Elvis lives in Amsterdam. Manifestations of the imaginary musician

University of Amsterdam, 29 November – 1 December 2018

Conference convenors: Rutger Helmers and Oliver Seibt.

From Marvel’s Kiss comics of the late 1970s to Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger acting out different facets of Bob Dylan’s public persona in Todd Hayne’s experimental film I’m not there; from continuous assertions that the guy on stage isn’t the real Paul McCartney to YouTube videos showing Nigerian Michael Jackson impersonators; from Hans Sachs, the sixteenth-century Meistersinger, still performing regularly in Wagner’s opera, to a virtual band like Gorillaz; from Adrian Leverkühn’s pact with the devil in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus to the unsolved mystery of Chet Baker’s defenestration from Amsterdam’s Prins Hendrik Hotel.

During this conference, hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), we aim to have an interdisciplinary discussion about the various ways in which our understanding of musicians taps into the imaginary, and what case studies about musicians can teach us about the imaginary constitution of our everyday experiences.

Thereby, our interest will not be to debunk myths, but to understand what role imaginary representations of musicians play in our personal lives, in society and the arts in general. In discussing collective as well as individual imaginations of musicians, we are especially interested in the concurrence of the dimensions of “the real”, “the fictive”, and “the imaginary” in music cultures. Theories of the imaginary as, for example, those by Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Wolfgang Iser, or Cornelius Castoriadis could thereby serve as theoretical background that allows for an interdisciplinary communication about the topic.

The conference will include three confirmed keynotes by Nicholas Cook (Musicology, University of Cambridge), Lydia Goehr (Philosophy, Columbia University), and Nick Prior (Sociology, University of Edinburgh), and feature the affiliated masterclass “Marsyas to Madonna. The construction of the musician as figure and type” with Lydia Goehr and Marlies de Munck (University of Antwerp) as well as the ongoing exhibition “Elvis has just left the panel” on musicians as characters in comic books and graphic novels.

For registration, please send an e-mail indicating the days you plan to attend to e.a.presley-fgw@uva.nl until November 12th.

Preliminary Conference Programme (pdf)

Thursday, November 29th


13:00   Julia Kursell (Chair of Musicology, University of Amsterdam) and others

Panel One

Impersonated Musicians

13:30   Jaap Kooijman (University of Amsterdam)

Something of a Camp Artifact: Diana Ross and Star Performance as Self-Impersonation

14:00   Yunhwa Koh (Yonsei University, Seoul)

Two ‘Presents’ Meet in Hee-moon Lee’s Imaginary Performance in 2018

14:30   Magdalena Fürnkranz (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna)

“God, I’m Glad I’m Not Me”: Bob Dylan as Imaginary Musician in I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)

15:00   Coffee Break

Panel Two

Absent Musicians

15:30   Anne Holzmüller (University of Freiburg)

Invisible Musicians and the Virtualization of Sound around 1800

16:00   Andrew Chung (Yale University, New Haven)

Ghosts in the Machine: A Theory of Sonic Apparitions

16:30   Jonas Traudes (University of Cologne)

The Infant Lyra: Musical Prominence in Late Georgian Britain Between Public Persona and Fictional Character

17:00   Coffee Break

Key Note One

17:30   Lydia Goehr (Columbia University, New York)

The Painter and Poet Who in Self-Portraiture Become the Imaginary Musician: Reflections on Ekphrasis

Friday, November 30th

Panel Three

Resonant Musicians

09:30   Matthias Heyman (University of Antwerp)
“Something Borrowed, Something Blue”: The Curious Case of MOPDTK’s Blue

10:00   Samiran Culbert (Newcastle University)
The New Saviours: Post-Mortem Images of Bowie and Prince as Religious Icons

10:30   Fardo Eringa (University of Groningen)
‘Michaeling’: Walking in the Footsteps of Michael Jackson to Make the World a Better Place

11:00   Walter van de Leur (University of Amsterdam)
Blowing Gabriel Out of the Clouds: Jazz and the Afterlife

11:30   Coffee break

Panel Four

Virtual Musicians

12:00   Shanika Ranasinghe (Royal Holloway, University of London)

“Let me hear you sing once more, like you did before / Sing a new song…”: The ABBA Fan’s 35-Year Wait for the Virtual ‘ABBAtars’ Show

12:30   Konrad Sierzputowski (Jagiellonian University Kraków)

