We invite paper proposals for participation in a panel on “Pushing the Status Quo: Liberation in art and cultural practices in the modern Middle East” that we are submitting to BRISMES for its forthcoming conference in London, 24-26 June 2015 (www.brismes2015.org).
Cultural production often challenges existing norms and practices, pushing the boundaries of the status quo. This panel explores the relationship of artists and cultural players to authority in the Middle East in the 20th and 21st centuries. It deals with processes of transformation of existing aesthetic, political and social orders, as well as with the dissolution of linear modes of perception, such as for instance in the historical avant-garde. The self-liberation of art and the artist from a rigid academism, clinging to out-of-date aesthetic ideals, is the result of a complex reflexive and emancipatory process: the dissociation of the artist from aesthetic and moral norms leads to an emancipation from and rebellion against the status quo. This rebellion does not always go in one direction, that is the liberation from institutional structures and policies. Rather, when the status quo provides little institutional support to artists, they seek these structures and policies. What makes artists move away from authority and institutional settings? And what makes them look for these? How do the latter impact on the artist’s autonomy? How do we define liberation and emancipation in relation to artists as actors in specific national or transnational contexts? This panel will examine these multi-layered processes. The agency of the artist or cultural player is here in the foreground, positioning him within his time and space.