CFP Oct 1, 2005

AAH Panel - Seeking the Contemporary Art Historian

Susan Richmond

AAH Panel 2006
Session Title: Seeking the Contemporary Art Historian

CFP deadline: 11 November 2005

Art History departments and museums have become increasingly motivated to
hire scholars whose work and teaching focus on contemporary art practices.
Contemporary art museums and exhibition centers have multiplied around the
world, changing the mechanisms of art production and dissemination. Unique
challenges come with this apparent multiplication of possibilities.
While the "new art history" was developed out of reflections and debates
shared with the contemporary art of the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary art
scholars are still often suspiciously looked upon in academia. Now packaged
as a repertory of dominant methodologies, the "new art history" has shed
its intimacy with contemporary art. Likewise, the contemporary art
historian turned curator is often looked upon as too "academic."

There seems to be little reflexivity within our institutions over the scope
of contemporary art history. How, for example, does one define the
contemporary in the conditions of contemporaneity, especially given the
growing need for a global and trans-national perspective within the
discipline? Likewise, how does the contemporary art historian deal with the
mass of visual and research material unique to the age of information, the
simultaneous multiplication of research methodologies invoked through the
mantra of interdisciplinarity, and the redefinition of the tool of art
historical research, the traditional archive? What are, if any, the
problems created by a lack of historical distance and frameworks? What does
working in the present uniquely enable? How do the methods and strategies
of contemporary art historians pressure traditional art histories? These
questions transcend the age-old bastions of art history versus art

This panel seeks papers that address the methodological, pedagogical and
curatorial challenges unique to contemporary art historians. We are
interested in papers that address this topic from art-historical,
art-critical and curatorial perspectives. We are not striving for
consensus. We want to explore this issue from a range of perspectives and
experiences. Additional questions to consider may include: How have the
fragmentation of the field and the proliferation of sub-categories-cultural
and visual studies, museum studies, curatorial studies, curating and
commissioning, new media studies, and critical writing studies-impacted our
understanding of how contemporary art history is practiced? How do we
reconcile the term "contemporary" with art practices that are now securely
historical? How do we meet the unique and overwhelming demands of the field
of contemporary art history: producing historically rigorous scholarship
while staying abreast of current art and visual culture? How do we combine
the historical and critical dimensions of this demand? Is contemporary art
history suspect because it holds up a mirror to the discipline of art
history, revealing its inextricability from judgments of value? Why is the
contemporary art historian generally the person expected to "do theory" in
the art history department-and what generally counts as "theory"? What are
other methodological and pedagogical issues unique to the contemporary art
historian? Why are so many of us symptomatically wearing so many hats? Why
is it that our bio lines are often accretive-writer, editor, art historian,
curator and activist? What can we all learn from contemporary art

Paper proposals due 11 November 2005. Please send to:

Sylvie Fortin,; ART PAPERS, Box 5748, Atlanta, GA


Susan Richmond,; Georgia State University, School of Art
& Design, P.O. Box 4107, Atlanta, GA 30302-4107

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