Feb 17, 2010

CAA Conference Wrap-Up: The Highlights

I went to so many panels at CAA (College Art Association) Conference that an extensive description of each one would be a little overwhelming. The Critical Craft Forum needed a closer look but other panels while valuable can be summed up a little quicker. I almost filled an entire notebook with information garnered from the ten plus sessions I attended. So I'm going to list my greatest hits.


Critical Craft Forum
(See my full rundown)

In the Making: New Texts and Resources in American Craft
Maria Elena Buszek presented her forthcoming publication.
-An audience member dissed William O'Brian's work because he uses store bought glazes. Panelists defended him and M.E. Buszek said, "His work is not about making a perfect glaze." It was the "B**ch get down!" moment of the day.

New Media: The Culture of Dispersion
Michael Mandiberg presented "Giving Things Away is Hard"
-He made some great points about open source culture and discussed the difficulty of scale the new economy.


Art and the Televisual
Melissa Ragona of Carnegie Mellon University presented "Andy Warhol’s Proto-TV Production"
-Ragona is researching Warhol's television experiments including game shows he produced. Warhol was an early adapter of pairing a celebrity with an everyday person and watching the magic unfold. Ragona proved once again that Warhol was much more than a celebrity icon maker. Every time I think I know his work, BAM! He did something else completely amazing.

African Diaspora Art History: State of the Field
There was standing room only at this dynamic session that included new research from Judith Bettelheim, Tobias Wofford, William Ian Bourland, and Cheryl Finley.

Desire is Queer!
E. G. Crichton presented her project "LINEAGE: Queer Desire and Matchmaking in the Archive"
-Crichton is the first artist-in-residence at San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society. Her current project matches the personal archives of deceased GLBT people to living artists, musicians, writers, and performers who develop creative responses. Her presentation of this earnest set of collaborations brought me to tears. One participant explored their Japanese American heritage by imagining the life of a queer man forced into a Japanese concentration camp in WWII. While the project was largely sentimental it raised larger issues surrounding the trouble queer heritage.


Contemporary Art History in 2020
This was a superstar panel with lectures from Hannah Feldman (Northwestern University), Amelia Jones (McGill University), Carrie Lambert-Beatty (Harvard University), and Robert Storr (Yale University).
-Carrie Lambert-Beatty's presentation pointed to academia as the future home of contemporary art. She took issue with the idea that the academy is place where art goes to die, arguing instead that it can act as a drag to market forces. She said that art historians need to tolerate uncertainty and allow work to remain undefined.
-Robert Storr (I love him) said that he thinks about Art History less and less because contemporary critics often take positions on works are far to obscure and have little relevance outside of academia. He said "I look at the field of Art History and realize how little history there actually is it."

Feminist Painting
Chaired by Julia Bryan-Wilson (University of California-Irvine) and Johanna Burton (Whitney Independent Study Program) and featured Harmony Hammond, Carrie Moyer, Amy Sillman
-I'm a fiber geek and seeing the godmother of contemporary fiber, Harmony Hammond in person was like attending a David Bowie concert (probably better). Hammond talked about her return to painting and how it still relates to her more sculptural work.
-During the question answer session Julia Bryan-Wilson (I love her) asked "How would this panel be different if it was called Lesbian Painting instead of Feminist Painting?". Some panelists became uneasy with the question and it continued frame the rest of the discussion. Hammond, author of Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History,responded to the question by saying "I don't go into my studio thinking about Lesbianism or Feminism. I'm thinking about painting and the work is feminist because of it's context."

Push and/or Pull:
Trans and Gender-Variant Artists Discuss the Role of Feminism in Their Work

Chaired by one of my favorite contemporary artists Lacey Jane Roberts. Roberts introduced the panelists by discussing the need for a dialogue on gender-variant/trans-issues at CAA after some transphobic events at last year's CAA Conference.
-Tobaron Waxman discussed recent research in the middle east and showed new media work that highlighted international cultural tendencies to deny the complexity of the body and explores how gender constructs identity. Waxman is an artist-in-residence at New York's Jewish Museum.

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