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ARIA Research Seminar: Out-of-Focus

ARIA Research Seminar: Out-of-Focus

A seminar organized by Anton Cotteleer
with the collaboration of Steven Humblet

29 March 2022


The issue of the blurred and the memory in relation to photography and sculpture has a centrale place on this interdisciplinary learning moment. Speakers from different disciplines will reflect on the different layers of that relationship, from conceptual theoretical to curatorial and artistic. Guest speakers, together with PhD students, will discuss the effects and various meanings of the blur within the photographic and the sculptural image.


  • 9.30 – 9.55: Coffee and welcome
  • 9.55 – 10.00: Welcome by Prof. Dr. Gert Verschraegen
  • 10.00 – 10.30: Anton Cotteleer will present his doctoral project and, more specifically, its relationship to the subject of the seminar. Next, he will briefly introduce the topics to be discussed to each speaker, referring to their publications.  
  • 10.30 – 11.10: Lecture by Steven Humblet
  • 11.10 – 11.25: Short break 
  • 11.30 – 12.10: Lecture by em. prof. dr. Ernst Van Alphen 
  • 12.10 – 13.55: Lunch 
  • 13.55 – 14.35: Lecture by artist Veronika Pot
  • 14.35 – 15.15: Lecture by dr. Penelope Curtis Titel 
  • 15.15 – 15.30: Short break 
  • 15.30 – 16.30: Five participating PhD students will shortly introduce themselves by answering this question: 'What is your relationship to the theme we are discussing today? Speaking time for each PhD student is strictly limited to maximum of 5 minutes. This is followed by a discussion round between PhD students and guest speakers, moderated by dr. Ria De Boodt.
  • 16.30 – 17.00: Short debriefing and questioning about what new questions have arisen after this seminar. Opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
  • 17.00 – 19.00: Walking dinner/networking moment for the participants, organisers and speakers. Location: Chapel, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000 Antwerp.

Bio speakers

1. Penelope Curtis is a British art historian and curator, former director of the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon from 2015 to 2020 and of Tate Britain from 2010 to 2015. She is the author of several monographs on sculpture and has written extensively for contemporary artists. She has published in "Sculpture 1900-1945, Barbara Hepworth" - "British Artists series", "The Human Factor: figure in contemporary sculpture" and "Infinite Sculpture", among others.

2. Steven Humblet is a writer and art critic with a focus on photography. He studied philosophy and Social and Cultural Anthropology at the KU Leuven (BE). He regularly writes for magazines like De Witte Raaf, DW B, Ons Erfdeel, Etcetera, EXTRA Magazine and Camera Austria. Humblet is the chair of Thinking Tools, a research group at the RAFA that focusses on questions like ‘how does ‘the photographic’ manifests itself in contemporary art and photography.

3. Veronika Pot's photographs always return to an analogous representation of nature. In her earlier series she often used a Camera Obscura to introduce an alienating character in her images all carefully developed and printed in the darkroom. Pot's process is about transforming images. Capturing moments to remember them again and processing them selectively and fragmentarily into new images. The original image has often become unrecognisable and raises the question of the context in which it originated. They are landscapes, trees, sea, rocks, ... that Pot tries to 're-view', 're-memorize' and 're-visualize' – often with references throughout the art history of landscape painting and land art.

4. Ernst van Alphen is Emeritus professor of literary studies at Leiden University, the Netherlands. Until 2005 he was Queen Beatrix Professor of Dutch studies, as well as professor of rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written extensively on modern and contemporary art and literature. He is the author of numerous books in both Dutch and English, among which are Francis Bacon and The Loss of Self (Cambridge, MA, 1992), Art in Mind: How Contemporary Images Shape Thought (Chicago, 2005) and Failed Images (Amsterdam, Valiz, 2018).

5. Anton Cotteleer is a Belgian artist. Domesticity, transformed figuration and a tactile materiality identify his sculptures and installations. Erotic charges, innocence, mystery and bannality create strange parodoxies. Cotteleer is currently preparing a PhD in the arts. Besides his activities as a researcher and artist, he teaches sculpture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

Anton Cotteleer on his PhD project 'BLURRY SCANNING'

"In my view the blurred image has more of an affinity with our memories, our recollections and our dreams than the clear-cut one. Memories are often vague, out of focus, fragmentary and, as such, are incomplete. The blurriness is suggestive, imperfect and open to interpretation. It seems to hover between the banal and the mystical. The indistinctness is also a time-based phenomenon. There is the blurriness that arose during the original shoot. This is linked to a specific moment in time, namely that of the photographic act. It is historical and immaterial. And then there is the haziness that is left on the photographic medium by the passage of time. We can call this ‘patina’. It might consist of discolouration, degradation, erosion and deterioration.

I wonder how it might be possible to achieve a ‘blurriness’ in sculptures and installations, and how it might operate. How do sharpness and blurriness relate to the tactile space and how does ‘being embodied’ in a tactile environment relate to the sculptural? How does a lack of focus manifest itself within a tactile physical perception? What happens when blurred objects are translated into sculpture? Does ‘blurriness’ even exist within the reality of a physical object? Do colour, matter, form and skin play a role in a spatial work’s lack of clarity? Does the context influence the vagueness of a sculptural form? Can an image be inherently out of focus or only in relation to something else: e.g. context, observer, ...? How does this lack of focus affect our memories?"