CFP: Architecture, Disciplinarity and the Arts (Australia) (5/15/07; 8/17/07-8/18/07)

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Andrew Leach
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Architecture, Disciplinarity and the Arts
University of Queensland, Australia, 17-18 August 2007
Colloquia of the Architectural Theory, Criticism and History Research Group
It was common practice among Eighteenth Century writers on the arts to
compile a system under which the various arts were ranked. From ancient
times to the Renaissance the status of all kinds of knowledge had been
systematised, but in the Eighteenth Century a new realm of the fine arts
became the principal subject to this ordering, and the modern category of
ŒArt¹ its ultimate foundation. The criteria for ranking the arts ranged from
ancient ideas of the menial nature of manual work, to new aesthetic concepts
that distinguished sense from utility. Philosophers used the new concepts to
judge the aesthetic potential of the various arts, while the rising
academies of the different arts used a mixture of aesthetic and traditional
criteria to rank genres and degrees of nobility among their practitioners.
In this process the materials and techniques of trades such as building and
painting, themselves become aestheticised and a modern concept of artistic
media arises.
In the early nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Arts and Crafts
movement and the constructivist avant-garde attacked both the division of
the arts and the distinction of art from other cultural activities. The
effect of these critiques was contradictory: the weakening of the
disciplines leading to a practices of making based on aesthetic precepts,
while elsewhere the critique of art-as-such led to a re-assertion of the
disciplines and their autochthonous problematics. In the most constructivist
art and architecture, this contradiction was pronounced. Architecture
limited its claims to be an art to the armature of thought and of practice.
While proposing that architectural productions were buildings and hence not
artworks, all building could then instance the art of architecture. Modern
architecture¹s strong claims to disciplinary autonomy and artistic status
were thus on the basis of a kind of meta-utility, an accountability for the
design of life in its totality which equalled the uselessness of the
autonomous arts.
It is interesting, then, for architects to observe the current debate over
intermediality in the visual arts and new constellations emerging there of
medium, discipline and object condition. Over the twentieth century, the
relationship between arts and their media has changed considerably, to the
point where intellectual content of an art need not look to its traditional
media for historical continuities. The various productive antagonisms
between the visual arts and architecture in constructivism, minimalism, land
art, installation art, seem ready to go through another twist. It seems
almost as if the visual arts have reached the point that architecture
arrived at in the early twentieth century, and now an auteurist concept of
the architect genius has grabbed the public imagination so that we speak
with few cautions of buildings as Œart-works¹. How much are these matters
necessarily linked? To what extent is there an implicit Œsystem¹ of the
arts, a Œdifferential specificity¹ of which Rosalind Krauss writes with
regard to media in the visual arts? And how much should we understand the
dynamics of such a system historically?
What is architecture, now, among the Œsystem of the arts¹?
We wish to invite contributions that explicitly reflect on this problem,
treating case studies or themes that advance a discussion of these
questions. We welcome abstracts of 300 words by 15 May 2007. Notification to
participants will be made by 30 May. ATCH cannot offer speakers support to
attend the event, but the registration fees of speakers will be waived. A
selection of papers will be made for a book publishing the presentations and
discussion of the event.
John Macarthur and Andrew Leach
ATCH Research Group
School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
University of Queensland, Australia
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Received on Fri Apr 13 2007 - 17:31:06 EDT