Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) 2018 Conference: Art, Materiality and Representation

Convenors: Pauline Destrée (UCL) and Hannah Knox (UCL)

The current ‘infrastructural turn’ in anthropology has cast fresh light on materiality, mediation, and mobility. Ethnographic attention to the social and cultural relationality of infrastructures – from information systems, to roads, to energy networks, (cf Star 1999) has expanded the definition of infrastructure away from the narrow confines of technical or functional concerns, to consider infrastructures as socio-material and political assemblages that enable the circulation of goods, services, knowledge, people, matter, energy and forces (cf Graham and Marvin 2001; Larkin 2013; Lockrem and Lugo 2012) and are thus firmly embedded in anthropological questions of materiality and representation. 

This panel considers a call to study infrastructures as “aesthetic networks” involved in the circulation and production not just of people and things but also of images, illusions, desires, and in/visibilities (Larkin 2013). Infrastructures, as technologies of enchantment (Harvey and Knox 2012), provide a fertile ethnographic terrain for re-appraising anthropological theories of art concerned with representation, materiality, and agency. This panel explores what happens when infrastructure and art come together, exploring the artistic practices, performances, and artefacts that infrastructures make possible. What kinds of artistic formations emerge from an engagement with infrastructural networks? How does infrastructure, with its close relationship to design and architecture, inform creative practices? 

In particular, this panel will explore the political possibilities opened up by a conversation between art and infrastructure. Do infrastructural publics (Collier et al. 2016) mark the emergence of new forms of political consciousness for art today? How do conceptualisations of infrastructure as a public good define a new civil contract (Azoulay 2008) for artistic practices? How do the visual, material and digital politics of infrastructure reconfigure art spaces, audiences and curatorial roles? 

This panel welcomes ethnographic accounts of, and creative engagements with / through / about infrastructure, that speak to anthropological theories of materiality, agency, and the politics of representation.

Please send abstract proposal (max 250 words) by 8th January 2018 to the online form:

Proposals should consist of a paper title, a (very) short abstract of <300 characters and an abstract of 250 words.  On submission the proposal, the proposing author (but not any co-authors listed) will receive automated email confirming receipt. If you do not receive this email, please first check the login environment (click login on the left on the conference website) to see if your proposal is there.  If it is, it simply means confirmation got spammed or lost; and if it is not, it means you need re-submit, as process went wrong somewhere.