CFP: Aesthetic Violence in the 20th C. and Beyond (submissions due 7/15/07).

Call for Papers: Aesthetic Violence in the 20th C. and Beyond

NOTE: The deadline has been extended to 7/15/07.

How does art respond to the tremendous pace of the world’s violence? More than merely sublimating or ameliorating trauma, art documents the physical and psychological damage wreaked by social, political, cultural or personal violence. Damaged life yields a damaged art, the distortions of which are crucial in capturing the specific ramifications of violence. Art in the face of war must suffer this distortion; consider the writings of Levi, Antelme, Celan, Beckett, and O’Brien, among many others. The documentary of aesthetic violence runs through work as various as art on feminism, racism, and ranges from group to personal violence.

Yet there also has been a subgroup of artists that integrate aspects of violence into their own oeuvre, sometimes to unearth or expose its taboo and other times to dissipate it or to direct it to various ends. In this trend consider Pound, Bataille, Artaud, Jünger, Celine, Gide, Genet through to Viennese Actionism, performance artist Bob Flanagan, writer Kathy Acker, punk and heavy metal music, and violent cinema. Critics have generally placed the former group of writers as ethical exemplars while the latter are known for crossing or destroying ethical boundaries. But what is the assumed status of the ethical exemplar, and does it leave the condition of aesthetic violence still uncritically suspended despite its evocation?

We seek essays that address the invocation of aesthetic violence of the past century. Some overall questions we wish to address include:  How does aesthetic violence relate to ethics? How is aesthetic violence experienced? At what point does violence inhibit any aesthetic experience? How might aesthetic violence relate to a confrontation with political violence? How does aesthetic violence operate as a critique of violence?

We are also interested specifically in contributions that articulate a sense of the effect of violent assault upon the art object or viewer/reader. Too often critical discourses on violence adopt a moralizing tone, dismissing violence without close examination of its specific physical, psychological and aesthetic effects. More detailed inquiry may allow us to ask, for instance, on what possible grounds could one establish a phenomenology of aesthetic violence? What would be its terms and conditions, its ethical position? To what degree is violence inherent in our categories of knowledge, aesthetic techniques or modes of representation? Some general topics might include:

  • war aesthetics
  • art and racist violence
  • art and feminism
  • art and rituals involving violence
  • art and violence of political resistance
  • music and violence
  • the beautiful and the ugly
  • ethics of violent art from the position of the artist or the viewer
  • violence and technique: as a way of directing, focusing, or de-focusing
  • attention on specific forms or instances of historic or personal violence
  • violence and pleasure in art
  • philosophies of modernity and violence (Nietzsche, Sorel, Benjamin, Adorno, Lenin, Marxism, Mao, Colonialism, Fanon, Situationism, Black liberation movements, third world/global struggles)

We invite papers from all theoretical perspective and disciplines, including, but not limited to: theoretical and philosophical essays, comparative case studies, historical and cultural interpretations, and psychological and psychoanalytical investigations.

We are interested in articles (4000-9000 words), intellectual commentaries (3000-5000 words), review essays (2000-4000 words) and scholarly book reviews (1500-2500 words). Non-traditional submissions, such as lecture transcriptions, hypermedia projects, translations, art work, interviews and other materials, will also be considered.

Please send completed submissions by email attachment to no later than July 15, 2007.

Please direct general inquires to both:

Vance Bell, editor-in-chief (

Joshua Schuster, editor (

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