Call for abstracts: Connect/Cut. Infrastructures and collective activity

“All artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people. Through their cooperation, the artwork we eventually see or hear comes to be and continues to be.” (Becker, H. S. (1982). Art Worlds. Berkley & Los Angeles: University of California Press., p. 1).

If artworks come about through collective activity within “art worlds”, as American sociologist Howard Becker describes, this means that the production, reception, and distribution of any form of art is (also) a matter of social concern connected very concretely to the sensuous realities of everybody. With ongoing discussions on the need for rethinking the protocols and classifications regulating museums, (digital) archives, collections, and public spaces to better reflect the concerns of diverse populations, this focus on art as a social, material and foremost collective activity, is as urgent now as in 1982. This conference insists on the importance of ongoing interdisciplinary discussions of how such activity is imbricated in spatial, temporal, formal and distributive networks that can all be analyzed under the heading of infrastructure.

Not only art worlds but all social environments are conditioned by infrastructural processes enabling and disabling movement. And crucially, such infrastructures will not only connect and distribute access and availability across the commons but also cut off the passage, withhold supplies and contain populations. Like Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring-machines, infrastructure operates via the simple processes of ‘connect’ and ‘cut’, turning the varying politics of distribution of contemporary societies into material reality. Thus, the utility of infrastructure remains relative, always serving different populations differently. As Sarah Ahmed has shown, such infrastructural processes are often regulated according to racialized, gendered, and classed categories, privileging the movement of some bodies, and stopping others.

To uncover such systemic asymmetries, feminist sociologist of information Susan Leigh Star advocated for a practice of ‘infrastructural inversion’ in all scholarly disciplines. In the aesthetic field, this involves, as pioneeringly demonstrated by Becker, a transposition of our attention from the auratic art object, the heroic artist, and the interiorized recipient, towards the material, logistical and social micro-processes that immerse, support, and condition the production, distribution and reception of art and cultural activity but have most often been kept out of sight. Accordingly, an infrastructural approach has implications for the questioning of such frameworks – what socio-aesthetic practices are worthy of attention, what are the boundaries of an art world, who are allowed to participate, and as what?

The conference Connect/Cut explores the infrastructures that mediate space, time, visibility, and access in the arts and beyond. In this context, we ask how a range of social phenomena – from aesthetic production and experience to political configurations of public spaces – are put to work by the material, technological and historical processes that undergird different modernities. We urge our colleagues from across fields such as art and aesthetics, cultural studies, gender studies, critical race studies, media studies, sociology, philosophy, political science and anthropology to engage with us in critical reflections on the spatial epistemologies that collectively inform lifeworlds; the temporal implications of the way media arranges sensations and make different forms of communication possible; how infrastructural orderings – from affect to archives and from whiteness to walls – distribute political and/or aesthetic visibility and opacity; and how such figurations are founded in the inclusion of some and exclusion of others, thereby making the aesthetic foundations of public appearance and political agency a site for conflict.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Analysis of the material, logistical and social processes conditioning the production, distribution and reception of art
  • The historicity and futurity of infrastructural formats of time and space
  • Methodological discussions on infrastructural inversion
  • The use of infrastructure as an artistic material 
  • Reflections on the basic, the boring and the mundane in (or underlying) cultural practices
  • Collectivity in art worlds: Analytical reflections on what changes when we pluralize art? 
  • Discussions on the relationship between affect and infrastructure 
  • How infrastructures are appropriated, subverted and transformed through artistic/curatorial interventions
  • The aesthetics of architectural renderings and the concrete formatting of urban space
  • Historiographical perspectives on locating connections and cuts 
  • Rethinking (art) historical classifications from feminist, intersectional, critical race, decolonial and indigenous positions.

We urge colleagues to suggest abstracts for solo presentations (20+10mins). Please submit your abstract proposal (max 300 words paper) and a short bio (max 50 words) to artasforum@hum.ku.dk no later than 19  January 2022.

The price of the conference will be € 70 + additional costs for the conference dinner. Emerging scholars and independent artists/cultural workers presenting papers can apply for support – we cover hotel costs and conference fees for up to ten persons in total.

Conference organisers

The conference is organised by the New Carlsberg Foundation research centre Art as Forum, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Read more about the centre and find announcements of keynote speakers here: Art as Forum.

Solveig Daugaard, postdoc (Art as Forum)

Emma Sofie Brogaard Jespersen, research associate

Rasmus Holmboe, postdoc (Art as Forum & Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde)

Mathias Overgaard, PhD candidate (Art as Forum)

Frederik Tygstrup, professor and director (Art As Forum)

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the organisers.