Amateurism Across the Arts Conference

Amateurism Across the Arts Conference

Laura Belik on the Amateurism Across the Arts Conference on March 9, 2018

DSC_0189“We are all experts in amateurism”, stated ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson during her introductory remarks for the “Amateurism Across the Arts” Conference. The events were hosted at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and that was a special addition to the day’s atmosphere, because the museum’s current exhibition “Face to Face: Looking at Objects That Look at You” was itself within the context of the conference, co-curated by the Hearst staff and 14 UC Berkeley first-year students.

Discussion panels were combined with performances by students, including a music performance by Judith Peña & the Wolf Girls, hip-hop dance with Identity X, and a DIY Couture Fashion Show, hosted by Derrick Duren. The morning started with a panel moderated by Greg Castillo (UC Berkeley) discussing the high and the low in architecture and urban contexts. Talinn Grigor (UC Davis) brought examples of Iranian modernism and the built space within its connections to the countries’ political paths, as well as people’s everyday reactions to its monuments and architecture. In conversation, Fernando Luiz Lara (UT Austin) presented the Brazilian vernacular architecture as an example of the popular reactions and interpretations of the modernist style in vogue.

DSC_0203The following panel lead by Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley) introduced us to considerations about amateurism as a form of gaining agency within the realm of cultural productions. Abigail De Kosnik (UC Berkeley) discussed media and the role of Piracy as a response and possible solution to the future of culture, because of its part distributing content for free as well as building networks of resistance. Cecilia Palmeiro (NYUBA/ UNTREF) introduced the Brazilian Poesia Marginal and the role of independent productions in literature throughout Latina America as strong examples of counter-culture that open the space for inclusion, such as what she presents as the “Lenguas de Las Locas”, queer literature dealing with empowerment.

The closing panel mediated by Stephanie Syjuco (UC Berkeley) brought in the perspective of amateurism within music and fashion design. Benjamin Piekut (Cornell University) showed examples of performances that used music in an unconventional way creating inspiring pieces and challenging classic (virtuoso) formations. Piekut emphasized such spaces as sites for invention and their importance as a medium in which new forms of sound and art can emerge. Marci Kwon (Stanford University) reiterated the need for attention for the role of amateurism and the “self-thought” when it comes to performance and garment/costume making, and its connections to fork art and surrealism.

Laura Belik (PhD Student, Architecture) reviewed the Arts Research Center Event:Amateurism Across the Arts Conference on March 9, 2018. To learn more about the talk, see below:

Amateurism Across the Arts is an exploration of vernacularpopularfannishkitschinformalself-taughtuser-generated, and DIY production in music, architecture, literature, the visual arts, dance,  and new media– especially in relation to raced, classed, and gendered notions of value.  How do the implicitly skilled “arts” rupture and reorganize themselves around hierarchies of taste?  And how can critical race and feminist/queer scholarship account for “hobbyist” — that is, extra-institutional, self-organized, or improvised — modes of cultural production and circulation?  If amateurism has been traditionally disavowed in modernist and avant-garde historiographies, it is at the same time persistently—even obsessively—invoked, and is hence inextricably woven into those discourses.
The symposium asks how the “high” and the “low” are porous constructions by looking at the ways that these charged terms have been deployed and dismantled across several artistic disciplines, particularly as we examine the alternative economies and systems of distribution that attend such forms of making. While it has become commonplace for “fine” artists to recruit untrained participants into their practices, it is vital to acknowledge that many non-professional forms of making grow out of necessity and survival. In addition, though “amateur” is frequently used as a shorthand for the unpracticed and/or uninteresting, this conference seeks to understand its connections to its root word amare: a complex outgrowth of critical investmentpleasure, and love. Learn more here.