The Aesthetics of Austerity (University of California - Irvine) April 5, 2013

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PhD Program in Visual Studies (University of California - Irvine)

The PhD program in Visual Studies at UC, Irvine invites submissions for its annual graduate student conference: The Aesthetics of Austerity.

Conference Date: April 5, 2013
Deadline: Abstracts of no more than 350 words are due January 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm to Presentations are to be 20 minutes in length. Please include a one-page CV that demonstrates your research interests.

The current historical moment is dominated by arguments over the continued aftermath and threat of recession, rising deficits and spending cuts. In a word, "austerity" governs the tenor of our times. Although the term is traditionally equated with economic policy, austerity is articulated in a multitude of different ways across culture. That is, austerity speaks to creative practices and forms of living that—while sometimes intimately connected to capital— constitute alternative approaches and theories within extreme economies.

This conference is concerned with austerity not only in its traditional economic sense, but also in terms of its other usages: What are the implications of shrinking budgets for art institutions and the humanities in general? How is the threat of debt mobilized in various venues (political, religious, aesthetic)? In what ways is economic uncertainty reflected in popular culture? How are "cuts"—both those from outside and/or those that are self imposed—explored in the visual arts, as well as everyday practices? Do alternative techniques and strategies present substantive challenges to prevailing notions of austerity or do they function as the other side of the same coin? What shape(s) does opposition to stateled austerity measures take, both in the political and aesthetic spheres? Just as austerity is immediately representative of the contemporary moment, the notion of exploring possibilities within the limits of dwindling resources, of "doing something with nothing," has a longstanding history. This conference welcomes papers on present concerns, as well as works that address different historical moments and forms of austerity.

We hope to receive submissions from across the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural and technological sciences which engage issues of vision, visibility, and visuality, including (but not limited to) gender and sexuality studies, critical theory, ethnic and cultural studies, history, anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, literature and language studies, information and technology studies, philosophy, political science, classics, art history, and film and media studies.

Suggested Themes
"End Times"/Dystopia: threats of economic apocalypse; political mobilization of fear; uncertainty as dread; conspiracies; representations of riots and/or protests; a return to nationalism and/or the resurgence in extremism.

Communalism/Communization: cooperative living/production/consumption; political accusations of communism/socialism; Occupy Movements and student protests.

Local Ecologies/Localization: a return to environmental stewardship; urban vs. rural poverty; erotics of urban decay; community development corporations; community supported agriculture (CSA) and localized sourcing.

Accumulation/Waste: hoarding; transnational circuits of garbage; minimal living; unconsumption; cultures of collecting; archive fever(s); storage (digital and/or analog).

Preservation / Decay: Aesthetics and fetishization of ruins; wasteland as tourist site; preservation versus progress; "creative destruction"; data loss/recovery; object ethnography; life cycle(s).

Self-Imposed Limitations: Austerity driven by a shared set of principles (e.g., formalism/minimalism/functionalism); medium specificity and sensory deprivation in art and art criticism; the aesthetics of information; communication versus silence and noise.

Currency: The role of symbolic representation in systems of economic exchange; the cache of timeliness; self-promotion and upward mobility; "buying in" versus "selling out."

Romanticization of Poverty: issues of visibility/ventriloquism; blue-collar chic; the creative class and urban policy; popular imagination of simpler times/nostalgia; representations of the poor.

Cultures of Lux: the Gilded Age; the fetishization of wealth; hoarding; contemporary Horacio Algers myths; reality TV and celebrity culture.

Amateurism/Do-It-Yourself Movement: democratization of skill; urban homesteading; amateur marketplaces; low mediums and creative practices; templated creativity; the lure of the handmade and the artisanal.

Alternative Institutions: navigating shrinking funding; institutional critique; pop-up/temporary spaces; crowd-sourced funding; collaborations between established and emerging spaces.