Call fo Papers: Troubling Histories: Public Art and Prejudice. Johannesburg, 15-18 Nov 17

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.

This conference seeks papers which consider individual case studies from anywhere across the globe, from any disciplinary perspective, and exploring the debates that have arisen about one of the following:

  1.    the removal, retention or mediated display of historical sculptures, memorials and other public commemorations that, from a current perspective, may be associated with oppression.
  2.   new monuments, whether built or still in the design and conceptualisation phase, which engage with histories of oppression and prejudice, and/or commemorate their victims.

Abstracts proposals deadline: 28th February 2017.

The full call for papers and the submission guidelines are available here.

 

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