Call for papers | esse arts + opinions

Call for papers


Send your text in US letter format (doc, docx, or rtf) to, before September 1st, 2020 (feature New Materialisms) or January 10, 2021 (feature (Re)seeing Painting). Please include a short biography (35-45 words), an abstract of the text (80-100 words), as well as postal and email addresses. We also welcome submissions (reviews, essays, analyses of contemporary art issues) not related to a particular theme (annual deadlines: September 1, January 10, and April 1). An acknowledgement of receipt will be sent within 7 days of the deadline. If you have not been notified, please contact us to ensure your text has been received.

No. 101: Feature New Materialisms
Before September 1, 2020

Even though it is common practice today to question the hegemony of the visible and to challenge the idea of representation as a fundamental and prerequisite condition of art, the constructivist orthodoxy driven by poststructuralism continues to encourage a discursive approach to art practices to the detriment of matter and its agency. Although the philosophical current of speculative realism—also known as object-oriented ontology (OOO)—has been an essential heuristic lever through which to think about the relationship between humans and the world of objects, this notion has remained tied to language, discourse, and culture, perpetuating the idea of a purely representational experience of matter. As stated by feminist art historians Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt in the foreword to Carnal Knowledge: Towards a “New Materialism” through the Arts, this shortcoming still continues to drive a binary rhetoric opposing materiality and signification, nature and culture, object and subject. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, voices from varied and “distant” disciplines, such as quantum physics, feminisms, ecology, and the arts, have risen and come together to argue for a renewal of materialist perspectives so as to return matter to philosophical discourse and ultimately transcend a dualistic and polarized interpretation of the world.

New materialisms thereby encompass a series of theoretical and pragmatic perspectives that counter the logocentrism of postmodernity. These perspectives are intensely critical of the postmodern tendency to consider only the logic of language as the frame of reference and signification for reality. Without going back to what Bruno Latour calls the Great Divide, namely a typically modern, objective, ontological research that is opposed to language, new materialisms focus on establishing an ethico-onto-epistem-ological approach (Barad, 1998) able to show the inseparability between the material and discursive world.

As a true crystallization of these issues, art occupies an enviable position in the discussion, simultaneously bringing matter to bear on meaning and signification to bear on form. Aware of the co-constitutive and inherent complementarity of art practices, many artists, museums, and art events put forward evidence of the “material fact” of art, offering reflections on the notion of object or thingness, on experience based on the polysensoriality and materiality of artworks, or revealing the agency and performativity of matter through its own transformation processes. These new sensibilities introduce a materialist aesthetics that shift the human and the experience of the art object (and its technique) into a horizontal relationship where meaning and matter inform each other.

Driven by the topicality of these considerations and their tangible implications for reconceptualizing the so-called “visual” arts, Esse arts + opinions invites writers and artists to propose essays that consider the reconfiguration of materiality in terms of social, political, artistic, and scientific practices that are no longer restricted to the human spectrum, but are under the aegis of “life” in its entirety, including the “non-living.” In this regard, modes of inquiry mirror new materialisms by being tentacular, hybrid, and critical. How do these approaches to matter inflect new critical stances given the arbitrary asymmetry between the fine arts and artisanal traditions? How does this materialist sensibility actually translate for artists and their works? At the dawn of an era that some call the Anthropocene, how do new materialisms circumvent an anthropocentric (or humanist) critique of art objects and their context of production? Henceforth, what roles can criticism and art history, whose primary material is discourse, still play?

No. 102: Feature (Re)seeing Painting
Before January 10, 2021

Observing a sustained interest in current painting practices, some art critics have speculated on a “return” to painting. Among others, museums in Québec have increased the exhibitions and retrospectives dedicated to the medium, in addition to bringing it back into focus in their collections. The museological presentation of painting has a dual effect: it reaffirms painting as the quintessential mode of expression in art history, while at the same time emphasizing its importance in recent practices. Of course, these two activities operate interdependently—by organizing exhibitions that make space for contemporary painting, the institution reinforces the pertinence of maintaining its own collections.

