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A conference on the counter culture and contemporary art practices November 6-8, 2013, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier, Fr
full name / name of organization:
claude chastagner université montpellier 3, France
A conference on the counter culture and contemporary art practices
November 6-8, 2013, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier, France.
Proposals (Times 12, 3500 signs, including spaces, in French or in English) must be either uploaded on the conference site at http://art-contre-cult.sciencesconf.org or sent to firstname.lastname@example.org under the following subject “colloque pratiques plastiques contemporaines et contre-culture 2013” before May 31, 2013. They shall feature a title, the author’s first and last name, status, affiliation, snail and electronic addresses and telephone number, highlight the methodology adopted, and include a thesis statement, 5 key words and a maximum of five bibliographical references.
Organized by the IRIEC research center, the conference partakes of the research undertaken by ECART (Études culturelles des Arts et technologies) on the connection between dominant culture and contemporary artistic creation, more specifically between what is called contemporary art and mass culture (comics, video games). The conference will examine the links that tie contemporary creation to the counter culture, bearing in mind that the concept, inherited from the 60s, may have lost its validity when used both as the testimony of a protest movement, and the symptom of adaptability to the dominant cultural ideology.
On the basis of Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s definition of the counter culture as “a set of symbolic actions that challenge and criticize official or dominant culture, often by suggesting alternative practices”, one must be able to identify today’s dominant culture before being able to focus on the counter culture. A central issue is that the concept of a dominant culture remains paradoxically tied to the idea of an outdated culture, bound to a rigid, coercive society, dominated by totalitarianism, and authoritarian and punitive Taylorist constraints whereas for more than fifty years, a postmodern culture has made its way and imposed a historical process based on ruptures, transgressions, and the challenging of artistic and social codes. If in the early ’60s, the counter culture could be understood as a refusal, a stance against the dominant political order, a transgression of moral and cultural limits, a potent criticism based on individual freedom, by the end of the century and the beginning of the following one, such notions have come to be appraised positively. The figure of the dissenting rebel, whose fluid practices, mobile state of mind, and constant demands for more freedom characterized the original counter culture, has become the current mentality. Isn’t today’s dominating feature what used to be subversive in the ’60s? Isn’t the present distinguished by the abolition of hierarchies, by interchangeability, indifference, and the exaltation of the individual, all that used to give the Sixties their distinctive flavor?
As we can see, the counter culture as a concept cannot be taken for granted when it is used both as the testimony of a protest movement, and the symptom of adaptability to the dominant cultural ideology. It consequently becomes problematic to keep on dubbing “counter cultural” (i.e., challenging dominant social values) attitudes and practices that belong to by-gone days, if we agree on the emancipating function of art. Furthermore, the issue has become all the more pressing for artists as these values have been co-opted and adopted as its motto by the neo-liberals responsible for the current and future human and environmental disasters. The equation between postmodernist and neo-liberal values cannot but worry those who still found the legitimacy of their subversion on counter cultural principles.
Consequently, if we follow Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the following questions have to be addressed: what is a counter culture today? For whom does it matter to be creatively free? Shouldn’t we connect the issue of socio-constructive values to the definition of the counter culture given by artists to their practice? How can the implicitly subversive dimension of the counter culture be maintained? What alternative artistic practices still bear witness of such awareness?
Four directions can be explored: