International Research Project Degree Zero of Sound and Image: Improvisation

INHA/EHESS Paris  -  2 rue Vivienne  -  75002 Paris
How to conceive shape out of nothing and sound out of silence? DEGREE ZERO OF SOUND AND IMAGE: CREATION BEFORE THE ACT examines the creative moment and the emergence of form that precede materialization or music. The project addresses the topic of creation by exploring the interrelationship between movement and stillness, silence and sound, early and late-style, in order to identify debates about production and reproduction of cultural meaning in a period of great change and novelty, between the beginnings of the medieval intellectual tradition and the Enlightenment. The project explicitly seeks connections with different periods, styles and cultures, in order to develop a new semantic frame that encourages scholars to go out of their “comfort-zone”. The aim is to describe a deeper understanding of ourselves in relation to others and otherness, but also to create new insights into the limits and possibilities of cultural and historical analysis in a multifaceted world. In addition, this project aims at the creation of a new international network in which new international funding possibilities might be explored.

The project focuses on two specific themes:

1. Modernism and pre-modernism. The first question addresses the problem of pre-modernity and modernity as scholarly and strictly 'western' concepts. Argument: modernism is not simply a cultural or literary phenomenon, to be neatly packaged off from the rest of socio-historical existence. Rather, modernism refers to something altogether more profound, a sense that some time around the sixteenth century human nature in Western civilization changed. How would this question of change in nature be related to notions of improvisation, the meaning of individuality and the process of making art?

2. East and West. The second question turns on whether the Eastern tradition thinks the world without reference to the notion of creation from nothing. Is the notion of improvisation culturally determined? Is there a difference in shape or style? How about the importance of distance, ascetic tradition or conventions vis-à-vis improvisation? And how can we try to overcome East and West as self-defeating categories?

Degree Zero runs from Fall 2013 to 2016 and is mainly funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), with the financial aid of five international institutions: University of Groningen, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Institut Français de l'Histoire Allemande in Frankfort and the Royal Dutch Academy of Science. The project represents the consolidation of a research network in the field of interdisciplinary cultural analysis of anthropology, history, theology, philosophy, literature, art-history, semiotics and musicology.

Babette Hellemans is the projectleader and main applicant of this project, for questions please contact at b.s.hellemans[at]
  • du jeudi 19 juin 2014 à 09h30 au  vendredi 20 juin 2014 à 18h

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