While painting has always been present in private galleries, it has also become increasingly visible in the programming of artist-run centres, university galleries, and other exhibition spaces. The visibility observed in Québécois and Canadian institutions, reflecting a renewed international interest in painting as well, follows from a series of measures that seek to develop philanthropic activity and acquisition, whether institutional or personal, of artworks. Painting’s hyper visibility comes at a time when the financing of artistic activity is no longer dependent on state intervention but is instead controlled by the market. As a seemingly easily transferrable object from studio to gallery to home, the painting becomes an essential factor in this economic transition.

The expression the return to painting first appeared in the 1980s in art practices and art criticism that were seeing a renewed interest in the pictorial, while the decades prior had focused on immateriality, ephemerality, and corporality. Nonetheless, this umpteenth return of painting merits deconstruction. On the one hand, many painters today are interested in questions that are supposedly extraneous to their medium, offering hybrid forms that borrow from installation, conceptual art, or performance. On the other hand, a significant number of artists are critically examining the themes and conventions of representation in painting. These artists, who are often Indigenous, Black, or people of colour, see it as a tool for deconstructing the homogeneity of art discourse. In both cases, painting stands up against a certain orthodoxy imposed by the medium itself or by the context disseminating it.

Contemporary painting is articulated by these three moments: in the examination of its practice, in its valorisation in exhibitions, and lastly, in its imbrication in the cogwheels of the art market. Rather than imagining a return to painting as indicative of the resolution of a false absence, perhaps it is better to understand it as an expression of the contemporary that asks us to consider its movements, changeability, and multiple discourses. What is painting saying? What is it telling us about the state of the art world? Esse arts + opinions invites writers to reflect on the conditions of this visibility. To what aesthetic, ethical, social, political, or economic imperatives does it respond? How is it understood by artists today?

1. Published by Les éditions Esse, Esse arts + opinionsis a bilingual magazine focused mainly on contemporary art and multidisciplinary practices. Specializing in essays on issues in art today, the magazine publishes critical analyses that address art in relation to its context. Each issue contains a thematic section, portfolios of artworks, articles critiquing the international culture scene, and reviews of exhibitions, events, and publications. The platform also offers articles on contemporary art and an archive of previous issues of Esse.

2. Submissions are accepted three times a year: January 10, April 1 and September 1. The texts can be submitted for one of the following 3 sections:
Feature: essays between 1,500 and 2,000 words. The guideline regarding the theme is available online 4 to 6 months prior to the deadline:
Articles: essays, articles or interviews between 1,250 and 2,000 words (including notes).
Reviews: reviews of exhibitions, events or publications (maximum 500 words, without footnotes, or 950 words, with one or two footnotes maximum). You can find guidelines for reviews here:

3. With the exception of the expressed consent of Les éditions Esse, the writer agrees to submit a previously unpublished, original text.

4. All articles are reviewed by the Editorial Board, which reserves the right to accept or refuse a submitted article. Selection criteria are based on the quality of the analyze and writing, the relevance of the text in the issue (in regards to the theme) and on the relevance of the chosen artworks and artists. Selection of articles may take up to 6 weeks after submission by the writer. The Board’s decision is final. A refused text will not be re-evaluated.

5. With the exception of the expressed consent of the Board, the Board does not consider articles that may represent a potential conflict of interest between the writer and the content of the article (i.e., a text written by the curator of an exhibition).

6. The writers whose pieces are selected commit to format their text according to the typographic standards of Esse, following the guidelines sent to them with the publishing contract.

7. With the respect to the vision and style of the writer, the Board reserves the right to ask for corrections and modifications to be made to ensure overall clarity, and coherence of an article.

8. Conditionally accepted articles will be up for discussion between the writer and the Board.

If changes are requested by the Board, the writer will have 15 (fifteen) days to carry these out.

9. All costs of typographical correction of the author's text shall be borne by Esse except the author's corrections, if applicable, which shall be borne by the author.

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