Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen is arranging a three-part symposium over three days (17-19 April, 2007) on the notion of ‘presence’.

In the last couple of years several scholars in the humanities, like Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and Eelco Runia, have contributed to our understanding of the conceptual distinction between ‘meaning’ and ‘presence’. The distinction is especially interesting for science, technology and medicine museological practices and for the understanding of the field of public engagement with health and life sciences.

Much of what has been going on in science museum exhibitions in the last decades can be broadly described in terms of ‘production of meaning’, i.e., historical and cultural interpretations and contextualisations of objects, images and documents. Against these entrenched practices some museologists now emphasise the ‘production of presence’, i.e., the importance of establishing a more direct sensual relation with objects, images and texts.

The symposium focuses on the theoretical aspects of the ‘presence’/’meaning’ distinction and its importance for the humanities and aesthetic subjects, and is divided into three independent sessions:

1) Research seminar (arranged in co-operation with the Schools of Visual Arts, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), Tuesday 17 April, 14-16, Medical Museion, Fredericiagade 18, 1st floor, Copenhagen.

Jens Hauser (Paris): “Presence versus Representation – an approach to art involving live/life biotechnology”

Jens Hauser is an independent artist, writer and exhibition curator who focuses on the interaction between art and biotechnology. He has, among other things, organised the collective exhibition “L’Art Biotech” at the National Centre of Arts and Culture in Nantes (France). His next exhibition is about skin as a technological interface.

2) Public lecture, Wednesday 18 April, 15-17, Medical Museion auditorium, Bredgade 62, Copenhagen.

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University): “Do Productions of Presence Yield a Presence Culture? A Retrospective”

In Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey (Stanford University Press, 2004), Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht claims that the humanities’ focus on interpretation and the reconstruction of meaning has resulted in a “loss of the world” and that we are no longer “in contact with the tings in the world”. What meaning cannot convey is the effects of “presence” and the different ways that cultural phenomena affect our senses and bodies.

3) Workshop “Making Sense or Sensing the Made: Rendering the World through Collecting and Display”, Thursday 19 April, 10-13 (max. 25 participants)

Short presentations by Adam Bencard, Thomas Söderqvist, Dorthe Gert Simonsen, Camilla Mordhorst, Jens Hauser, and comments from Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht.

Inquiries to Thomas Söderqvist, [email protected],