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Call for Papers: Unframing/Reframing in the Contemporary Visual, Performing, and Media Arts (Special Issue of JoLMA)

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CALL FOR PAPERS (JOLMA 4 | 1 | 2023)


Editors: Cristina Baldacci, Pietro Conte, Susanne Franco

Over the last two decades the notion of the frame has been radically challenged in the visual, performing, and media arts. Two mutually related concepts have been emerging in particular: ‘unframing’ and ‘reframing’. While the first refers to the gesture of ideally getting rid of any framing device, the second offers alternative ways to contextualize objects, acts, and images in time and space.

Yet, unframing and reframing should not be understood as opposite gestures but as a single, ongoing interpretative (visual) process which includes the gesture of ‘deframing’ (Ferrari, Pinotti 2018; Conte 2020). It also opens up new possibilities in artistic practice as much as in aesthetic theory, media, performance and cultural studies, and art history (Bal 2002). This process reactivates and continuously changes the relationship with the context in which an image, an object, an action, as well as an idea and a story are inserted, and also with time – a time that is no longer linear or hierarchical, but which leaves room for anachronisms and reenactments (Baldacci, Nicastro, Sforzini, 2022; Baldacci, Franco, 2022).

Especially in the field of augmented, mixed, and virtual realities, the rapid pace of technological advancement has definitely undermined the traditional concept of the image as an artefact disclosing an ‘unreal’ dimension necessarily isolated from the real world of everyday life by virtue of some sort of framing devices (Pinotti 2017). De facto, in augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality our field of vision is superimposed with digital information so that the boundaries between flesh and blood reality and the image world are blurred. While, in virtual reality (VR) the experiencers find themselves surrounded by 360° visual content and immersed into a multisensorial dimension where the frame – according to some interpreters – would be gone and the two-dimensional limits dissolved (Iñárritu 2017).

‘Unframedness’ has been exploited as a form of propaganda to celebrate the ability of the most recent digital (un)realities to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, encouraging greater empathy between individuals and thus inducing pro-social behaviour change (Milk 2015). Debunking the rhetoric underlying this narrative of ‘total immersion’ is an urgent task. It has already prompted scholars to ask themselves whether the gesture of un-framing should be better understood as a new form of re-framing rather than a radical getting rid of all frames.

This issue also invites reflections on current experimentations with theatre and performance that – as in AR and VR – push the concept of the frame of the theatrical device to the point of exploding it. How can the theatrical frame no longer be thought of as a medium between the fictional and the real world of the audience but as an increasingly porous membrane open to reinterpretations?

Artistic practice helps respond to the question.

Let’s take as a first example Seek Bromance by Samira Elagoz, which was awarded with the Silver Lion at the Venice Theatre Biennale in 2022. In a deserted and perturbing world, the two trans protagonists, Elagoz herself and the American-Brasilian artist Cade Moga, explore self-representation in media, together with the permeable boundaries between the real and the virtual, gender and the digital age, seduction and domination, by presenting real-life footage and photographic documentation of their sentimental/erotic relationship as ‘a real story’. Both the real-life footage and Elagoz’s live presence on stage cast light on the manipulation of bodies and genres through a performance narrative, multimedia happening, and docufiction that altogether challenge our notion of theatre as a frame.

As a second recent example, this time chosen among the works presented at the last 2022 Venice Art Biennale, let’s refer to Oedipus in Search of Colonus by Loukia Alavanou. Inside the Greek Pavilion, thanks to VR technologies, visitors could experience a trip in time and space, which, in the footsteps of Sophocles, made them become protagonists of a contemporary tragedy: the desperate living conditions of Roma communities in Nea Zoi, west of Athens. As an immersive experience, the space-time boundaries of the work/installation decay and the viewers experience a social reality of poverty and despair that induces them to repeatedly reset the frame between past and present, far and near, illusion and reality. 

This issue critically investigates unframing and reframing from both a theoretical and practice-based perspective. Particularly welcomed are reflections outlining new historiographical approaches capable of retracing the many roots and interwoven paths of past works and experiences framed by historical narratives that are limited by the same theoretical horizons and methodological approaches which have constructed them as subjects of study.


Bal, M., 2002. ‘Framing’ (chapter 4), in Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide, University of Toronto Press, Tornoto-Buffalo-London: 133-173.

Baldacci, C., Nicastro, C., Sforzini, A. (eds.), 2022. Over and Over and Over Again: Reenactment Strategies in Contemporary Arts and Theory, ICI Berlin Press, Berlin.

Baldacci, C., Franco, S. (eds.), 2022. On Reenactment: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, Accademia University Press, Turin.

Conte, P., 2020. Unframing Aesthetics, Mimesis International, Milan-London.

Ferrari, D., Pinotti, A. (eds.), 2018. La cornice. Storie, teorie, testi, Johan & Levi, Milan.

Iñárritu, A.G., 2017. “Carne y Arena”, press release, Fondazione Prada, Milan; https://www.fondazioneprada.org/wp-content/uploads/1-Carne-y-Arena_Fondazione-Prada_press-release.pdf.

Milk, C., 2015. Virtual Reality Is ‘the Last Medium’, “Re/Code”, October 1;


Pinotti, A., 2017. Self-negating Images: Towards An-iconology, Proceedings 2017, 1(9), 856; https://doi.org/10.3390/proceedings1090856.

In Short

Submission deadline: 31 December 2022

Notification of acceptance: 15 March 2023

Publication: May 2023

Articles must be written in English and should not exceed 6,500 words. The instructions for authors can be consulted in the journal’s website: ‘Editorial Guidelines’.

Submissions must be suitable for blind review. Each submission should also include a brief abstract of no more than 650 words and five keywords for indexing purposes. Notification of intent to submit, including both a title and a brief summary of the content, will be greatly appreciated, as it will assist with the coordination and planning of the issue.

For any question, please use the following addresses: Cristina Baldacci cristina.baldacci@unive.it, Pietro Conte, pietro.conte@unimi.it, Susanne Franco susanne.franco@unive.it

Please submit your proposals to the email jolma_editor@unive.it or using the section ‘Submit’ of the journal’s website.