Ruggero Longo will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, December 4, 2014, from 12 to 1:30pm, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His talk is entitled “Interchanges, Workshop Dynamics and Material Matters: The Case of Norman Palermo.”

Ruggero Longo is Research Assistant in the Dipartimento di Scienze dei Beni Culturali at the Università della Tuscia, Viterbo. His PhD is in Art History, and he specializes in archaeometric and diagnostic systems for cultural heritage. His research concerns the opus sectile decorations of Norman Southern Italy and intercultural relationships and exchanges in the medieval Mediterranean. He initiated a project concerning the Romanesque church of San Menna in Campania in 2009 and organized a conference on this topic in June 2010. Since 2009, he has worked on the nomination of “Palermo arabo-normanna and the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale” as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2012, he was awarded the Aga-Khan Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University, where he did research concerning the opus sectile decoration of Mamluk Cairo and its relationship with Norman Sicily. He is currently working on a project based on cognitive stury, archaeological researches, and the promotion of the Norman Palace in Palermo. He will be a Research Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center from December 2014 to January 2015. While in residence at the BGC, he will conduct research on workshop dynamics in the Middle Ages.

According to the sources, mosaic art and the opus sectile technique flourished in medieval southern Italy thanks to the contribution of Byzantine artisans from Constantinople. At the same time, marble decorations in Norman Sicily were affected by ornamental elements of Islamic tradition. Hence, the artworks stand in a precarious balance between the Byzantine model—or topos—and its Islamic transcendence, that is, the unicum. In this scenario the question is: how were these connections generated? How did interchanges work? The answer lies within the monuments themselves, its matter stands in their contexts and materials, that means not only inside the work of art, but also outside and all around it. Before asking what single identity was involved in the syncretic dynamics generated in the medieval Mediterranean, it is necessary to understand how the craftsmen were able to stimulate each other, in which way and through which media. The knowledge of the models and the cultural patterns informing the phenomenon is important so far as the investigation of the artworks’ context, and the analysis of both the monument as a whole and its details. This is what can be defined as syncretic perception: a holistic approach toward the artifact and its visual expression, including forms, ornamental patterns, materials and structure, beyond their assigned meanings. The final assumption is that the investigation on the workshop dynamics and the materials involved are special tools, able to reveal better than others the reliable path of interactions and interchanges among craftsmen.

Coffee and tea will be served; attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.

RSVP is required.