Representing the Everyday in American Visual Culture
University of Nottingham (UK)
12 & 13 September 2008
A Two-Day Conference hosted by NIRVC (Nottingham Institute for Research In Visual Culture) and funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art
To claim that a work of art represents the everyday is to make a powerful assertion about what constitutes normative experience. The structures and rituals of everyday life are thus common points of reference in attempts to construct and define coherent national narratives. Calling such constructions into question, various artistic and cultural practices have privileged accounts and images of everyday life that seek, simultaneously, to amplify what is invested in securing representations of everydayness and to puncture and resist discourses of power. Pointing to the way that particular aesthetic and formal approaches produce different versions of the everyday, critical theorists -- Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, and Michel de Certeau, for instance -- have made the question of ethics central to that of representation: whose everyday is being represented and how are such representations circulated and consumed? Across diverse moments and media, the antebellum genre painters William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham and Lily Martin Spencer; the magazine illustrators Alice Barber Stephens and Norman Rockwell; and the "American Scene" painters John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton produced images of the American everyday that were by turns ambiguous, sentimental, celebratory and nationalistic. Ashcan School paintings of urban poverty, the African-American domestic sphere delineated by Harlem Renaissance artists and documentary photographs of the dustbowl challenged and expanded this discourse.
While many of these works pursue a smooth assimilation of the everyday, the act of representation also distances us from the everyday, marking it off and making it strange. Artists like Robert Frank, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Dan Graham have exploited this process of estrangement, producing ambivalent or critical images of everyday American life. Others, including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, have sought to minimise or negate this division, in sculpture and collage that incorporate everyday materials or performances that enact everyday practices. Bringing the mundane into visibility through its material representation reveals, paradoxically, the extraordinariness of what is often considered, dismissed, or celebrated as everyday.
Michelle Bogart (Stony Brook University), Jeff Brouws (photographer, New York), Anna Dezeuze (University of Manchester), Michael Leja (University of Pennsylvania), Alexander Nemerov (Yale University), John Roberts (University of Wolverhampton)
The conference will take place in Florence Boot Hall Registration will be at on Friday 12 September.
The Conference fee £20.00 includes lunch, tea/coffee for both days
Bed & breakfast at Florence Boot Hall is £28.00 per night standard room with shared bathroom facilities or £42.60 per night with ensuite facilities
Conference Dinner (optional) £20.00
Further details and booking forms can be found at:
Department of Art History
Lakeside Arts Centre
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RD
tel: +44(0)115 846 7779
fax: +44(0)115 846 7778
Hours of work: Mon-Thurs 08.30-13.30
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