Listening to Holograms: The Carnality of Virtual Animated Bands

13:00   Lunch Break

Key Note Two

14:00   Nick Prior (University of Edinburgh)
The Virtual Idol as Assemblage: Miku, Love and Labour

15:00   Coffee Break

Panel Five

Haunting Musicians

15:30   Meredith Schweig (Emory University, Atlanta)
Enter the Butterfly: Deng Lijun, Fan Culture, and Transmedia Storytelling

16:00   Ko On Chan (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
Impersonator as Reincarnation: Langgalamu as Teresa Teng

16:30   Frederick Reece (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA)
Rosemary Brown’s Lisztian Ghost Writing

17:00   Radoš Mitrović (University of Arts in Belgrade)
Kubrick’s Beethoven

Saturday, December 1st

Panel Six

Real Musicians?

09:30   Kristin Franseen (McGill University, Montreal)

“They All Fell to Quarrelling Over Tchaikovsky”: Conspiracy, Community, and Queer Musical Gossip at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

10:00   Lisa Giombini (Roma Tre University / Free University Berlin)

Joyce Hatto: The World Greatest Imaginary Pianist

10:30   Pascal Rudolph (University of Potsdam)

Björk on the Gallows: Persona and Authenticity in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark

11:00   Coffee Break

11:30   Ifa Ramialison (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht)

Representations of the Musician and Technology: An Examination of Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots

12:00   Chris Tonelli (University of Groningen)

Imaginary Masculinities, or The Problems of Chromeo’s Post-Ironic Pop

12:30   Lunch Break

Panel Seven

Fictional Musicians

13:30   Dori Howard (Liverpool Hope University)

“A Manufactured Image with No Philosophies”: A Consideration of The Monkees as Inhabitants of a Popular Music Thirdspace

14:00   Stefanie Arend (New College, University of Oxford)

“Shall I Project a World?”: Droolin’ Floyd Womack, or Thomas Pynchon’s Pop Culture Fiction as Imagined Musical Community

14:30   William Drummond (Christ Church, University of Oxford)

“Some of These Days” and Imaginary Music(ians) in Sartre’s La Nausée

15:00   Matthew Head (King’s College, University of London)

The American ‘Lady Composer’ as Character Type in Operetta and Musicals of the 1930s

15:30  Coffee Break

Key Note Three

16:00  Nicholas Cook (Darwin College, University of Cambridge)

Music — Imaginary, Virtual, or Just Real

Transmission in Motion Seminar 2018-19


“Have we forgotten experience?” wonders Scott Lash (Experience, 2018). If this is so, we are currently witnessing a comeback with a vengeance. New forms of research and communication explore and experiment with various dimensions of experience. Art and science meet in experimental approaches that foreground sensation, substance and practice. Technological developments “expand the sensible” (Mark Hansen) beyond human experience, challenging the centrality of human experience and raising the question of the relationship between human experience, technological agents and data. Critical thinkers  from a diversity of backgrounds (including media, archaeology, new materialism, post-phenomenology, radical empiricism, human geography and embodied cognition) unpack aspects of the intimate relationship between experience and knowing and point to meaning as material practice of experience.

The Transmission in Motion Seminar is a more-or-less monthly gathering of researchers and students from across disciplines. To participate, please send an email to TIM@UU.nl to receive additional information and readings. RMA Students can acquire 3 EC (awarded by NICA) if they attend all meetings and write blogposts after each meeting. Please register at TIM@UU.nl. For more information, contact Maaike Bleeker at m.a.bleeker@uu.nl.

Seminar program TiM seminar 2018-19

25 October 2018 (15-17h): Prof. dr. Derek McCormack (Oxford University) “Experience/experiment and atmospheric things.”
Place: Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201, Utrecht.

22 November 2018 (15-17h): Prof. dr. Sarah Bay Cheng (Bowdoin College) “Everybody’s Historiography: When Museums Play Digital Games.”
Place: Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201), Utrecht.

13 December 2018 (15-17h): Prof. dr. Nathalie Sinclair (Simon Fraser University): “Multiplication as Experience: Whitehead, aesthetics and gesture-based, touchscreen technology.”
Place: Grote Zaal, Kromme Nieuwegracht 20, Utrecht.

23 January 2019 (15-17h): Prof. dr. Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen) title tba.
15-17h, Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201, Utrecht.

