Appel à communication : Avant-Garde Cultural Production in NYC (London, 11-14 Jul 22)

Avant-Garde Cultural Production in NYC (London, 11-14 Jul 22)
Centre for American Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Jul 11–14, 2022
Deadline: Sep 12, 2021

Approaching Downtown: Avant-Garde Cultural Production in New York City, 1970s-1990s –  An Interdisciplinary Workshop

The avant-garde art, film, music, television and writing produced by figures living in and associated with lower Manhattan in the period between New York City’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s and Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral election in 2001 have seen an explosion of popular, academic and curatorial interest in the past 10-15 years. Retrospective and thematic exhibitions on different Downtown scenes  and  key  figures,  collectives  and  spaces  indicate a  keen  global interest  in  this  period  of  cultural  production.  These  include  ‘East  Village  USA’  (New  Museum,  New  York,  2005);  ‘The  Downtown Show’ (Grey Art Gallery, New York, 2006); ‘Mixed Use Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices, 1970s to Present’ (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2010); and ‘Laurie  Anderson,  Trisha  Brown,  Gordon  Matta-Clark:  Pioneers  of  the  Downtown  Scene,  New York 1970s’ (Barbican, London, 2011), as well as exhibitions and documentaries exploring individuals such as Kathy Acker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lorraine O’Grady, Keith Haring, Tseng Kwong Chi, Zoe Leonard, David Wojnarowicz, and Martin Wong, spaces like Club 57, the West Side  piers,  and Pat  Hearn  Gallery,  and  cultural  exchange  between  Manhattan  and  Brooklyn,  Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.

Recent publications, particularly from the US academy, have extended scholarly enquiry into this field, including work by Joshua Chambers-Letson, Douglas Crimp, Joan Hawkins, Daniel Kane, Tim Lawrence, Peter L’Official, Ricardo Montez, Adair Roundthwaite, Jordana Moore Saggese, Sarah Schulman, Andrew Strombeck, Brian Tocterman, and Jonathan Weinberg. Attentive to the multifaceted  and  deeply  interdisciplinary  nature  of  Downtown cultural  production, we  envisage that ‘Approaching Downtown: Avant-Garde Cultural Production in New York City, 1970s-1990s’ will create  opportunities  to  further  examine  this  period  as  an  opportunity  for  global cross-disciplinary  exploration and  exchange,  taking  its  messiness  and its  interdisciplinarity  as  an  opportunity for productive thinking across different scholarly boundaries and national contexts. Underpinning our investigation is a desire to bring together differing methodological approaches to  the study of Downtown New York – its artists, archives, institutions, and histories.

Bringing together scholars from fields including art history, film and media studies, literary studies, performance studies, queer studies, and visual culture, this four-day workshop will engage with an expansive view of downtown avant-garde cultural production in New York City. Contributors are invited to offer a session (c. 45 minutes in length) that explores an aspect of avant-garde cultural production in this period and  that connects with broader themes or issues impacting new approaches to Downtown New York’s histories. This may take the form of a traditional paper, but we encourage attendees to think beyond this format and towards other generative modes such as interviews/in-conversation-style talks (live or recorded), archival explorations, screenings, and collaborative  workshop  activities. The  main  roster of  speaker-orientated sessions  will be supplemented by site visits to galleries, museums, archives, and  artist’s  studios  in  London,  and performances, film, video and TV screenings on the Courtauld campus.  We hope to gather workshop contributions into an edited anthology. Areas for consideration include, but are not limited to:

•Activism•HIV and AIDS
•‘Broken windows’ theory and policing
•Collaboration, e.g. between artists/cultural producers, between boroughs
•East Village scene/s
•Experimental writing (literature, criticism)
•Film and television as subject and practice
•Institutions and their histories
•Nightlife and club cultures
•Popular and experimental music
•Race, racism, ethnicity
•Retrospective views (exhibitions, popular and academic histories) •Spatial politics
•Urban and economic change (histories, policies, politics)

Spaces on the workshop are very limited. We  will cover the cost of travel and accommodation for those leading sessions. Lunch for each day of the workshop and a group dinner following one of the evening  performances  will also be included. We are also happy to accommodate virtual contributions. We have funds available to ensure that the event is fully accessible – please get in touch if you have any questions about accessibility, including childcare, or specific needs that you would like to discuss.  We invite proposals for sessions from doctoral, post-doctoral, early career, mid-career, and senior scholars, whether formally affiliated with an institution or not. Please send a short proposal (c.300 words) to the workshop organisers Fiona Anderson ( and Tom Day ( by September 12, 2021. If possible, please indicate where you will be travelling to London from. Please reach out to the organisers if you have any queries or wish to discuss a potential contribution.


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