International Conference

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Ephemerality and Materiality in France in the Long 18th- Century: Arts, Theatre, and Spectacle.

Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, 27–28 June 2023

Organized by Elisa Cazzato

The Greek etymology of ephemeral, ephḗmeros, denotates something that only lasts for one day. In many ways, the ephemeral has become a key subject for our 21st-century lives, via temporary architecture and installations, digital art, but also new forms of media and social communication. However, with the invention of photography and videorecording in the late 19th century, and with new digital technologies in contemporary times, the ephemeral has also found new ways to become enduring, sustainable, and collectable in new archival forms. Yet ephemeral art and ways of being that existed before are more difficult to trace.

The study of 18th-century artistic and performance culture has naturally focused mostly on material objects that have survived in physical or representational forms, like paintings, decorative arts, written texts, and musical scores. But what happens to those forms of art whose material nature is short-lived, fleeting, or perishable? Does the absence of a surviving object preclude the possibility of its examination?

This conference investigates the topic of ephemerality in French culture in the long 18th-century, embracing both artistic, theatrical, and performance practices created through fragile and temporal media like theatre settings, sketches, fireworks, or spectacles that were performed but never replicated or transcribed, as well as trends in modes of dress, walking, and ways of being. In order to exist, however, ephemerality needs materiality, since any creative process intersects with the material requirements that both artworks and performances need: materials, location, scripts, costumes, instruments. How do ephemerality and materiality connect within the cultural context of 18th-century France?

This conference seeks to foster a debate not only about the aesthetic significance of ephemerality but also about the political and cultural meanings of the ephemeral. It questions whether, and how, short-lived forms of art had a role in communicating ideas of power. The conversation also embraces the politics of absence: What is the long-term effect of ephemerality? How can we create a history of the ephemeral? How do we deal with the relative paucity of sources? And how might our failure to deal with ephemerality exclude certain groups or cultures.

With the support of the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles

Zoom link:

Elisa Cazzato, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

[email protected]

Scientific Committee
Renaud Bret-Vitoz (Sorbonne Université)
Elisa Cazzato (Università Ca’ Foscari)
Emanuele De Luca (Université Côte d’Azur)
Meredith Martin (NYU)
Barbara Nestola (CMBV)
Gerardo Tocchini (Università Ca’ Foscari)

T U E S D A Y ,  2 7  J U N E  2 0 2 3

10.00  Welcome

10.15  Greetings and Conference Introduction
• Elisa Cazzato (Università Ca’ Foscari), Dario Pellizon (Università Ca’ Foscari – Head of Research), and Barbara Nestola (CMBV)

10.30  Session 1 | Ephemerality in French Theater
Chair: Paola Perazzolo (Università degli Studi di Verona)
• Renaud Bret-Vitoz (Sorbonne Université), L’expérience éphémère d’Ériphyle (Voltaire, 1732) à la scène: matériaux tangibles d’une dramaturgie avant reprises et réécritures
• Pierre Frantz (Sorbonne Université), L’éphémère et la circonstance, réflexion sur le théâtre de la Révolution française
• Ilaria Lepore (Università degli Studi La Sapienza), L’art du comédien au tournant des Lumières. Souci d’éphémère et sensibilité mémorielle

12.00  Session 2 | Architectures and Urban Settings
Chair and discussant: Emanuele De Luca (Univeristé Côte D’Azur)
• Alessandra Mignatti (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano), Tra utopia e ricerca del consenso: gli apparati effimeri di epoca napoleonica a Milano
• Annamaria Testaverde (Università degli Studi di Bergamo), Una via triumphalis per «Florence la belle ville»: dall’apparato effimero al progetto stabile, 1608–1810

13.00  Lunch Break

15.00  Session 3 | Ephemerality in Dance
Chair and discussant: Stefania Onesti (Università degli Studi di Padova/Università Aldo Moro Bari)
• Olivia Sabee, (Swarthmore College), Noverre on 18th-Century Dance Theory and Ephemerality
• Cornelis Vanistendal (Independent Scholar), Ephemerality on the Fringe: Power Quadrilles in Brussels on the Eve of Waterloo

16.00  Session 4 | Researching Ephemerality in Arts and Costumes
Chair: Carlotta Sorba (Università degli Studi di Padova)
• Daniella Berman (New York University), “…even in the midst of the terrible movements and variables of the Revolution”: Jacques-Louis David’s Joseph Bara and the Unrealized Fête of the 10th of Thermidor
• Brontë Hebdon (New York University), ‘The Right to Dress Plainly’: Embroidery and the Ephemeral in Napoleonic Court Costumes
• Petra Dotlačilová (Stockholm University / CMBV), Witnesses of the Past: Studying Costumes as Material Evidence of the Ephemeral Performance

W E D N E S D A Y ,  2 8  J U N E  2 0 2 3

9.30  Session 5 | Reconstructing Feasts, Settings, and Special Effects
Chair: Barbara Nestola (CMBV)
• Christine Jeanneret (University of Copenhagen), Ephemeral Spaces, Ephemeral Costumes, and Ephemeral Arts: The Bal des Ifs at Versailles in 1745
• Gerardo Tocchini (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia), Lorsqu’une scénographie devient ‘la’ preuve: « Orfeo ed Euridice » de Ch. W. Gluck, opéra maçonnique
• Emanuele De Luca (Univeristé Côte d’Azur), Poudres, feux, couleurs: les artifices des Ruggieri à Paris au XVIII siècle

11.00  Session 6 | The Specter of Race
Chair and discussant: Michele Matteini (New York University)
• Noémie Etienne (University of Vienna) and Meredith Martin (New York University), The Comte d’Artois and the Spectacle of Otherness in Pre-Revolutionary Paris

12.00  Keynote Lecture
• Mark Ledbury (University of Sydney), “Et le lendemain matin… Afterlives of the Ephemeral”