CFP: CAA 2018/Los Angeles panel–The Photograph, Self-Representation & US Contemporary Art

Alternative Visions: The Photograph, Self-Representation, and Fact in Contemporary Art of the United States 

Chair(s): Natalie Zelt, The University of Texas at Austin,
As the editors of “Aperture” recently reminded their readers, “The need for artists to offer persuasive, alternative visions is more urgent than ever.”
In response to that need for creative dissent, this panel investigates the ways contemporary artists use the photograph and self-representation together to craft alternative visions and selves. The photograph’s tangled relationship to truth and identity make it a potent conceptual and compositional tool for artists to challenge the limits of both art historical and social categories. Designed to delineate and define, the photograph continues to circumscribe the visual limits of identity categories, including nationality, race, class, gender, and sexuality, well after art historians and cultural critics such as Allan Sekula, Martha Rosler, Sally Stein, and John Tagg called its documentary “truthiness” into question. Additionally, a swell of “post-photography” discourses, ranging from Geoffrey Batchen to Robert Shore, confound the boundaries of the medium, while curators and museums struggle to adapt.
“Alternative Visions” examines the many ways contemporary artists in the United States disrupt the photograph’s master narratives and traditional roles to create subversive, subjective, and contradictory representations of themselves that resist prevailing visual modes.
Presentations will consider an array of questions including: What is the relationship between the photograph and the self in a “post-identity,” “postfact,” and “post-photography” environment? What methods of dissent are evidenced in self-centered photographic practice and what might be their limits? In a contemporary cultural landscape untethered from conventional arbiters of fact, what spaces of resistance can artworks that deploy the photograph create?
For more on the College Art Association conference, go to CAA News Today.

Marvel executive says emphasis on diversity may have alienated readers

How many things can be blamed on diversity?

Sian Cain’s article in today’s Guardian makes it clear that Marvel VP of Sales David Gabriel’s reasoning isn’t reasoned. Recently, Gabriel told a gathering that some comic store owners say their customers “have had enough” of new female and ethnic minority characters.

What customers?

Is there a limit to diversity?

Gabriel is not alone in the effort to make diversity appear unprofitable and to present good diversity practices as charitable acts. . .and bad business. Such false beliefs are widespread. Yet, they are counter to research that proves otherwise.

As always, the comments from Guardian readers are worth perusing.  There’re more than 1,000 of them to date. These letters provide great fodder for thinking about the power of representation and the shifts in visual culture.


Q&A with Lubaina Himid–“Black British Art,” Then and Now


Lubaina Himid, The Rapid Effects of Abolition, from the Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service series (2007), an assortment of overpainted plates, bowls and terrines at A-N.

Lubaina Himid is enjoying two one-artist exhibitions in the UK this year. Check out her interview with A-N and her piece in Frieze on her influences. About time!


Lubaina Himid’s grandmother, MaShulan, photographed in Zanzibar in 1954, and reproduced as a poster for the exhibition ‘New Robes for MaShulan – Lubaina Himid, Work Past and Present’, Rochdale Art Gallery, 1987. Courtest: the artist at Frieze



The Sounds of Ethncity, Race and Region

how-to-speak-midwesternIn today’s New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler reviewed a new book, How to Speak Midwestern. Interestingly, the headline in the print edition is:  “Midwesterner, Yes, You Do Have an Accent”. This phrasing is a gentle nudge to rethink what might be perceived as a norm, which, of course, is actually as inflected as anything else. Apparently, this truth is one of author Edward McClelland’s motivations for writing this book.

In the review, Schuessler comes out from behind the curtain of reviewer neutrality. She pronounces, self-deprecatingly: “Full disclosure: Like Mrs. Clinton, I’m a white woman who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. When it comes to pinched nasal vowels and strongly pronounced r’s (a phenomenon linguists call rhoticity), I’m With Her.”

Schuessler also notes: “The heavily industrialized (and segregated) Inland North–as dialectologists call the region stretching from roughly from central New York across the Great Lakes–‘has a wider divergence between white and black speech than anywhere in the country,’ Mr. McClleland writes, with African-Americans largely maintaining speech patterns brought from the South. (Mr. McClelland notes the existence of various Midwestern ‘blacaccents,’ though he doesn’t explore them.)”

Such “blaccents” are not the only subjects deserving of further study by critical race scholars. So is the consideration of the visual. Tellingly, the designers for McClelland’s book eschew figures for its cover, as if to acknowledge the demographic diversity of the region’s populace. Smart move.

Consider the ideology of an earlier publication (1960) with almost the same title:


This book is a “humor” offering. See Google Books for a brief excerpt:

“To speak good Midwestern you need to: Get gear’d up by studyin’ this book. Before you know it you’ll be speaking Midwestern Pertnear as good as Everybody.”

Thomas’s cover design is serious in its invocation, i.e., the Midwest is American Gothic (1930). It is a move to use the authority of the original painting, without any awareness of its intended satire.



In This Political Season, A Film Portrait of East Coast, White Working Class Racial Identity


Critic A.O. Scott take a while to get around to it in yesterday’s New York Times, but towards the end of his review he writes: “The movie takes up, indirectly and perhaps inadvertently but powerfully and unmistakably, a subject that has lately reinserted itself into American political discourse. It’s a movie, that is, about the sorrows of white men.” Of the film’s main character, Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck),  a Boston apartment building janitor who was born in a Bay State seaside town, Scott surmises: “Cast out of this working man’s paradise, Lee is also exiled from the prerogatives of whiteness.  . . .to deny that Manchester By the Sea has a racial dimension is to underestimate its honesty and overlook its difficult relevance.”

Sounds like critical race visual cultural studies is in yet another the critical conversation.

A.O. Scott, “Currents of Grief Beneath Everyday Life–Film Review,” New York Times, November 19, 2016, Weekend Arts Section I, 1, 12.



On Race-casting

richard-lund-hollywood-sign-at-nightImage from Filmathon–For the Love of Films

The ethno-racial look always informs the casting decision, from Bourne and Bond to Eliza Doolittle, Evita, M. Butterfly, Nina…and so on.

Yesterday, in the Guardian, film writer Ben Child wrote a blunt critique of “yellow-casting.” Child makes many good points. But a word (i.e., warning) to the reader: this op-ed is not for the faint of heart. Child’s piece is, as they say on sports radio, “real talk.”

And, if you wanna get really riled up, see Britt Julious’s op-ed from last year.

Call for Paper Abstracts: August Wilson Society Conference (June 30, 2016 deadline)

August Wilson Society Paper Abstracts information


Call for Abstracts

CONF: Black Portraiture Revisited II – Feb. 19-20, 2016 @NYU

See Black Portraiture Conference @NYU Feb. 2016

ACRAH’s photostream

Check out this photograph of a uhaul van featuring the underground railroad as part of a new advertising campaign. Discuss.

JOB: Tenure-track position in Photo History @ CA College of the Arts

Full-time tenure-track Assistant Professor in the field of photographic history, theory, and criticism. The successful applicant will hold a Ph.D. in art history or visual culture, with a specialty, publication record, and research program in any area of the history of photography. We seek a candidate with experience teaching global, historical surveys of the medium, as well as seminars on contemporary photography. Demonstrated interest in issues of race, gender, ethnicity, or other categories of difference will be privileged in the selection process.

Course load is 5 courses per academic year (typically 2/3); active participation in program assessment/development and committee service is required. Instructors in the Visual Studies program participate in the teaching of the program’s required and elective courses, including introductory historical surveys, 200-level electives, and 300-level seminars. Successful candidates will also have the interest in teaching at the graduate level.

For more information:

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