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Simpósio | The lost-and-found

Dezembro 6 - Dezembro 7

Karolina Freino, Confluence. The Monument to Emma Goldman, 2017


International Symposium:

The lost-and-found: revising art stories in search of potential changes

Lisbon, December 6-7, 2023


This International Symposium is envisaged as a series of three events in three locations: Lisbon, Warsaw, Riga.
The first event will take place at the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, December 6-7, 2023. The following events will take place in Warsaw, March 2024, and in Riga, June 2024.




I lost a few goddesses while moving south to north,

and also some gods while moving east to west.

I let several stars go out for good, they can’t be traced.

An island or two sank on me, they’re lost at sea.

I’m not even sure exactly where I left my claws,

who’s got my fur coat, who’s living in my shell.

My siblings died the day I left for dry land

and only one small bone recalls that anniversary in me.

I’ve shed my skin, squandered vertebrae and legs,

taken leave of my senses time and again.

I’ve long since closed my third eye to all that,

washed my fins of it and shrugged my branches.


Gone, lost, scattered to the four winds. It still surprises me

how little now remains, one first person sing, temporarily

declined in human form, just now making such a fuss

about a blue umbrella left yesterday on a bus.

Wisława Szymborska A Speech at the Lost-And-Found (1972)

(from Wisława Szymborska Poems New and Collected (1998) trans. Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, Harcourt Brace International)


Losing things, or realising their lack, usually causes a feeling of deep disorientation, distress, helplessness or anger. These feelings are felt across the loss of objects, identities, ideas, sense, language, bonds, and power. Similar emotions are revealed through the verses of A Speech at the Lost-And-Found (1972) by 1996 Literature Nobel Lauriat, Wisława Szymborska. The Polish poet grieves for the loss of community with/in the world. When disrupted and confused worldly relationships accompany (mis)understandings of works of art as treasures, carefully evaluated and classified by experts but isolated from everyday life. Perhaps this moment of loss and confusion offers us a chance to uncover a new art-storical paradigm that focuses on building intra-relational ecologies founded on care, attentiveness and respect. We are hopeful that losing that to which we have become accustomed may allow us attend to abandoned possibilities and missed chances, and enable us to unlearn hierarchical and violent ways of building knowledge, including art as a vehicle of sustaining power structures.
In this symposium, we propose to critically engage with the noticeable shift in understanding the paradigm of art. This departs from ‘interpreting’ and ‘decoding’, towards a physical, affective and material experiencing within diverse contexts and communities.
Objects approached from a new contemporary perspective may be revealed as lost, but at the same time, also (re)found, allowing for the negotiation potentials of their uses, understandings and performativity. Attending to relations and things that were once discarded as unworthy enables us to unlearn, and re-define existing concepts of identity relationships (gender, class, ethnic, spiritual, familial) and unearth forgotten rituals, languages and stories (her-stories, it-stories, their-stories). We question the circumstances and contexts, and the presence and performativity of objects (considered as having artistic qualities) within spaces to reveal neglected, disregarded, ignored or lost potentials.
Szymborska’s poem encourages us to leave the itineraries to which we have become accustomed and to distance ourselves from a priori discourses – technocratic thinking and bureaucratic controls – that have maintained accepted patterns of power and control. We are not interested in ‘speak back’ narratives, instead everything that has been found or recovered has been subjected to transformations, hybridisations, mutations and disintegration.
Imagined as a series of three events in three locations in order to emphasise the importance of local socio-cultural and political contexts, we will consider the practical and beneficial role of art objects and the space(s) they create for and towards their users.  The arts’ ability to provoke curiosity, wonder, joy and pleasure activates attentiveness, respect and gratitude. We will explore the diverse and varied existence of art objects, their manifestations and status, and interrogate the space of art and the materiality it offers with regard to its potential to foster and support empathy, responsibility and response-ability towards others and care for and about a better communal life.
We hope the discussions and dialogues during the events will be attentive to the connections and relations constituted through and alongside art (especially in collectives but particularly in women’s collectives)* but also of those marginalised and/or peripheral subjects, including the non-human.
Each location navigates the constellation of issues explored through interventions that challenge traditional conference or symposium formats.
Within the above framework concerning a paradigm shift, in Lisbon we focus on artistic, curatorial, institutional, academic practices and artistic research that engage with art objects, art works, collectives and exhibitions that respond to three thematic constellations based on Szymborska’s poem:


1st thematic constellation: STARS and GODDESSES
  • Alternative ways of thinking and building knowledge (including, but not limited to assemblage and/ or tentacular thinking; practices of unlearning and undoing; epistemologies of ignorance, creative unknowing, building knowledges anew; non-anthroponormative languages and non-human approaches; decentering his-storical framings towards her-stories, it-stories, their-stories and other-stories;
  • The role of spirituality and faiths in the context of decolonisation and endogenic concepts of progression (change);
  • The role of materiality and corporeality in imagining new methodologies.



The Symposium is organised collaboratively between University of Wrocław (Poland), Polish Institute of World Art Studies, Art History Institute – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Portugal) and Art Academy of Latvia in Riga (Latvia). The general concept of this event was conceived within the framework of the project ‘Residua of pre-modern relations with art in selected contemporary convents in Lesser Poland and Lower Silesia’ financed by the National Centre of Science (nr 2021/41/B/HS2/03148).


All information here: https://institutodehistoriadaarte.com/2023/02/06/call-for-proposals-the-lost-and-found-symposium/ or via lostandfoundlisbon@gmail.com


Dezembro 6
Dezembro 7
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University of Wrocław (Poland), Polish Institute of World Art Studies, Art History Institute – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Portugal) and Art Academy of Latvia in Riga (Latvia)