Is art history global enough to take up the challenge of cultural mixing, transnationalism, internationalization, and globalization, without neglecting cultural nationalisms and artistic territorialization processes, which are the fabric of our discipline?
How do we understand the relationships between circulations, globalizations, and the production of ethnicity or nationality in the arts?
What strategies can we develop, besides narration and description, to write a new history of the arts that escapes both historiographical nationalism and blind globalism, while paying due to the national and transnational dimensions of artistic creation?

In response to these questions the École normale supérieure in Paris (ENS-Ulm) and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel launched a vast research project in 2009. The ambition was to study arts and letters in a socio-spatial perspective that takes into account the spatial turn of Social Sciences. The result is ARTL@S, a digital atlas of arts and literature history which combines spatial, social, cultural, and esthetic questionings, with a narrative/descriptive approach, and visualization techniques, including charts and maps created with GIS technologies (Geographic Information Service).

The reliance on a cartographic approach and multi-scale analysis grows from the conviction that we can transform the geohistorical reflections that Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann presented in Toward a Geography of Art (2004) into maps, and that the atlas model can contribute to meeting the challenge of global art history that James Elkins exposed with Is Art History Global? (2006). Still, the format of ARTL@S is motivated by the conviction that we cannot separate the analysis of artistic circulations and globalization from the study of territorialization of artistic practices.

In order to present ARTL@S on the American continents and engage in a dialogue with American scholars, the ENS is teaming with Purdue University to organize a conference which will take place on September 27-29, 2012, at Purdue. We invited Professor DaCosta Kaufmann and Professor Elkins, as well as Professor Christophe Charle and Professor Ségolène Le Men, to present their respective takes on a global art history and the use of maps as art historical tools, while philosopher Edward S. Casey will address the links between art and maps. In addition we selected through an international call for papers twenty scholars, whose research is grounded in socio-spatial analysis and/or aims at meeting the daunting challenge of ubiquity in art history, to join the conversation and offer their perspectives.

On Saturday morning, a round table discussion animated by Professor David Lubin will provide the opportunity to reflect on everyone’s propositions, debate, and hopefully come up with concrete directions for the discipline. During the conference, The Atlas for Experimental Poiesis, an exhibition by London based artist Katherine E. Bash, will allow us to consider cartography in contemporary artistic practices. Papers and discussions generated by the conference will be published as an ARTL@S Publication in early 2013.

Contact information: Catherine Dossin (cdossin@purdue.edu) and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel (beatrice.joyeux-prunel@ens.fr)