28 February 2019 (15-17h): Dr. Adam Nocek (Arizona State University): “Designing the Dispositif: Between the Art and Reason of Government.”
15-17h, Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201, Utrecht.

28 March 2019 (15-17h): Dr. Arun Saldanha (University of Minnesota): “The Stratification of Cyberspace: from Experience to Waste”
15-17h, Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201, Utrecht.

2 May 2019 (15-17h): Dr. Eef Masson (University of Amsterdam): “The Sensory Moving Image.”
15-17h, Parnassos Bar, Kruisstraat 201, Utrecht.



6 June 2019, TBA

Transmission in Motion is a hybrid research community that brings researchers from across disciplines together with artists and other partners from outside the academy. Transmission in Motion provides a platform for seminars, meetings and presentations, and mediates the development of partnerships and research projects. https://transmissioninmotion.sites.uu.nl/

Urban Crisis-Scapes: On Walks and Ruins

Workshop organized by Eva Fotiadi and Maria Boletsi, in collaboration with Ipek Celik (Koç University)

The workshop will focus on city-scapes that have recently been radically reconfigured through pervasive frameworks of crisis – financial, political, humanitarian etc. We want to explore alternative experiences of urban space, new artistic imaginaries, and innovative cultural initiatives emerging from such urban crisis-scapes by centering on two distinct but interrelated thematic lines:

Walks (day one)
Initiatives that use walking as a medium – springing from art projects to architectural research and crisis-tourism – have become increasingly popular. Some walks aim to observe and reflect upon the transformed urban space: vacant housing and commercial spaces, the new homeless, waves of migrants and refugees or the graffiti on derelict buildings. Others show interest in forgotten layers of a city’s turbulent history, which re-emerge through such initiatives and assume new meanings and affective functions in a turbulent present. In other cases – as for example in Athens – guided tours are organized by homeless people or by theatre makers, who set up performative walks aiming to reconcile citizens with the new poor and with districts considered dangerous or ‘migrant ghettos.’ Many of these walks and tours could be considered as crisis voyeurism or as unsolicited quasi-anthropological inquiries that produce (new) social and cultural alterities. However, some of them can also be seen as attempts by locals to make sense of their own situation beyond dominant and over-mediatized crisis narratives. When artists adapt ethnographic methodologies in such initiatives, are they inescapably trapped in a “realist assumption” about the “Other” or in their own “presumptions of ethnographic authority” (Hal Foster)? Can such initiatives contribute to opening up alternative futures for cities in crisis and their inhabitants?

Walking initiatives often focus on sites and spaces ‘in ruin,’ which form the workshop’s second subtheme:

Ruins (day two)
Recent crisis-frameworks have produced new material ruins and transformed the functions of past ruins. The workshop will explore the new meanings and the sociopolitical and affective functions of ruins in crisis-scapes, as well as figurations of such ruins in cinema and art: ruins that range from monuments or antiquities to vestiges of disaffected zones such as derelict factories, deserted buildings, and abandoned construction sites. Images of ruins often exemplify the material consequences of crisis. But ruins are not only markers of decay and desolation. They often become the ‘canvas’ for creative projects and artistic interventions (e.g., through street art) that mobilize ruins to articulate alternative modes of being in a present of crisis and of envisioning the future. Ruins may thus be involved in subaltern narratives, suppressed histories or radical imaginaries that challenge crisis as “judgment of failure.” But they can also become commercialized and fetishized (e.g., in crisis-tourism or ‘ruin porn’) or revamped as fashionable objects. In cities with a dominant presence of ancient and historical ruins – such as Athens or Istanbul – new ruins interact with ruins of the past, reconfiguring the traditional functions of the latter. New artistic and cinematic languages seek innovative ways to explore the relation of material ruins and precarious subjects afflicted by crisis. What new meanings and operations do ancient and modern ruins assume against the backdrop of pervasive crises? Can ruins and their cinematic, literary or artistic figurations contribute to alternative narratives of modernity, the nation, crisis and futurity?

