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7th Annual ASGO Symposium: Letting it Burn: Art Worlds Ablaze

September 17, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - September 18, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

K. C. Green, This is Fine Meme

The Symposium is being held virtually
Register at the following link:
Meeting links will be sent to all registrants on 9/16

As images of the Notre Dame spire devoured by flames on April 15, 2019 beamed across the world, millions of people collectively mourned what some said marked the literal death of western civilization. As one of the most well-recognized icons of European culture, the Lady of Paris found herself at the center of op-eds, podcasts, and social media posts about the destruction of cultural heritage and erosion of national identity at the hands of immigration and multiculturalism. Art historians and medievalists were quick to try to dispute these claims, but the rhetoric of white supremacy persisted. Within ten days, almost a billion dollars had been pledged from corporate and individual donors alike who wanted to see the cathedral restored. Meanwhile, the September 2, 2018 fire that consumed the National Museum of Brazil and destroyed over 90% of its holdings—20 million objects—received a fraction of the media attention, public outcry, or financial resources to rebuild. The disparity in these responses reveals much about whose histories and heritage are deemed valuable, important, and worth preserving, and whose are not.

For the seventh annual ASGO symposium, “Letting it Burn: Art Worlds Ablaze,” we’ve invited participants to think about fires literally and figuratively: from the devastating loss of cultural heritage at the hands of flames, to recent calls from classicists and anthropologists to let their disciplines burn. Our own discipline is finally engaging with long-overdue conversations surrounding the nationalist, sexist, and racist origins of art history, the way art historical knowledge is (mis)appropriated by white supremacists and leveraged in culture wars, and the institutional racism embedded within museum and academic culture. While many art institutions have taken steps toward greater inclusion of artists of color and work about social inequity in their exhibitions and collections, as Seph Rodney reminds us, museums and other art institutions prefer symbolic action over structural change. In light of these calls for action, we pose the following questions: Is it time to let art history and its institutions burn? Is anything worth salvaging from the flames? And what (if anything) should emerge from the ashes?


Friday, 9/17

3:00-3:20 PM – Welcome and Introductions

3:20-4:40 PM – Panel 1: Digital Practice and Resistance

  • Rachel Allen (University of Delaware), “#CrispyChurchMemes and Sacred Sites: Colonial Resistance Through Indigenous Meme Making”
  • Danqi Cai (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), “Prints, Time-Based Media, and the Human Predicament”
  • Teresa Fleming (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), “The Museum at the End of the World”

4:50-6:30 PM – Panel 2: Racial Tropes and Representation

  • Erika Ashley Couto (University of Toronto), “The Devil You Don’t Know: Devil, Demons, and Colonial Expansion in the Unknown Portuguese Master’s Hell (c.1510-1520)”
  • Aja Martin (Rice University), “Sculptural Beginnings: The ‘Primitivizing’ Form in Lucio Fontana’s Oeuvre”
  • Leigh Peterson (New York University), “Narratives of Native American Life and the Art of T.C. Cannon”
  • Anneliese Hardman (Florida State University), “Depicting Two ‘Buddhas’: Artistic Intersectionality between the Crowned Buddha and Hans Schilling’s Manuscript of Barlaam and Josaphat”

Saturday, 9/18

10:30-11:50 AM – Panel 3: Urban Space and Infrastructure

  • Emily Merrill (Bowling Green State University), “Framing the Urban Crisis: The Legacy of How the Other Half Lives and the American Disaster Imaginary”
  • Leon Hsien-Liang Hsu (University of Toronto), “Queer Spatial Intervention as Destruction: Guanyu Xu’s Temporarily Censored Home”
  • Adrian Deveau (Concordia University), “Fires of Tyrannical Value, Bodies of Dereification: The Crimes of Petr Pavlensky”

12:00-1:20 PM – Panel 4: Black Futures and Speculative Fiction

  • Corbin Covington (Northwestern University), “Black Utopias, Speculative Fiction, and Aesthetic Liberation: Where Blackness Goes to Die”
  • Marietta Kosma (University of Oxford), “Virtual Representations of Otherness in Octavia Butler’s Kindred
  • Troy Hassinger (University of North Carolina at Wilmington), “Burning Boundaries in Contemporary Speculative Fiction: Reclaiming Language and Decolonizing Art in Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts

1:20-2:10 PM – Lunch Break

2:10-3:50 PM – Panel 5: Politics of Display

  • Alexandra Nickolaou (Indiana University Bloomington), “Contemporary Africa in Museums: Canonical Problems of Display and the Detroit Institute of Arts”
  • Isabella Spann (Dartmouth College), “That Belongs in a (Counter)Museum: Finding a Place for Monuments of a Difficult Past”
  • Ruqaiyah Zarook (New York University), “The Aesthetic Commodification of Prisoners”
  • Noah Lagle (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), “Burning Boundaries: Exploring Definition and Decay in the Abstracted Archive”

4:00-5:40 PM – Roundtable

  • Allan deSouza (University of California, Berkeley) and La Tanya Autry (Black Liberation Center) in conversation

5:40-6:00 PM – Closing Remarks

Image credit: K. C. Green


September 17, 2021 @ 3:00 pm
September 18, 2021 @ 6:00 pm
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