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Change is Possible and Necessary: New Perspectives on Wim Wenders as Filmmaker and Visual Critic

An International Conference on Wim Wenders
Feb. 24–25, 2017
University of Richmond

Call for Papers

Last year was both a personal milestone for Wim Wenders—he celebrated his 70th birthday in 2015—and a year filled with new projects, critical acclaim, and renewed interest in his work. A film retrospective of his career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in March was followed by a nomination at the Oscars for the stunning documentary Salt of the Earth, co-directed with Juliano Salgado. Film restoration work carried out by the Wenders Foundation was showcased in a touring selection of films, “Portraits along the Road,” curated by Janus Films and the IFC Center. Finally, Wenders released his twentieth full-length feature film, Everything Will Be Fine, an intimate exploration of loss and guilt filmed in 3D which confirmed his position as one of the great innovators in digital filmmaking.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Wenders’ most admired pictures (Alice in the Cities, Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire) were the topic of a number of important essays. Several books sought to identify the central themes of his films and to delineate a Wendersian aesthetic (Geist, 1988; Kolker and Beicken, 1993; Cook and Gemünden, 1997). In the past fifteen years or so, by contrast, there have been few contributions to “Wenders studies.” In other words, critical acclaim and regular reviews in the mainstream and specialized presses, both in Europe and in the United States, have not translated into a heightened presence in the fields of film studies and German studies, or in more interdisciplinary conversations about visual culture. This conference aims at filling that gap and at bringing new intellectual energy to the scholarship on Wenders’ body of work. We would like to bring together scholars from North America, Europe, and elsewhere to discuss all things Wenders and take stock of his major contributions to the visual arts.

The conference will take place on Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25, on the campus of the University of Richmond, in Richmond, Virginia. It is organized by Drs. Olivier Delers and Martin Sulzer-Reichel and hosted by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Funding for the conference comes from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Richmond and the Tucker-Boatwright Festival for the Arts.

Proposal Topics

We invite paper proposals on the following topics:

Wenders in the Twenty-First Century

We invite proposals on works that have received little critical attention so far (Million Dollar Hotel, Land of Plenty, Don’t Come Knocking, Palermo Shooting, in particular); on Wenders’ turn to 3D technology in Pina and Everything Will Be Fine; and on the theatrical and DVD re-release of Until the End of the World, a film that Wenders considers to be central in his filmography.

New Research on Wenders’ “Classics”

We invite proposals on the films that are most often associated with Wenders. This includes his contribution to New German Cinema and his investigation of the cultural tropes of post-war Germany. It would also include his visual exploration of the American cultural space and of the influence of American images on the European imaginary.

Wenders’ Trajectory as a Filmmaker and Visual Artist

We invite proposals that consider the following questions: Are there different “periods” in Wenders’ career as a filmmaker? How can we define and articulate them? What does a sense of separate phases in his career tell us about his artistic vision? What continuities and mutations can we identify over the span of a forty five-year long career?

Wenders as a Theorist of Visual Culture

We invite proposals on Wenders’ reflections on his visual, filmic, and photographic practices in speeches, interviews, and essays. This includes the volume On Film (2001), the rich conversations with the philosopher Mary Zournazi in Inventing Peace: A Dialogue on Perception (2013), and lesser-known texts that shed light on the ways in which Wenders thinks about space, memory, characters, etc.

Wenders and his collaborators

We invite proposals considering the importance of specific technicians, actors, writers, and musicians in Wenders’ films. This topic should help us think more in terms of practice, and we also invite contributions from filmmakers and visual artists whose work has been influenced by Wenders’ films.

Teaching Wenders

We invite proposals that address the following questions: Where and how are Wenders and his films taught today, in film schools, or in German and film studies programs at the college level? Are there other academic disciplines in which Wenders’ body of work has played an important role? Why teach Wenders today?

This list is not meant to be exhaustive and we welcome paper proposals that investigate other aspects of Wenders’ career and films. We encourage early-career scholars and scholars outside the United States to send proposals.

Submit A Proposal

An abstract (max. 600 words) and a short bio (max. 100 words) should be emailed to odelers@richmond.edu and msulzerr@richmond.edu by October 1, 2016. Selected papers will be announced by October 15, 2016.

Image Credit: Donata Wenders, 2004