By thinking walks and ruins together, the workshop will address the following topics, among others:

  • Walking as methodology in artistic, architectural, urbanist and other research
  • Revisiting “the artist as ethnographer” discourse
  • Tours around ancient, modern and contemporary historic sites and ruins and spaces of daily life; graffiti tours; “torture and freedom tours” (Documenta14 in collaboration with ASKI, Athens)
  • New significations and functions of ancient and modern ruins against the backdrop of crises
  • Literary, photographic, cinematic and other representations of ruins and narratives of walking within crisis-scapes
  • Alternative uses of ruined, derelict, empty spaces and their relation to subjects who squat, reside and interact with such spaces.
  • New collectivities and social practices emerging from walking and engaging with ruins
  • The role of ruins in shaping alternative narratives of modernity, the nation, crisis and futurity.
  • The (ir)relevance of established theoretical approaches to walking as a cultural practice, from Benjamin’s flâneur to Michel de Certeau’s tactical consumer

To Apply:

RMA and PhD students who wish to attend the workshop may apply by sending an email to NICA (nica-fgw @ uva.nl) by February 1, 2019, with the subject line: Urban Crisis-Scapes: On Walks and Ruins. The workshop will be limited to 25 participants.


RMA students and PhD candidates can earn 1 ECT for their participation in the workshop.

Credit requirements: Participation in a preparatory session of the ASCA research group Crisis, Critique and Futurity (15:00-17:00 Friday afternoon, date and room t.b.a.) and preparation of key readings common for preparatory research group session and workshop by selected workshop speakers (confirmed: Prof. Dimitris Papanikolaou, Oxford; Prof. Dimitris Plantzos, Athens; Prof. Kathrin Wildner, Hamburg); attendance of both workshop days.

Marsyas to Madonna. The construction of the musician as figure and type

NICA Masterclass | Thursday 29 November, 9:30-11:30 | Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam, Singel 425, Vondelzaal

With Lydia Goehr (Columbia University, New York) and Marlies de Munck (University of Antwerp / Royal Conservatory of Ghent)

This seminar will run through a history of the arts, from antiquity to popular culture, to ask what is at stake in putting musicians on view. Why look at them as opposed to listen to them? What does that say about music as an art? We will start with Apollo and Marsyas and go from there.

Central to the reflection are the contest of the arts and the rhetorical device of ekphrasis. Both rely on dynamics of competition and comparison to make a strong appeal to the imagination. But how does that affect our conception of the art of music? And how are these competitive practices related to the typical depiction and description of the musician? A careful analysis of the relation between music and words, and between music and the visual arts, will bring to the fore the importance of the imaginative experience in music.

Lydia Goehr is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Her research interests are in German aesthetic theory and in particular in the relationship between philosophy, politics, history, and music. She is the author of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (1992), The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy (1998), Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory (2008), and co-editor with Daniel Herwitz of The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (2006). She has written many articles on the work of Theodor W. Adorno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Arthur Danto. Her current book is titled Red Sea – Red Square: Picturing Freedom – Liberating Wit.

Marlies De Munck studied at the Institute of Philosophy in Leuven. In 2012 she obtained a PhD in the philosophy of music with a dissertation on the concept of musical meaning, under the supervision of Lydia Goehr (Columbia University). She currently teaches at the University of Antwerp and at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent. She regularly gives lectures on themes in the philosophy of music and published articles on various topics in aesthetics and philosophy of art, such as literature, film and painting. She is co-editor of the essay-collection Muziek ervaren (Damon 2014) and recently published the book Waarom Chopin de regen niet wilde horen (Letterwerk 2017).


Participants of this seminar are asked to prepare a five-minute statement about a video, painting, picture, literary passage or other representation of an (imaginary) musician or musical work. The statement should be based on the readings and will be the starting point for discussion. In addition, every participant is asked to prepare two questions for debate.

The obligatory readings are:

Shadi Bartsch and Jaś Elsner. “Eight Ways of Looking at an Ekphrasis.” Classical Philology 102, no. 1 (January 2007): i-vi.

Lydia Goehr. “How to Do More with Words. Two Views of (Musical) Ekphrasis”. British Journal of Aesthetics 50, no. 4 (October 2010): 389–410.

Walter Pater. “The School of Giorgione.” In The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Literature, 130-54.

  1. W. Adorno. “On Some Relationships between Music and Painting,” translated by Susan Gillespie, The Musical Quarterly 79, no. 1 (Spring, 1995): 66-79.

Friedrich Nietzsche. “On Music and Words” (1871) [excerpt].

Lydia Goehr. “Improvising Impromptu, Or, What to Do with a Broken String”. In The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, edited by George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Lydia Goehr. “ ‘All Art Constantly Aspires to the Condition of Music’—Except the Art of Music: Reviewing the Contest of the Sister Arts”. In The Insistence of Art: Aesthetic Philosophy After Early Modernity, edited by Paul A. Kottman (New York: Fordham University Press: 2017), 140-69.

