I will be chairing a panel entitled “The Artist as Public Intellectual: 1968 to Today” at CAA’s Annual Conference in 2019. Proposals are due by August 6, 2018. Please visit the CAA website for submission requirements.
The Artist as Public Intellectual: 1968 to Today
Along with increased specialization and the rise of the rapid news cycle, the status of intellectuals in public life has experienced a shift since the mid-20th century. Long populated by social thinkers, literary critics, and philosophers, the public intellectual—once called upon to combat political propaganda with facts and cultural analysis—has now been replaced by an expert talking head. Artists have played an equally active part in public life for millennia, experiencing an apogee around 1968 with figures such as Judy Chicago and Joseph Beuys. Although in recent decades many have abandoned their utopian proclamations in favor of localized action, today’s artists are increasingly seeking methods to generate public debate and address social problems, reviving the tradition of the public intellectual by using art as a mode of cultural critique writ large.
This panel seeks papers that investigate modes of art making that might be considered activities of public intellectualism since the turbulent 1960s in order to identify global phenomena and establish precedents for today’s practitioners. How have artists sought out public methods of and venues for idea production and dissemination with the goal of resisting hegemonic power and/or catalyzing social change? Which strategies were successful (or unsuccessful) and which ideas took hold on a mass scale? How have artists built upon existing activist movements or cultural moments in order to broadcast their ideas? Papers may address individual artists and/or projects, thematic case studies, or curatorial methodologies; artists are also encouraged to present on their own work.