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Transmission: Hospitality

"Transmission: Hospitality aims to address the relation between the various modes of analysis and communication that seek to comprehend art. This conference will be set in a transdisciplinary and transcultural context where dialogues between artists, writers, critics, curators, and academics will be welcomed as a method for generating, mediating, and reflecting experience and knowledge about the way art is received."

Transmission: Hospitality took place in July 2010 at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. To purchase the publication TRANSMISSION ANNUAL: HOSPITALITY Ed. Michael Corris, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sharon Kivland, Artwords Press 2010, please visit the Artwords Bookshop.

Review | Themes and Keynote speakers | Proceedings


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Reviewed by: Alison Andrews »
This review was first published on Interface July 2010
Transmission:Hospitality Sheffield Hallam University

I was invited to a great party .. and I didn’t even bring a bottle. Transmission: Hospitality was hosted by the Arts and Design Research centre, Sheffield Hallam University 1-3 July 2010.  This interdisciplinary conference was an invitation to interrogate the codes and duties implied in the relationship of host and guest.  Convened by Dr Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Dr Sharon Kivland, Transmission is an ongoing project conducted in the mode of hospitality.  In association with Site Gallery, staff from the department of Fine Art invite a friend as speaker and interlocutor in a series of enquiries into art practice. The conference in July launched Transmission:Annual, a new journal reflecting the proceedings of the project. Themes of mutuality and reversal in relations were explored over three days of presentation and discussion which acknowledged the ironies, contradictions and progressive potential of the host/guest paradigm.

These early July days in Sheffield were warm, really warm.  We were sheltered from the heat in the air conditioned environs of the conference venue, and as a delegate at a conference, ever the guest, and a stranger in town, one is sheltered too from the preparations and from the details of the wider context in which the conference takes place. Yet the theme of Transmission:Hospitality was immediately animated as the stranger/traveller/delegate (me) arrived, welcomed to the city by the sight and sound of running water in Sheaf Square. This is a new public space situated outside Sheffield Station.  The area was previously used as a car park and was surrounded by a major road network – an unwelcoming vista. Sheffield design team, Si Applied and international glass artist Keiko Mukaide collaborated in the development of the Cutting Edge Sculpture, which combines the city’s famous material – steel – with water and light and makes a definite statement of civic pride offered as a gift from the City to the visitor.  Largely well received, the controversies over the development of the area overall are easily tracked on blogs, and address ongoing issues surrounding public art and the host/guest relationship with which Transmission:Hospitality engaged. Keynote speakers, at once guests and hosts, invited us to their investigative parties. Michael Clegg’s work with Martin Guttmann is often hosted in public spaces, commemorating the past and challenging the future.  Through the process of negotiating the installation of the work, a range of questions are raised: Whose voice is being heard through a public artwork? Who is ‘programming’ the space, when the stage is open to the public?  What is it proper to represent? And who is being ‘quoted’ in the act of creating a memorial.  It is after all, very impolite to misrepresent your guest.

In 1795, Immanuel Kant published an essay entitled ‘Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch’ – the context was the signing of the Treaty of Basel by Prussia and revolutionary France, which Kant condemned as only the suspension of hostilities, not a prescription for Peace. Kant denounced ‘the inhospitable conduct of the civilised states of our continent, especially the commercial states and the injustice which they display in visiting foreign countries and peoples’.  He rejected European imperialism as a violation of the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility on strange shores.  Such treatment breaks the laws of hospitality, which apply to both host and guest. Dany Nobus explored these laws as prescribed in Klossowski’s Roberte ce Soir – the best host is the one who gives away the most, even that which defines him as Master of the House. Blake Stimson placed hospitality against fundamentalism, as a process requiring engaging deep and openly with another’s world – towards learning and turning a critical gaze upon ourselves – treating the object as a guest.

We are even guests in our own timeline, Ahuvia Kahane suggested, if we understand the present as our home, yet we must ‘host’ the past in the present as the moment moves immediately into history.  Esther Leslie charted the friendship between Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin as a space in which they developed their methods and philosophies. Compare this to Facebook ‘friendships’ and instantly effected changes to one’s ‘status’.  The host/guest relationship requires an investment of time, which Esther suggested is occluding space in on-line environments –  ‘space’ for friendship is a product of hospitality.  Juliet Flower MacCannell considered the falling stock of the stranger, once an honoured identity in a society geared for hospitality.  The stranger brought new insights to the community, but now manifests as the character whose lethal freedom drives the narratives of films like ‘The Hitcher’ and ‘Dead Calm’. Yet, dispensing with distance brings us too much information – how much do we really want to know about Britney Spears? Estrangement and intimacy are the poles between which pornography – sex with a stranger – operates.

Having just completed a site specific performance project at the invitation of a national institution, I attended the conference with the image of my host etched on my memory, with all the sharp edges which a challenging relationship forges.  The inspiring key note presentations and compelling and provocative panel presentations on ongoing research have softened these edges and overlaid it with other, more complex propositions.  One might expect that a conference with ‘Hospitality’ as its title would attend overtly to the guest/host relationship, and as delegates we were handsomely and graciously entertained. The invitation also to consider our responsibilities to our hosts in such a creative context made the experience particularly rich.  Whether or not it is better to give than to receive, I must remember to say –“thank you for having me”.

Peace gardens

Conference Location

The conference was hosted by Sheffield Hallam University right in the city centre. When you step out of Sheffield station you will be greeted by the 'Cutting Edge' (below), a dramatic public artwork by one of the university's metalworkers, Chris Knight, guiding you up through the newly developed pedestrian route towards the university and the heart of the city.
Cutting Edge
The university is close to many of Sheffield's landmark buildings, including the Winter Gardens, the Millennium Galleries, and Butcher Works as well as other art galleries, cafes, shops and restaurants.
The conference was held at Sheffield Hallam University's Cantor Bbuilding, located in the heart of Sheffield's Cultural Industries Quarter. The building is home to the Art and Design Research Centre and the new Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery , and is a pleasant five minute walk from the train station.

Sheffield Hallam University
Furnival Building, 153 Arundel St
Sheffield S1 2NU
United Kingdom

Sheffield city centre

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