Amateurism Across the Arts: March 9

Amateurism Across the Arts Conference

Friday, March 9, 2018, 9:30am-6:15pm

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

cartenera books

Amateurism Across the Arts is an exploration of vernacular, popular, fannish, kitsch, informal, self-taught, user-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 investment, pleasure, and love.


Note: Following the conference, on Saturday, March 10 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., an optional tour of the Albany Bulb, a former landfill on San Francisco Bay known as a hotbed of amateur art will be offered. Separate registration on Eventbrite (link) is required. Attendance is limited to 25 people.



Schedule of Events

Friday, March 9, 2018


9:30am: Door Open to the Public

10am: Welcome by ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson

10:20: Self-Taught Student Music Performance with Judith Peña & the Wolf Girls

10:30-12:30: Street Modernists: Urban Undoings of High and Low

“God is Beautiful and He Loves Beauty”
Talinn Grigor, Professor of Art History, University of California, Davis

“Modern and Vernacular—How Brazilian mid-century architecture problematizes this inherent contradiction”
Fernando Luiz Lara, Associate Professor, School of Architecture, University of Texas

Response by Greg Castillo, Associate Professor of Architecture, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley

12:30-1:30: Lunch Break

1:30-3:30: Self-Made: Cultural Production Outside of Industry

“Piracy Is the Future of Culture”
Abigail De Kosnik, Associate Professor, Berkeley Center for New Media and Department of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies, University of California, Berkeley

“Post-autonomous literature in Latin America: the radical art of poverty”
Cecilia Palmeiro, Professor, Contemporary Latin American Cultural Studies, NYU in Buenos Aires and National University of Tres de Febrero

Response by Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Literature & Culture, Spanish and Portuguese Department, UC Berkeley

3:30-3:40: Student hip-hop dance performance with Identity X

3:45-5:45: Everyday Avant-Gardes and Non-Elite Evaluations

“Kenner und Liebhaber Revisited: ‘Advanced’ Music and Sound since 1950”
Benjamin Piekut, Associate Professor, Music, Cornell University

“Kaisik Wong: Extravagant Appropriation”
Marci Kwon, Assistant Professor, Art & Art History, Stanford University

Response by Stephanie Syjuco, Assistant Professor, Art Practice, UC Berkeley

5:45-6:15: Student DIY Couture Fashion Show, hosted by Derrick Duren (Arts + Design Student Committee)

6:15-7 Reception


Saturday, March 10, 2018

9:30-11:30 Optional tour of the Albany Bulb (20 minutes from downtown Berkeley, arrive independently). Register hereAttendance limited to 25 people.

Amateurism Across the Arts is an event hosted by the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley, and co-sponsored in part by UC Berkeley’s Division of Arts & Humanities, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the Stoddard Lecture Series/History of ArtUniversity of California’s Humanities Research InstituteJudith Butler’s Maxine Elliot Endowed Chair Funds, the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and the Berkeley Center for New Media. Additional support is provided by the departments of Spanish and PortugueseTheater, Dance, and Performance StudiesCritical Theory, and the Center for Race & Gender, all at UC Berkeley.

Logo Spread

Image Credit: Cartonera books from Latin America