The conference homepage image is SPARK (2003-2006), an installation by Fred Wilson (courtesy of the artist and Pace Wildenstein gallery).

Addressing the relationship between the Renaissance past and the immediate present, Wilson portrays an interaction in which "the history" and "the contemporary moment" "work together and against each other" […] These texts, rewritten by Wilson himself, are drawn from slave narratives. Their visibility here not only enables us to ask what freedom means in relation to Othello but also provides another context for defining freedom.
Peter Erickson, "Respeaking Othello in Fred Wilson's Speak of Me as I Am, " Art Journal v. 64 no. 2 (Summer 2005) pp. 5-19

Venice, Padua and Freedom

Al men, specially strangers, haue so muche libertee there, that though they speake verie ill by the Venetians, so they attempt nothyng in effecte against theyr astate, no man shall controll them for it If thou be a Jewe, a Turke, or beleeuest in the diuell (so thou spreade not thyne opinions abroade) thou arte free from all controllement.
William Thomas, Historie of Italie (1549)

I believe that one of the main reasons for the peaceful condition of Venice is the canals which so intersect the city that its inhabitants can only meet together with difficulty and after much delay, during which their grievance is remedied.
Giovanni Botero, The Reason of State (1588)

The Jews must all live together in the Corte de Case, which are in the Ghetto near San Girolamo; and in order to prevent their roaming about at night: Let there be built two Gates, on the side of the Old Ghetto where there is a little Bridge, and likewise on the other side of the bridge, which Gates shall be opened in the morning and shall be closed at midnight by four Christian guards appointed and paid by the Jews…Edict of the Republic of Venice (29 March 1516)

Universa Universis Patavina Libertas
(Universal and for all, Paduan liberty)
Motto of the University of Padua

Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee;
And was the safeguard of the West: the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
William Wordsworth, "On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic" (1802)

Venice was the East, and yet it was Europe too; it was that magic boundary where the two met and blended […] 'Once I was there - for seven days. I caught the boat to India from there. It was so strange - it was both East and West, both Europe and Asia. I thought - maybe, in such place, I could be at home.
Anita Desai, Baumgartner's Bombay (1988)

My friend, an African river bears no resemblance to a Venetian canal. Only the strongest spirit can hold both together. Only the most powerful heart can endure the pulse of two such disparate life-forces.
Caryl Phillips, The Nature of Blood (1997)

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