The Uses of Aesthetics, 12–14 September, 2019, Karlstad University, Sweden

An international interdisciplinary conference organized by the research group for culture studies KuFo (Kulturvetenskapliga forskargruppen) in celebration of KuFo’s ten-year anniversary.

At least since the Kantian conceptualization of the aesthetic object as being purposive without a purpose, and of aesthetic judgment as one of disinterested interest, art has been associated with a certain kind of uselessness. Nevertheless, since aesthetic objects, expressions, and practices always emerge, take place in, and travel across cultural and material contexts, they affect their surroundings, influence those contexts, and make a difference. If inherently “useless” in a Kantian sense, works of art and aesthetic expressions and practices may nevertheless be put to all kinds of uses. In other words, these objects, expressions and practices respond to a particular situation, whether this is established at the moment of articulation or that of reception. The history of the arts may thus be considered as the production of a vast cultural archive of objects and aesthetic expressions that are not only preserved but always available for new uses. Such an archive provides us with an infinite supply of possibilities for practices of re-purposing and re-negotiation.

One way to operationalize the cultural archive is through transactions renegotiating different aesthetic objects and expressions through assigning values. Art has always had a difficult relation to values, in the many senses of the word. On the one hand, art is thought to manifest eternal and universal values and the inherently good; on the other hand, art is considered a space for the transgression of norms and the destruction of values. While aesthetic values are often articulated in stark contrast to functional ends, the consumption of use value and the crass prices of the marketplace, artworks have also been used as manifestations of political action, and as objects for economic investment and speculation. Whereas works of art may be accumulated in centralized collections for the public good (in museums) or personal profit (in private collections), performative practices where economic and cultural values are destroyed may constitute aesthetically valuable happenings in themselves.

We welcome papers and presentations by scholars exploring the uses, values and rethinking of the aesthetic in different fields such as (but not limited to):

  • Cultural studies
  • Art and visual studies
  • Media and film studies
  • Performance studies
  • Literary studies
  • Race and whiteness studies
  • Postcolonial studies
  • Intercultural studies
  • Environmental studies
  • Gender and masculinity studies
  • Religious studies
  • Historical studies

Please send proposals for 20-minute papers or presentations to aesthetics@kau.se by 15 April 2019. Proposals should be no longer than 250 words. We look forward to receiving your proposal.

Panel call: Photography and the method of art. Please send proposals for 20-minute papers or presentations to staffan.lofving@kau.se by 15 April 2019. Proposals should be no longer than 250 words. See the panel abstract here.