Tagung – Symmetry, Proportion, Seriality

Tagung – Symmetry, Proportion and Seriality: The Semantics of Mirroring and Repetition in Science and the Arts

Symmetry is one of the key factors in a variety of sciences and humanities subjects. Equations must be symmetrical; in architecture symmetry is a basic design feature; linguists discover iconic and symmetrical relationships in their objects of study; in chemistry and physics symmetrical and asymmetrical designs play an important role; in music and all the arts symmetry is often considered the basis of aesthetic quality. There are also several types of symmetry that one might want to distinguish. Symmetry can be set off against, but also paired with, two other features that play a similar role in the sciences and the arts: proportion and seriality. Exact symmetry in some instances is too neat, too boring, or simply not possible, yet a set of proportional relationships may be deemed crucial to a particular effect. Proportion can thus be regarded as a more general framework that allows one to set items in relationships to one another, with symmetry being the most perfect of these relationships. The visual arts, especially film and dance, employ proportion and symmetry as kinetic rather than merely static modes. As regards seriality, it is a recursive application of symmetry and repetition, but also a type of design that operates dynamically rather than statically. Besides its obvious relevance to the arts in experiments in seriality in (post)modernist painting, music and literature, seriality plays a central role in mathematics and physics.

The high-profile speakers at this conference come from a wide range of discipline and they share a commitment to
cross-disciplinary dialogue. They will compare concepts of symmetry, proportion and seriality across the humanities-sciences divide; they will explore the historical dimensions and changes in taste that affect the understanding of these terms and concepts; they will discuss them as culture-specific phenomena, comparing ideas of symmetry and proportion across different global cultures; finally, they will explore why it is that symmetry is so important to our minds and our language, indeed to the design of our bodies and brains.

The conference is organized into three sections, each starting off with a plenary lecture and extended plenary discussions between speakers from different disciplines. Speakers at this conference include scholars from the fields of musicology, theoretical physics, literary studies, art history, neuroscience, and theatre and performance studies.

Thursday, May 26

from 12.30: Registration

  • 14.00 Conference opening (President of the University; Director of FRIAS; Conference organisers)

Section I: Aesthetics: Symmetry, Proportion, Mirroring

  • 15.00-16.15 Plenary address by Fionn Murtagh (Data Science, Goldsmith University of London and University Derby) and Rosapia Lauro-Grotto (Neuroscience, University of Florence): “Matte Blanco’s Bi-Logic: Symmetry and Asymmetry in Unconscious and Conscious Thought Processes”
    Chair:Jan Michael Rost (MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden)
  • 16.15-16.45 Coffee Break
  • 16.45-18.45 Panel Section I
    Chair: Werner Frick (German Literature, University of Freiburg)
    Stefan Dittmaier (Theoretical Physics, University of Freiburg)
    Aura Heydenreich (German Literature, University of Erlangen)
    Klaus Mecke (Theoretical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)
    Hans W. Hubert (Art History, University of Freiburg)
    Zhang Longxi (Sinology and Comparative Cultural Studies, City University of Hong Kong)
  • 19.00-20.00 Reception and Buffet
  • 20.00 Poetry reading by Mark McMorris

Friday, May 27

Section II: Symmetry – Indeterminacy – Chance

  • 09.15-10.30 Slavko Kacunko (Media Studies and Art History, University of Copenhagen): “Coreless”
    Chair: Angeli Janhsen (Art History, University of Freiburg)
  • 10.30-11.00 Coffee Break
  • 11.00-13.00 Panel Section II
    Chair:Mark McMorris (English Literature, Georgetown University)
    Christoph Bode (English Literature, LMU Munich)
    Berthold-Georg Englert (Physics, National University Singapore)
    Olav Krämer (German Literature, University of Freiburg)
    Thomas Klinkert (French Literature, University of Zürich)
    Jan Michael Rost (MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden)
  • 13.00-14.30 Lunch

Section III: Repetiotion, Seriality, Temporality

  • 14.30-15.45 Plenary address by Monika Schmitz-Emans (General and Comparative Literary Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum): “Proportion, Symmetry, Seriality: Comparative Remarks about Three Concepts and Their Recent Reception”
    Chair: Benjamin Kohlmann (English Literature, University of Freiburg)
  • 15.45-16.15 Coffee break
  • 16.15-18.15 Panel Section III
    Chair: Berthold-Georg Englert (Physics, National University Singapore)
    Hans Bertens (General and Comparative Literary Studies, Utrecht University)
    Angeli Janhsen (Art History, University of Freiburg)
    Mark McMorris (English Literature, Georgetown University)
    Thierry Paul (Mathematics, Centre de mathématiques Laurent Schwartz)
    Vasco Zara (Musicology, University of Bourgogne)
  • 19.30 Conference dinner (self-paid)

Saturday, May 28

  • 9.00-11.00 Plenary discussion
    Chair: Thomas Klinkert (French Literature, University of Zürich)
    Andreas Buchleitner (Physics, University of Freiburg)
    Werner Frick (German Literature, University of Freiburg)
    Klaus Mecke (Theoretical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)
    Martin Middeke (English Studies, University of Augsburg)
    Monika Schmitz-Emans (General and Comparative Literary Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum)
  • 11.00-12.00 Coffee break; Conference ends

The organisers are grateful to the Academia Europaea, to the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, to the Graduate School “Factual and Fictional Narration”, and to the University of Freiburg for organisational and logistical support. Financial support has been provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and by the Academia Europaea.

Download the program

Special prices have been negotiated with a number of local hotels. All hotels are within convenient walking distance from the train station and the conference venue at FRIAS. When calling the hotels to place a reservation, please remember to give the following reference code: “Academia Europaea”.

Monika Fludernik (English Studies, Freiburg)
Martin Middeke (English Studies, Augsburg)

Andreas Buchleitner (Physics: Quantum Optics and Statistics)

Benjamin Kohlmann