The University of Nottingham’s Nottingham Institute for Research in Visual Culture (NIRVC) will host a two-day conference, ‘Representing the Everyday in American Visual Culture,’ on September 12 and 13 2008.
To claim that a work of art represents the everyday is to make a powerful assertion about what constitutes normative experience. The structures and rituals of everyday life are thus common points of reference in attempts to construct and define coherent national narratives. Calling such constructions into question, various artistic and cultural practices have privileged accounts and images of everyday life that seek, simultaneously, to amplify what is invested in securing representations of everydayness and to puncture and resist discourses of power. Pointing to the way that particular aesthetic and formal approaches produce different versions of the everyday, critical theorists -- Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, and Michel de Certeau, for instance -- have made the question of ethics central to that of representation: whose everyday is being represented and how are such representations circulated and consumed?
Across diverse moments and media, the antebellum genre painters William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham and Lily Martin Spencer; the magazine illustrators Alice Barber Stephens and Norman Rockwell; and the Regionalists John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton produced images of the American everyday that were by turns ambiguous, sentimental, celebratory and nationalistic. Ashcan School paintings of urban poverty, the African-American domestic sphere delineated by Harlem Renaissance artists and documentary photographs of the dustbowl challenged and expanded this discourse.
While many of these works pursue a smooth assimilation of the everyday, the act of representation also distances us from the everyday, marking it off and making it strange. Artists like Robert Frank, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Dan Graham have exploited this process of estrangement, producing ambivalent or critical images of everyday American life. Others, including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, have sought to minimise or negate this division, in sculpture and collage that incorporate everyday materials or performances that enact everyday practices. Bringing the mundane into visibility through its material representation reveals, paradoxically, the extraordinariness of what is often considered, dismissed, or celebrated as everyday.
We seek proposals that develop or challenge this account of "Representing the Everyday." Moving between C19th and C20th, pre- and post-1945, this conference will explore “Representing the Everyday” as a recurrent, and contested, concern in American visual culture.
Send brief CV and 250 word proposals for 20 minute papers to: email@example.com.
We also welcome panel proposals. Deadline: 31 March 2008.
Topics covered might include, but are not limited to:
Genre Painting – ‘official’ and ambiguous images of the everyday
Documentary Photography – expanding the sphere of everyday life
Representations that “makes strange” the everyday
Representations that collapses distinctions between art and the everyday
Everyday practices in performance art
Everyday materials in collage and sculpture
Critical Theory, everyday life and visual culture
Advertising, illustration and the everyday
The class and/or gender politics of “everyday life”
Everyday life as a transnational category
School of American and Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD UK
Tel: + 44 (0)115 8468668
Fax: +44 (0)115 9514270 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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