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CFP: Art versus Industry? (6/17/2011; 3/23-24/2012)

Art versus Industry?
Leeds City Museum, 23 and 24 March 2012

This two-day international and transdisciplinary conference aims to re-evaluate the intersections between the visual arts and industry in Britain during the long nineteenth century. The complexity and variety of nineteenth-century industrial culture and responses to it remain under appreciated. The idea that an  ʻindustrial cultureʼ might have existed in nineteenth-century Britain seemed paradoxical in the wake of Raymond Williamsʼ Culture and Society 1780-1950 (1958) and Martin Wienerʼs English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit  (1981). Both suggested a seemingly non-negotiable opposition between culture and industry. They privileged the writings of John Ruskin, and later William Morris, which resisted the incursion of mechanised production into the sphere of the fine and applied arts. 

ʻArt versus industry?ʼ invites papers that look beyond Ruskin and Morris to modify these characterisations. Recent studies of nineteenth-century literary culture have identified the 
development of a pro-industrial rhetoric in the early nineteenth century. How was this articulated in the visual arts? Debates over design reform in particular suggest the permeable boundaries between the artist, designer, artisan and operative, matched by a taxonomic conflation of art with design. Meanwhile, the prospect of widening the franchise of  ʻtasteʼ often correlated with the embrace of new industrial technologies, as much as with the repudiation of them.  ʻArt versus industry?ʼ seeks to uncover the complexities of the nineteenth-century ʻindustrial cultureʼ.

Topics for discussion might include, but are not limited to:

  • Exhibitions and the display of science and art
  • Taste formation and circulation
  • The role of the periodical press and print culture
  • Industrial art collectors and collections
  • The education of the artist and artisan
  • Material processes and conditions of production; deskilling and reskilling
  • The principles and practice of design
  • Historiographic approaches to the debate
  • Mechanicsʼ Institutions and the ideology of self-improvement
  • Centralisation and regional specificity
  • The impact of trans-national communication and manufacture upon art or upon concepts of 
  • national style
  • New reproductive technologies and art

Confirmed speakers include Dr. Tom Gretton (University College London), Dr. Mervyn Romans (independent), Dr. Colin Trodd (University of Manchester) and Professor Lara Kriegel (Indiana University). 

Please email a title, 300 word abstract and CV to Rebecca Wade (r.j.wade@leeds.ac.uk) by 17 
June 2011.

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