a Girl. Mary, Protestants, and
American Culture
15.00-15.15 Intermezzo: Choir Divae Mariae: Songs of Mary, o.l.v. Herma Timmer
15.15-15.45 Grietje Dresen, Elizabeth revisited, or: The Maternal Body of Mary
in Doctrine and
Devotional Art
15.45-16.00 Intermezzo: Choir Divae Mariae: Songs of Mary, o.l.v. Herma Timmer


Gender & Performance I & II

Coordinator: dr. Liedeke Plate (RU), drs. Louis van den Hengel (RU) and drs.
Martijn Stevens (RU)
I. Music: dr. Hannah Bosma (Researcher, NL), drs. Louis van den Hengel, Geertje
II Movement: Soheila Najand (Artist, InterArt, NL), dr. Liedeke Plate, Stefanie
Seibold (Museum of
Modern Art, Vienna / Art University, Linz, Austria), drs. Martijn Stevens,
among others.

It is fifteen years ago that Judith Butler wrote Gender Trouble, arguing gender
to be a kind of
performance; an act, a corporeal style, indeed a stylized repetition of acts.
Since then, the notion
of gender as a performative act has been taken up, transformed and challenged
by many scholars in a
variety of fields, not least Butler herself, who revisited it most recently in
her own Undoing
Gender. Taking its point of departure in the performativity of gender, this
workshop explores
performance as a site at once productive of and produced by gender. Focusing on
bodies in
performance -- the artist, the musician, the dancer, the urban walker -- this
workshop examines how
movement, gestures and the production of sound and space inform the
construction of (sociosexual)


Posthumanist Science/Fiction I & II

Coordinators: dr. Manuela Rossini (University of Amsterdam, NL,/ Universität
Basel, Switzerland) and
dr. Veronica Vasterling (RU)
Panelists Session I & II: dr. Cor van der Weele (Wageningen University and
Research Centre, NL), dr.
Amade Mcharek (University of Amsterdam, NL), dr. Miriam van Rijsingen
(University of Amsterdam, NL),
dr. Manuela Rossini, Prof. Dr. Sabine Schülting (Freie Universität Berlin,
Germany), Dr. Veronica
Vasterling (RU).

At the beginning of the third millennium, the social, cultural and
technological context of Western
societies is definitely posthumanist, insofar as human and nonhuman life forms
are in unprecedented
ways sites of in(ter)vention by digital and biomedical technologies. Under the
impact of the
increased technologization of nature, including human nature, the immutability
of the boundaries
between human self and nonhuman other, natural and artificial, body and mind,
is seriously called
into question. This ontological and epistemological crisis of what it means to
be human finds its
most visible expression in representations of posthuman bodies in the
discourses and practices of
Western techno-science (such as the Human Genome Project and the Visible Human
Project), in popular
culture (especially in science fiction novels and movies), and in so-called

In our workshop, we refer to posthumanist (con)figurations produced in these
various domains as
“science/fiction” not only to signal that a further boundary, namely between
science and fiction, is
collapsing and to emphasise the interactions and intersections between what are
often supposed to be
separate fields, but primarily in order to cast a critical eye on the
narratives about gender, race
and sexuality that inform these material-semiotic constructions of the human
body and the world at
large in contemporary science, literature and the arts. Do we see the emergence
of a radically
democratic future and a “post-gender world”, as Donna Haraway hopes, or, on the
contrary, the
reinforcement of dichotomous structures as the ground of discrimination and
oppression? Have we gone
beyond the gendered body/mind dualism, as a critical posthumanism promotes, or
do we, rather, head
towards the final mastery of (masculine) mind over (feminine) matter, as dreamt
of in some popular
forms of posthumanism? More specifically, the participants of this workshop
will be concerned with
an interrogation of posthumanist science/fictions as poised ambivalently
between biopolitical forms
of control and conscious self-fashionings by “free” individuals.
Naar boven


'Boundary-Making, Boundary-Breaking': The Gender Politics of Boundary-Work in
Science, Technology,
and Arts

Coordinator: dr. Els Rommes (RU)
Panelists: to be invited: FD Ulf Mellström (Linköpings University, Sweden), Dr.
Wendy Faulkner
(University of Edinburgh, UK), dr. ir. Ellen van Oost (Universiteit Twente,
NL), dr. Els Rommes, dr.
Ben Schouten (artist/computer scientist, NL)

Computer science is a fairly new but highly gendered discipline. Although the
first programmers were
women and in several non-western countries its students are predominantly
female, in modern western
society it is considered a typically masculine discipline, of which the already
low percentage of
female students is even dropping again in the last five years. In this
workshop, the ‘double
boundary work’ (as Susan Harding called this process in science) in computer
science will be
studied: in what ways is whatever counts as computer science been moved toward
the masculine, and
whatever counts as feminine moved away from computer science? Gieryn identified
four types of
boundary work in science, namely monopolization, expansion, expulsion, and
protection (p.424). The
construction of boundaries between computer science/not computer science has
serious implications
for who is in- or excluded and what a specific field looks like. Or, as Gieryn
formulated it:
'Examination of how and why people do boundary-work (...) could be the first
step toward a cultural
interpretation of historically changing allocations of power, authority,
control, credibility,
expertise, prestige, and material resources among groups and occupations.'
(p.440) In this session,
the role of the insiders, computer science engineers, managers, will be
regarded: how, with what
rhetorical means and by what concrete practices do they contribute to the
building or breaking of
boundaries around computer science as a consistently male territory? And how
(if) do they make their
voices heard in the wider society?


