Recent Opportunities

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CFP: Troubling Histories: Public Art and Prejudice

Troubling Histories: Public Art and Prejudice 15 - 18 November 2017 This is a call for papers, a selection of which will be identified for further development into 5000-word articles for a themed issue of De Arte, a Taylor & Francis journal published with the University of South Africa. The conference will take place at the offices of the Research Chair of South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg between the evening of 15 November and lunchtime on the 18 November 2017. The keynote address will be by well-known scholar of public art, Prof Erika Doss from the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, whose publications include Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), The Emotional Life of Contemporary Public Memorials: Towards a Theory of Temporary Memorials (2008), and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010). THE THEME In March 2015, a small-scale protest against Marion Walgate’s sculpture of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town developed into the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement and culminated in the work’s removal from campus a month later. The protest had widespread impact. Raising questions about not only Rhodes’ representation in the public domain but also those of other individuals associated with values and ideologies that have fallen from favour who are commemorated in South Africa, it had the additional impact of reigniting a long-standing international concern: whether focused on sculptures of Lost Cause heroes in the United States, European monuments commemorating individuals revealed to have been Nazi sympathisers or Australian monuments memorialising events associated with the suppression of aboriginal peoples, for example, art historians and other citizens concerned about visual discourse in the public domain have long-since debated what steps, if any, should be taken to negotiate ‘problematical’ public art inheritances. The contention around the representation of Cecil Rhodes also highlighted longstanding concerns about how art in the public domain has tended to recognise some histories and experiences while marginalising others. Unsurprisingly, endeavours to negotiate prejudicial art from the past has been simultaneous with endeavours to create new monuments and memorials which recognise the victims of oppression and atrocities. Some of these new public works have been successful, and the reasons for their success are worth exploring. Others, however, have proved controversial. Raising debate about not only about who or what is commemorated but also sometimes the designs deployed for such commemorations, some have additionally involved contention about the locales in which these works are placed, consultations that may or may not have taken place in the process of developing them, as well as a host of other issues. .
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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
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