Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Speak, body: Art, the Reproduction of Capital and the Reproduction of Life

A two-day conference to be held at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds.

Keynote speakers: Martha Rosler, Marina Vishmidt

Speak, body: Art, the Reproduction of Capital and the Reproduction of Life will address the juncture of the ‘body’ in art in relation to feminism(s) and capitalism, through the period 1960–1980. The ‘body’ is taken to be a historically contingent concept, up for contestation. Today we are witnessing a massive conservative retrenchment in the political and legal spheres concerning images of the body, from anti-woman bans on images of female ejaculation in pornography to the far-right deployment of racist iconography in the mass media coverage of Brexit and the Trump campaign. We want to challenge the hyper-mediated landscape that has propelled the global right, by considering how a previous generation of artists, who focused on the body in their works, responded to dominant social conditions. Speak, body sets out to investigate artworks that emerged coincident with the crisis of capitalism in the 1960s and 1970s in order to consider what they can tell us about contemporary transformations in art and politics.

Through an intense and sustained period of engagement, the body was explored by artists such as VALIE EXPORT, Mona Hatoum, Ana Mendieta, Gina Pane, Adrian Piper, Yvonne Rainer, Ulrike Rosenbach, Martha Rosler, Carolee Schneeman, Jo Spence and Hannah Wilke among others.

We are especially interested in artworks that counter the museal tendency to appropriate feminist art practices within conventional art-historical categories of movements, iconographies or styles; that is, we want to solicit papers that track the social implications of feminist investigation and critique conducted through a range of media (performance, photography, video, film, etc.). Speak, body aims to reconnect artistic practices with feminism as a historic social movement, and to query its consolidation into an academic ‘-ism’.

The idea of the body, connotes a number of tensions: between inside and outside; consumption and excretion; energy and depletion; life and death. At the same time, the body is produced historically through practices and discourses, and has figured as a key site for analysis in, for example, Karl Marx’s description of ‘labour-power’, Sigmund Freud’s account of sexual difference and bodily prosthesis, Michel Foucault’s theory of the ‘medical gaze’, Silvia Federici’s corrective historical analysis of the female ‘rebel’ body, and Juliet Mitchell’s foundational work on the woman as ‘sexual object’. By reading those artistic practices that have engaged a feminist politics – on psychic and social levels, through direct or indirect means – we hope to pursue a materialist analysis of art’s enduring imbrication in capitalist social relations, as well as its relative autonomy from these relations.

The full conference programme can be downloaded here.

Speaker biographies and abstracts can be downloaded here.

Please register by 16 April if you wish to attend. Booking details can be found here.

This conference is organised by Rose-Anne Gush, Tom Hastings, Sophie Jones and Gill Park.

See the conference blog for more information.

 

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