Amateurism Across the Arts Conference
– 6:15 pm | 2/09/2018
Amateurism Across the Arts is an exploration of vernacular, popular, fannish, kitsch, informal, self-taught, user-generated, and DIY production in music, architecture, literature, the visual arts, dance, and new media– especially in relation to raced, classed, and gendered notions of value. How do the implicitly skilled “arts” rupture and reorganize themselves around hierarchies of taste? And how can critical race and feminist/queer scholarship account for “hobbyist” — that is, extra-institutional, self-organized, or improvised — modes of cultural production and circulation? If amateurism has been traditionally disavowed in modernist and avant-garde historiographies, it is at the same time persistently—even obsessively—invoked, and is hence inextricably woven into those discourses.
The symposium asks how the “high” and the “low” are porous constructions by looking at the ways that these charged terms have been deployed and dismantled across several artistic disciplines, particularly as we examine the alternative economies and systems of distribution that attend such forms of making. While it has become commonplace for “fine” artists to recruit untrained participants into their practices, it is vital to acknowledge that many non-professional forms of making grow out of necessity and survival. In addition, though “amateur” is frequently used as a shorthand for the unpracticed and/or uninteresting, this conference seeks to understand its connections to its root word amare: a complex outgrowth of critical investment, pleasure, and love.
Organized by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Director, Arts Research Center