Conference Keynotes

Keynote Speakers

1. Speaker: Professor Jenny Spinks (University of Melbourne)

Title: Anticipating Apocalypse in Renaissance Nuremberg

Abstract: How do you give pictorial form to the end of the world? As the apocalyptic year 1500 approached, the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer decided to pin down the notoriously confusing imagery of the Book of Revelation in his Apocalypse cycle of 1498. His startling woodcuts managed to capture aspects of the vibrant mercantile culture of the booming city of Nuremberg as well as a sense – both fearful and joyful – of the anticipated Last Days. As such, it formed part of a wider culture in the Holy Roman Empire of paying attention to the personal and communal responses demanded by awe-inspiring prodigious signs and disastrous events. Dürer was not the first to depict scenes from the New Testament Book of Revelation, but with a hitherto unknown level of realism, material detail and rich characterisation he set these scenes of disaster, death and destruction firmly within his own times, and peopled them with contemporary figures inhabiting a range of emotional modes. As the first book of images published by an artist, it formed part of Dürer’s career-long innovations in the creation of illustrated books, often closely concerned with religious subject matter.

Dürer’s own, sometimes troubled, self-identification with Christ at key moments in his life is well known. Early modern people lived in environments that constantly provided opportunities to make visual links to the biblical past, notably through church and civic décor and material culture. From the later fifteenth century, Dürer’s home city of Nuremberg was also a leading European centre for the creation of illustrated printed books. This paper will explore how a number of these provided new and emotionally rich ways for groups and individuals – at a variety of social levels – to encounter the sacred past in the present. Some, including Dürer’s Apocalypse cycle, also provided a pious but aesthetically dazzling framework for anticipating religious futures, and specifically the Last Days. Paying attention to the new culture of illustrated books, this paper suggests, offers insights into the emotional complexity of how early modern people inhabited religious identities concerned with past, present and future.

Date: 28 November 2023

Location: University of Adelaide (specific room tbc)

Bio: Jenny Spinks is Hansen Associate Professor in History at the University of Melbourne. She researches northern Europe 1450-1700, with a focus on print culture, material culture, and the social and religious impact of disasters and wonders. She has co-curated exhibitions of early modern print at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the John Rylands Library in Manchester, and her publications include Monstrous Births and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Germany (2009, pbk 2016), and (co-edited with Charles Zika) Disaster, Death and the Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, 1400-1700 (2016). She currently leads the Australian Research Council Discovery team project ‘Albrecht Dürer’s Material World – in Melbourne, Manchester and Nuremberg’ (2021-2024).


2. Speaker: Professor Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic (University of Virginia and University of Copenhagen)

Title: Uncertainty in Emotion Perception

Abstract: The prevailing view in research programs of philosophy and psychology is that human emotions have intentionality. Our feelings are directed at something in the world and we as agents have transparent access to this intentionality: we know what we feel. This view emerged in the 20th century as a corrective to an earlier conception of emotions as inherently unreliable and beyond our control. In this lecture I argue that, in fact, we often don’t know exactly what we are feeling. Uncertainty and ambivalence are not exceptions in the emotional lives of individuals. They are common, even routine. By presenting emotion perception as transparent and straightforward, the current paradigm does not reflect the emotional experience of most human beings. It may even be potentially harmful, establishing unnatural expectations for the substance of emotional life, with the risk of pathologizing completely normal states of confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty. Emotions are frequently confusing and enmeshed with physiological processes that we have little control over in each moment. To accurately reflect our emotional lives, emotion research must grapple with the uncertainty of emotions.

To make this case, I draw on Hannah Arendt’s idea that human beings do not know themselves before they appear and act before others. Our self-understanding is molded by our surroundings, though we can never know ourselves fully. It is not possible to define own our human nature in the same way as we define other entities surrounding us: “It would be like jumping over our own shadow” as Arendt puts it in the Human Condition. What would an emotion theory that incorporates this inherent uncertainty look like? It would begin by studying concrete experiences of emotions as they unfold, and by attending to first-person narratives. Not because they are necessarily true, but because they give us insight into emotion perception as a long, outstretched process without a teleological endpoint. In the lecture, I draw specifically on case studies of soldiers who experience profound moral disorientation when they return from deployment in war. In such cases, confusion should not be seen as a disorder, but as an ethically prudent uncertainty.

Date: tbc

Location: University of Adelaide (specific room tbc)

Bio: Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic is a research associate at University of Virginia, and a teaching associate professor in philosophy and minority studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her work focuses on emotions and moral psychology, combining empirical research and philosophical inquiry to reassess contemporary debates on moral injury, discrimination, and minority issues. Her book Perpetrator Disgust: The Moral Limits of Gut Feelings (Oxford University Press, 2022) explores the connection between aversive physiological reactions, emotions and morality. Other publications appear in Synthese, Metaphilosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice and Cambridge University Press. Formerly, a Carlsberg postdoctoral fellow at the Section for Philosophy and Science Studies, Roskilde University, she has also been a guest researcher at Aarhus University, and a visiting fellow at the philosophy departments of University of Chicago, University of Sheffield, and MIT. Before entering academia, she worked as an Outreach Officer at the Holocaust and Genocide Department at the Danish Institute for International Studies, and as intern for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.


3. Speaker: Andrew Byrne

Title: “I want to find the music, not to compose it”: A Cultural History of Objective Music.

Abstract: Music is widely regarded as the most expressive art form, with emotions playing an important role in its aesthetic appeal. This belief has persisted since the Romantic Era and continues to shape our understanding of music today. However, this perspective is limiting. Many contemporary musicians are exploring ways to engage with the complexities of our changing world and, in so doing, are rejecting the concept of music as a tool for expressing emotions. One of these approaches is objective music.

Objective music prioritises ideas over expression, exploring physical phenomena rather than manipulating emotions or emphasising self-expression. Mathematics, acoustics, new technology, organisational systems, and even chance techniques are used in this music. The idea of “finding” music rather than “composing” it is critical to understanding objective music.

The concept of music that does not attempt to communicate emotions may seem strange, even disorienting, to some. Indeed, this music is radical. It challenges traditional notions of music and has far-reaching implications for its reception and role in cultural discourse. In this paper, I examine these aesthetic and cultural implications. I highlight the contributions of key historical figures such as Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, Tom Johnson, and Brian Eno to the development of objective music. Furthermore, I introduce some recent objective music with recordings, live demonstrations, and even some audience participation!

Date: tbc

Location: University of Adelaide (specific room tbc)

Bio: Andrew Byrne is a composer and arts programmer whose creative work betrays a fascination with experimental music. In the 1990s, he moved to New York on a Fulbright scholarship to study for a doctorate at Columbia University. Living in New York for two decades, he immersed himself in the American experimental-minimalist scene, which has had a profound impact on his creative output. His work in artistic planning led to directorial roles at Carnegie Hall and Symphony Space, working closely with legendary figures such as African-American soprano Jessye Norman, music director Seiji Ozawa, South African activist and musician Hugh Masekela, minimalist master Steve Reich, Brazilian pop star Gilberto Gil, and many others.  Andrew is now based in Melbourne and runs The Eleventh Hour Theatre, a performance space for adventurous and experimental music.