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Call for Papers: 2021 ASGO Symposium

May 13, 2021 @ 8:00 am - July 15, 2021 @ 12:00 am

K. C. Green, This is Fine Meme

Call for papers: “Letting it Burn: Art Worlds Ablaze”
The 7th Annual Symposium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Art Student Graduate Organization, hosted virtually, September 17-18, 2021

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 invite 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. Ryan Cecil Jobson paints an eerie portrait of the 2018 American Anthropological Association conference in San Jose, where the smoke from the California wildfires “collapsed an artificial distance between the oppressive conditions that preoccupy anthropologists and the seemingly climate-controlled venues where anthropology convenes as an elite professional fraternity.” Meanwhile, Johanna Hanink, prompted by a New York Times Magazine profile of Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s call for decentering his discipline’s whiteness, writes that she stands with scholars of color “who would rather see the current incarnation of classics burn than fossilize, and who are eager for a fire that will make way for healthy new growth.”

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?

We invite emerging artists, curators, and scholars currently enrolled in graduate programs to submit proposals for 15- to 20-minute presentations on topics including, but not limited to:

  • Destruction as a creative act
  • Flammability as a characteristic of works of art/the process of art-making
  • Art about fire, wildfires, climate change, and environmental disasters
  • The loss of cultural artifacts to fire and other natural phenomena
  • Institutional critiques of normative ways of seeing and displaying in museum spaces
  • Expanding the accessibility of scholarship and academic/museological institutions
  • Historical explorations of the discipline of art history in relation to colonial, racialized, and gendered identity formations
  • Art historical and artistic encounters within cross-cultural contact zones
  • Visual representations of “Otherness”
  • Discourses around the “origins” of culture and civilization
  • The (mis)appropriation of artworks and art historical knowledge, including by contemporary white supremacist groups
  • #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, “Museums Are Not Neutral”
  • The potential use of art historical methodologies in challenging inequity
  • Pedagogical techniques for decentering whiteness in art historical classrooms
  • Burnout as a result of precarious academic, museum, and freelance employment
  • Critiques of art historical terms like “master”
  • Art historians as political actors versus the discipline’s preference for theory

Presentations will be grouped into panels and followed by a brief question-and-answer session with the audience.

Given our contemporary, virtual moment, and in the spirit of the self-reflective theme of our symposium, we recognize that the traditional academic conference may not be the most effective or appropriate model for the transmission of knowledge. As such, in addition to academic papers, we invite proposals for artist talks, screenings, demonstrations, interventions, or other alternative formats that are most conducive to your project. Please submit a 250-word proposal and 100-word biography or 1-page CV to by July 15. Accepted participants will be notified via email by July 25.

Image credit: K. C. Green


May 13, 2021 @ 8:00 am
July 15, 2021 @ 12:00 am
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