Lydia Goehr. “The Central Claim.” Chapter 4 of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works.


How to Register

To register, please send to a note to NICA (nica-fgw@uva.nl), in which you supply us with your name, affiliation (the master’s programme or research school you are associated with), and a brief motivation. Please register before November 12th. There is room for 20 participants in total. All are welcome, but NICA members will have priority. This masterclass counts for 1 EC for NICA participants.


Associated conference

This NICA masterclass is organized in parallel to the conference Elvis Lives in Amsterdam: Manifestations of the Imaginary Musician (29 November to 1 December), for which participants can register separately. For more information, see: http://asca.uva.nl/programme/conferences/elvis-lives-in-amsterdam/elvis-lives-in-amsterdam.html


Picture credits: The Torment of Marsyas (Louvre Museum, Paris); Madonna during her concert in Paris, France, as part of her Confessions Tour on August 31, 2006, © Pascal Mannaerts / www.parcheminsdailleurs.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

Visual Story Telling – Thinking and Making

Masterclass with Simon Grennan, 14 November 2018
and invitation to Amsterdam Comics’ 2nd international conference
Drawing Yourself In and Out of It

15-17 November 2018
Free University Amsterdam

From 15-17 November 2018, Amsterdam Comics, in cooperation with NICA, CLUE+, VU, and ASCA, will organize its 2nd International comics conference, “Drawing Yourself In and Out of It.” Hosted at the Free University Amsterdam, the conference will bring together comics artists and scholars from around the world to discuss ongoing research on the topics of documentary comics, graphic medicine, and the poetics of the medium.

Keynote lectures will be given by world-renowned comics journalist Joe Sacco and documentary comics scholar Nina Mickwitz. Students and researchers participating in the masterclass will receive free entrance to all conference events.

Masterclass and Workshop with Dr. Simon Grennan:  14 November, 13:00-16:00 (room to be determined)

In conjunction with the conference, Amsterdam Comics and NICA will organize a masterclass and workshop focusing on visual story telling. In the masterclass, students will be introduced to the various terminology, definitions, and debates in the discourse and practice of visual storytelling. In the workshop, students will become familiar with comics scholarship and visual storytelling, and will be challenged to create visual stories of their own.

Existing drawing skills aren’t required: the workshop component is about making stories, not Rembrandts (although if anyone is a Rembrandt, that’s great)!

Please also note that all drawing materials will be provided. You are also welcome to bring your own, should you so choose.


13:00-13:30 Introduction to the masterclass, conference, assignment, and Dr. Grennan
13:30-14:30 Illustrated Introduction to Visual Storytelling
14:30-15:00 Activity 01 – “Who, What, Where, Why, How?” – individual work (30 minutes)
15:00-15:30 Activity 02 – “Story Jam” – collaborative work (30 minutes)

15:30-16:00 Closing remarks

To Apply:

Interested participants may apply for the masterclass by sending an email to NICA (nica-fgw @ uva.nl) by 15 October with the subject line: Visual Storytelling. The masterclass will be limited to 25 participants.


Students and researchers will earn 2 ECTS for their participation in the masterclass, attendance at the conference, and final paper reflection (1000 words on a keynote lecture or panel of their choice, due 23 November, 17:00, via email).

Dr. Simon Grennan is a scholar of visual narrative and graphic novelist. He is author of A Theory of Narrative Drawing (Palgrave Macmillan 2017), Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval (Book Works 2018) and Dispossession, a graphic adaptation of a novel by Anthony Trollope (Jonathan Cape and Les Impressions Nouvelles 2015 – one of The Guardian Books of the Year 2015)He is co-author, with Roger Sabin and Julian Waite, of Marie Duval: Maverick Victorian Cartoonist (Manchester University Press 2019), Marie Duval (Myriad 2018) and The Marie Duval Archive (www.marieduval.org), among others. Since 1990, he has been half of international artists team Grennan & Sperandio, producer of over forty comics and books. Dr. Grennan is Leading Research Fellow at the University of Chester and Principal Investigator for the two-year research project Marie Duval presents Ally Sloper: the female cartoonist and popular theatre in London 1869-85, funded by an AHRC Research Grant: Early Career (2014). www.simongrennan.com.


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