First Things First: Facts and Fictions about Sexuality

Coordinator: dr. renée c. hoogland (RU)
Panelists: Prof. dr. Jackie Stacey (Lancaster University, UK), Stefan Dudink
(RU), Bastienne Kramer
(Artist, NL).

With regard to such complex human phenomena as desire and sexuality, the
expressive potential of art
and literature has traditionally prevailed over the explanatory power of modern
discourses. Whereas the 19th-century sexologists were convinced that their
classificatory systems
and sexual typologies constituted no more and no less than scientifically valid
representations of
previously existing, hence “natural” forms of the human species, the
contradictions in their
discourses made abundantly clear that so-called objective, value free knowledge
about gender and
sexuality invariably had its foundations in subjective modes of knowing, among
which, prominently,
art and literature. Subsequent versions of the scientific discourse on
sexuality reconfirmed that
the founding contradictions in the science of sex sprang from the clashing
narratives about erotic
desire and sexual morality that were in circulation at the time, and that can
be seen to underlie
whatever the sexologists felt they “knew.”

Attempting to shed further light on processes of psychosexual development,
Freud in his turn
acknowledged the boundaries of the scientific domain by more than once taking
recourse to (classic)
myths and narratives to ground his discoveries, e.g., his appropriation of the
tragedy of Oedipus to
map out the Oedipus complex.
This workshop seeks to explore the interrelations among so-called objective and
subjective truth
discourses about sexuality and desire—past and present—and, within a
comparative framework,
critically to examine the validity of their respective claims to truth.


plenary - Roundtable on Art, Theory, and Criticism

Coordinator: dr. renée hoogland (RU)
Participants: Prof. Bracha L. Ettinger (University of Leeds; Bezalel Academy of
Art, Jerusalem; Tel
Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis), prof. Robert Zwijnenberg (UM,
RUL) and
representatives of the various fields (selected participants workshops)

To close off the events of the day, a roundtable discussion among theorists,
critics, and artists
will serve to explore the interaction between the practice and the theory of
art. Central question
to be addressed is to what extent art critics and theorists maintain genuinely
dialogic relations
with practicing artists.

A remarkable number of public events and media debates focusing on the
interrelations between the
arts and sciences would appear to point up a shifting of the boundaries between
the two fields in
recent years. Growing numbers of artists, it seems, are eagerly exploiting new
developments, while scientists are increasingly concerned with both the ethical
and the aesthetic
aspects of their work and its effects. The lines dividing the two domains are
being redrawn;
according to some, it would not even be a question of mutual influence anymore,
but rather one of
profound permeation.

In some fields of contemporary artistic practice, one might indeed discern a
certain degree of
“technologization,” primarily in the form of new media and digital art. Still,
technology and
science are not the same things, and the question remains whether the exchange
of technological
tools and possibilities does, in fact, imply that artists and scientists are
penetrating, or even
appropriating, each other’s respective conceptual universes as well. In other
words, does the
suggested permeation of the two domains equally mean that artists and
scientists are (once again)
speaking each other’s language?

A second question that presents itself in this context involves the role of art
critics and
theorists in the interplay between art and science. In current debates about
the putative alliance
between artists and scientists, the role of scholars -cultural analysts,
critical theorists, art
historians- tends to remain obscured. One would expect that their ostensibly
shared interest and
preoccupations would at least lead to a lively dialogue between scholars and
artists. But whereas
cultural theorists in recent years appear to have reached a discursive stage at
which the term
postmodernism sounds decidedly outdated, the discourse at art academies has
only just begun to break
away from an essentially modernist vision on art and artists. Even explicitly
romantic concepts such
as individual self-expression, personal fascination, and the autonomous work of
art, continue to
operate as the guiding principles in many branches of (higher) art education.
notwithstanding, this discrepancy appears to extend itself in the practices of
artists. Despite strenuous attempts on the part of art critics writing for the
cultural sections of
newspapers and magazines, as well as professional journals, to bring theory and
practice more
closely together, it appears that so far, where critical theory and artistic
practice are concerned,
we are dealing with no more than discourses brushing against each other, rather
than a genuine
dialogue between the producers and critical observers of art.

This debate seeks to explore why and how the respective discourses of critical
theory and artistic
practice have ended up in such a time warp, and why this discrepancy continues
to maintain itself.
Have art critics, urged on by the so-called the theoretical turn, simply lost
sight of the practice
that once was their primary object of concern? Are artists mainly trailing
behind the latest trends
in critical theorizing? Or are theory and practice, the celebratory stories
about their mutual
permeation notwithstanding, in the final instance simply disparate domains,
with different methods
of approach, different aims, and different foundations? Would a genuine
dialogue lead to a
productive process of cross-fertilization, so that the language of production
and the language of
analysis would become mutually informing discourses instead of parallel tracks?
And what respective
roles should and could museums, curators, critics, scholars, and artists
themselves play in such an

These are some of the questions to be discussed by representative of various
segments within the
larger cultural domain.

For further details see

or please contact:

Claudia Krops:
phone: +31(0)24 361 3069

CONF: Fact and Fiction: Gender-Art-Science (Nijmegen, 14 Oct 05). In:, Aug 31, 2005 (accessed Apr 21, 2024), <>.