36th Annual University of British Columbia, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory Graduate Symposium
March 8th and 9th, 2013, Vancouver, Canada
Art is infinite contestation. Maurice Blanchot
I contest in the name of contestation. Georges Bataille
In the past two years there has been a substantial rise in the visibility of protest movements, often specifically local in their demands yet global in their implications and consequences. From the ongoing social uprisings addressing democracy at the state level in the Middle East to the concerns with direct democracy in the Quebec student strike, to growing protests against austerity measures in Europe, the subjects of protest are numerable and varied. In scale, location and ideology, struggle is driven by individual desires as much as by multitudinous subjects and might respond to issues of politics, economy, arts, ethics, gender, education, social justice, and other institutions of human life. The unpredictable continuity of the Occupy movement across diverse locations, temporalities and topics speaks to this mutable aspect of contestation and the potential of subversive agitation. The 36th Annual Art History, Visual Art and Theory Graduate Symposium will take up this critical dialogue of our contemporary moment by considering historical and contemporaneous modes of claiming dissensus, of acting and thinking against structures of power, and of transgressing the limitations already inscribed in our surroundings.
Historically, forms of contestation have been the impetus for artistic practices whose urgency and relevance is motivated by political concern, even if the visibility of contestation is caught in the tension between two different yet equally active impulses: the promotion and the curtailment of visual representations. In 1961 Maurice Blanchot, the philosopher of the power of contestation, noted the inextricable relation between art and contestation: Art is infinite contestation, contestation of itself and contestation of other forms of power not simple anarchy, but the free search of the original power that art and literature represent (power without power). Now in the 21st century, amidst the growth of protests, demonstrations, revolts, and widespread political upheavals, we seek to interrogate this infinite contestation of art. How does power without power, or the contestation with no bottom, find manifestation in visual forms and where are the intersections with the subjects of political struggles?
Understood a different way we might also ask: is there a visual literacy of protest? How might such a visuality emerge around contested events, whether historical or contemporary, and how have aesthetics and politics been theorized together around the historical and contemporary contestations? In the intersection between art practices, activism, and the scholarship on both, how might subjectivity and cultural politics play a substantial role? We seek papers that explore and question the tensions around visuality and contestation; the intersections between the urge to form an aesthetics of contestation in contemporary art discourse and a politics of the street that uses limited visibility as an active strategy of protection are rich for debate.
Presentations may respond to a number of topics or themes, for example:
the role of documentation, iconic images, and image dissemination in situations of resistance or protest
contesting archives, collective memory, radical histories
contestation and affect
academic and artistic labor, cultural work and resistance within the art world
the antagonistic and/or symbiotic relationship between activism and academia
digital networks, virtual organizing, transnational circulation of contested images and information
issues of democracy and free market economy in the art world
body and gender politics around individual or collective image makings
visuality of contestations in the post-colonial context
the visual language of protest and protest ephemera (posters, texts, drawings etc.)
media representation and/or repression of protest events
investigations, critiques, or contestations of the relationship between aesthetics and politics
social, ethical, political aspects of photographic images and practices
technological development and its influence on the strategies of political art practices
urban spaces, cartography, architecture, gentrification and protest art practices
iconoclasm and iconophilia in contested situations
The 36th Annual AHVAT Graduate Symposium organizing committee invites proposals for twenty-minute-long papers that address these and issues related to the intersection of aesthetic practices, politics, and contestation from across the humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies. Current and recently graduated M.A., M.F.A., Doctoral and Post-doctoral scholars are encouraged to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by January 4, 2013. To submit please send your abstract and a one page C.V. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 36th Annual AHVAT Graduate Symposium includes a two-day symposium on March 8 and 9, 2013 and a concurrent exhibition, dates to be confirmed. For more information please visit www.ahva.ubc.ca.
AHVA Graduate Symposium Organizing Committee
University of British Columbia
403 - 6333 Memorial Road
Vancouver, British Columbia
Fax: 1-604- 822-9003 Email: email@example.com
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