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Researcher Details
Research Projects

Theme

1st Track : Evolution of Mosque Architecture through the Ages

Role/Contribution

Selection of three papers published: 2024 ‘De-semantized and Mute: The Tautological Image as Mosque Ornament in Early Islam’, in Mosque, Approaches to Art and Architecture, London, New York, Routledge. 2023 ‘Phenomenology of Quranic Corporeality and Affect: A Concrete Sense of Being Muslim in the World’ Religions 14: 827. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/rel14070827 2022 Chapter ‘Theorizing the Spiritual-Secular Binary in Modern and Contemporary Art of- and by Artists from- the SWANA Region’, in Dossier Thematique, ‘Whither the Spiritual? Rethinking Secularism’s Legacy in post-Ottoman Art’, Regards, Revue des Arts du Spectacle 28 University St-Joseph, Beirut), edited by Hannah Feldman and Kirsten Scheid

Research paper Title

‘De-semantized and Mute: The Tautological Image as Mosque Ornament in Early Islam’

Personal Biography

Valérie Gonzalez is a specialist of Islamic art history, aesthetics and visual culture. Her research addresses conceptual issues and creative processes in Islamic artistic practices past and present such as figurality, abstraction, pictorial metaphysics or the Quranic philosophy of art. Her interdisciplinary methodology ranges from art history, art criticism and theory, to philosophy, in particular phenomenology. She was awarded scholarships from the Kunsthistorisches Institut-Max-Planck-Institut, Florence, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Notable among her books are Aesthetic Hybridity in Mughal Painting, 1526-1658, Ashgate 2015; Le piège de Salomon, La pensée de l'art dans le Coran, Albin Michel, 2002, and Beauty and Islam, Aesthetics of Islamic Art and Architecture IBTauris, 2001. She is currently preparing a monograph for Bloomsbury/IBTauris entitled: The Metaphysics of Islamic Ornament, the Sacred and the Sensible in Islam.

Paper Abstract

This presentation will revisit the heritage of Umayyad mosque architecture, which is as well-known as it is poorly understood in critical aesthetic terms. With their glittering gold mosaics, the spectacular ornamentations of the religious architecture built by the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus (661-750), most relevantly for this conference of the relatively well-preserved Great Mosque in the Syrian capital, represent the first historical phase of Islamic visual aesthetics. These ornamentations observably bear the stylistic and technical marks of the region’s age-old art of Late Antiquity. Overall attached to traditional art history and seldom engaged in the critical inquiry, the scholarship perceives in this art a phenomenon of continuity and rupture with this pre-Islamic tradition, the obvious discontinuity consisting in the absence of living beings in the mosaics’ lifeless landscapes and cityscapes making of them novel Islamic artworks. On the other hand, it persists in seeking or finding in this aniconic decoration some kind of signified representation or symbolic content because it uncritically sees in the mosaics’ Hellenistic-Roman iconographic repertoire including buildings, trees, vegetations and rivers, the continuity of the pre-Islamic representational regime. However, this view is untenable for various reasons this presentation will expose and discuss, in particular the plastic strategy of the iconography’s ornamentalization leading to its de-semantization, namely the suppression or severe tempering of the images’ intrinsic referential power. As a result of this strategy, the images turn into mute figural tautologies that serve an ornamental purpose and, consequently, dispossess the iconography of its representational properties. The ultimate proof that such a revolutionary approach to images is at work in Umayyad religious architecture resides in the little known figural zoomorphic ornament in the qibla wall of the Spanish-Umayyad Mosque in Cordoba. The examination of this figuration together with the Syrian Umayyad mosaics in mosque architecture will support the theory that from its inception, Islamic art at large took an ornamental turn, to never deviate from it until the era of colonialism. Valerie Gonzalez Specialism: history of Islamic art and architecture, Islamic aesthetics and visual culture past and present PhD advisor, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi, Pakistan valerie.gonzalez152@googlemail.com https://soas.academia.edu/VGonzalez https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Valerie-Gonzalez-4 ORCID 0000-0001-8259-900X
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لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو
لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو