This symposium will interrogate representations of the everyday—the banal and the vernacular— in order to create new zones of engagement with the visual field, project alternative archives, and critique dominant modes of representation that structure power through normativity. While humanists regularly attempt to disrupt the canons of their respective fields, we are often limited by already constructed archives and disciplinary boundaries set by preconceived notions of originality, authenticity, validity, iconicity, and the spectacular. In a moment when academic conversations are happening on twitter, this symposium looks to further destabilize academic modes of knowledge production by questioning in what ways we, as scholars, actively engage with our work, the subjects of our work, and its product—on a daily basis. By looking through a lens of the banal, we are also situating ourselves in our local context, and questioning what it means to be writing, creating, reading, and looking from a context regularly perceived of as a cultural void. While we are not limited to investigating a specifically Midwestern vernacular, by focusing on the banal and the ways in which our everyday lives intersect with our scholarship, we are committed to situating ourselves in our local place, interrogating the nature of our plain site as well as sight.

We invite graduate students in art history and related disciplines to submit a current CV and a 250-300 word abstract for a 20-minute presentation at the symposium, which will be accompanied by a corresponding exhibition and artist round-table. Scholars of any media and time period are encouraged to apply.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Vernacular photographies – snapshots, family portraits
  • Representations of everyday experiences
  • Popular culture
  • Outsider, lowbrow, kitsch art
  • Street art
  • The Midwestern vernacular
  • Considerations of place and/or affect
  • Glocal perspectives in visual culture
  • Interrogations and disruptions of the archive
  • The intersections of the personal and the scholarly
  • Histories and interrogations of the academy

Please send all questions and submissions to the Society for Art History and Archaeology (SAHA) at sahauiuc58[at]

This event is organized by graduate students of Art History in the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with major funding provided by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and additional funding provided by the departments of Art History and Art Education.

  • Keynote Speaker: Shawn Michelle Smith, Professor of Visual and Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Performance and artist talk by Jeff Kolar, sound artist, radio producer, and curator, Chicago, IL