Learning from the means of the researcher, and the detective alike, this conference tracks the back-and-forth circulation of objects and ideas across multiple disciplines, i.e. art, law, film, anthropology, and across various points of contact such as ownership, display, and use. Taking Witte de With’s current exhibition In the Belly of the Whale as a point of departure, the day’s speakers respond to it’s core concern; namely how changing frames of reference affect artwork and artifacts, and how in turn these items can disrupt or render those very frames and discourses. As such, invited guests will examine how events, images, and their distribution map relations, hidden narratives, and other social and political formations both intrinsic and extrinsic to the image / object itself. Likewise speakers will consider how media, style, broadcast, and tone modify reception.

These issues have particular relevance in view of today’s rise of populism which hinges on one key rhetorical tactic: the use of wedge issues and like forms of misdirection to distract public debate away from deeper social and structural ills. Concealed—perhaps intentionally?—under these veils lays a struggle in which corporations, technocrats, and other secret brokers and industries subtly vie for power. Although disguised, these agencies occasionally rear their heads, often when under threat, via forms of censorship, negative branding, counter-intuitive legislation, bias, dominate ideologies, and other reactions.

Doubling back on the exhibition’s symbolic presentation of the cloud chamber, an early 20th century scientific device that produced an artificial environment from which to trace hitherto invisible phenomena, the conference presents various instances, both historic and contemporary, in which hidden agendas briefly emerge to ripple across the social sphere and imbricate in images.