Talk

Culture Wars: Identity Politics, Aesthetics and the Visual Arts

7 Mar 2020

Regular hours

Sat, 07 Mar
13:30 – 15:30

Cambridge Central Library

Cambridge
England, United Kingdom

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This debate will examine the impact of the culture wars on art practice and criticism. It will consider the extent to which the politicisation of aesthetics has given rise to forms of criticism that neglect the unique properties of visual art.

About

Are the visual arts political? Blurring lines.

Should artists focus on race, gender, human biology and community work as part of their practice? We will explore how identity-based forms of arts funding might, in fact, be undermining both the diversity and the quality of work produced and encourage fear and conformity.

The artists who won the Turner Prize Award 2019 said they, “...are all engaged in forms of social or participatory practice. More specifically, each of us makes art about social and political issues and contexts we believe are of great importance and urgency". Are they blurring lines between visual art and politics?

This debate will examine the impact of the culture wars on art practice and criticism. It will consider the extent to which the politicisation of aesthetics has given rise to forms of criticism that neglect the unique properties of visual art.

For some critics, visual art is by its nature political, necessarily giving expression to gazes, standpoints, ideologies and identities.

Many have claimed, for example, that the work of French-American visual artist Louise Bourgeois is best understood as feminist. Yet Bourgeois herself famously said that “Some of my works are or try to be feminist and others are not feminist”.

Similarly, the work of Guyana born painter Frank Bowling has typically been read in term of his cultural and ethnic identity. However, recently Bowling himself stated that “I don’t know what Black and Asian art is. I only know that art is art”.

So does politicisation of the visual arts undermine the integrity of art and the authority of the artist, or does it provide critics with an important vantage point?

Is it historically naïve to suggest that the visual arts are newly politicised?

Are we in fact in a period in which there is a healthy debate about aesthetic progress, the universal, the particular and the social role and responsibilities of the artist?

Speakers:

1) History of Art and art practice since the First World War to our identity politics and a Woke World. Should we be seeking to reintroduce a boundary between the political and aesthetic? GABRIELLA DARIS, art historian, critic and curator of Yoko Ono: Looking for…

2) What is it like to produce art, which is not set in one topic or narrative when there is an expectation to fit a biological identity? Modernism and its discontents, do the visual arts still provide us with an arena in which the human aspiration for change and liberation can be expressed? SARAH WOOD, artist based in Cambridge

3) What is the most truthful way to recall the art of the past 100 years? Are young artists unlikely to get out of the identity ghetto? Are identity-based forms of arts funding really undermining both the diversity and the quality of work produced? WENDY EARLE, Academy of Ideas, Arts and Society Forum.

Chair: SAIRA LAW, Founder of The Heretic Club

Seats must be booked in advance on Eventbrite:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/culture-wars-identity-politics-aesthetics-and-the-visual-arts-tickets-89463789603?aff=utm_source%3Deb_email%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dnew_event_email&utm_term=eventurl_text

Suggested £6.00 cash donation on the day to cover costs of the debate. The Heretic Club is open to the public and is non-profit making.

What to expect? Toggle

Curators

Saira Law

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