14 & 15 September 2017, John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin
Written signatures, or tags, are the central element of graffiti culture, and the most widely practiced form of public art. Yet tagging has rarely been the subject of serious examination. The Tag Conference is a first attempt to conceptually frame contemporary tagging, and to study it alongside its abundant but largely ignored historical antecedents.
The Tag Conference provides space for the discussion of a wide range of underexplored topics, such as the study of tagging as a form of calligraphy, tagging’s role as a device for understanding the environment, the history and folklore of past and present tagging cultures, and the relation of tagging with other forms of art in public space.
Informal name writing in public spaces is a time-honored practice, probably as old as writing itself. From children and anonymous laborers to famous authors, politicians or archaeologists, people of all kind have felt the urge to mark their passing through a particular place and time by leaving a personal trace for other people to see.
This practice has played a particularly visible role in different points in history, such as Ancient Rome and Romantic Europe. It has served as a cartographic tool and as a way to keep trace of people in unexplored landscapes. It has been used as a symbolic weapon in wars. And, in the last century, it has acquired unprecedented intensity and has become the central feature of several full-fledged folk cultures throughout the globe.
The most sophisticated of these cultures is the graffiti tradition that developed in the subways of New York City during the 1970s and has later become an expected part of the landscape of most cities worldwide. By influence of this tradition, name writing is today generally referred to with the slang term “tagging”.
The Tag Conference provides a space for discussion about tagging, about its nature, its meaning and its history, and about the diverse tagging traditions and cultures that exist and have existed. The conference is open to anthropologists, art historians, archaeologists, philosophers, geographers, urbanists, calligraphers, artists and other intellectuals with an interest in the field.
The Tag Conference welcomes presentations about a range of topics including, but not limited to, the following:
Abstracts must be under 1500 characters long and include 3 to 6 keywords. Abstracts must be written in English, and presentations delivered in English. Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes.
The list of accepted abstracts will be communicated in June 2017.
Participation in the conference is free. The organization cannot cover any expenses for presenters. Authors lacking the financial support for attending the conference in person may be eligible to present via videoconference.
Tag welcomes the participation of non-scholars, and will consider any alternative presentational format such as panel debates, artist discussions or video screenings. All lectures are free and open to the public.
In addition to the open call, Tag will present a complete program of lectures by invited speakers. Among the first confirmed speakers are French typographer François Chastanet, known for his groundbreaking calligraphic studies of cholo and pixação cultures, and Gabriele Goffriller and Chico Klein, who run an academic research group focused on the figure of Kyselak, the prolific tagger of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The double-blind peer review will be handled by the Urban Creativity Network under the coordination of Pedro Soares Neves.
Edward Birzin – JFK Institute, Freie Universität
Javier Abarca – independent researcher