Call for Papers
Socialist Realist Art: Production, Consumption and Aesthetics
Stockholm, 19-20 October 2012
An International Conference, sponsored by the Center for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University, Stockholm, in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm
Since the early 1990s, there has been a striking growth of interest in the legacy of Soviet Socialist Realist art, which has reshaped our understanding of it in fundamental ways. A substantial body of research has demonstrated that the method of Socialist Realism was a highly creative and diversified cultural arena that was both heterogeneous in its pictorial strategies and often conflicted and ambivalent in its representations of the social and political messages of the day. Yet the label ‘totalitarian’ continues to influence the ways in which Soviet art is interpreted and contextualised, limiting our understanding of Socialist Realism and obstructing its integration into a broader narrative of twentieth-century art.
In the proposed conference we seek to examine the interests and influences which contributed to the development of Socialist Realism as a diverse and contested field of art from the 1930s to the 1980s. Participants will be invited to focus on aspects of Socialist Realist fine art production, evaluation and consumption in order to consider the ways in which artistic conventions of pictorial representation were established, adapted and transformed to reflect the changing nature of the Soviet project. This approach will facilitate a shift away from the tendency to draw conclusions about Socialist Realism based on a limited number of canonical works of art and acclaimed artists, and will encourage a reappraisal of the diversity and originality of creative output in its formal, stylistic and geographical variations.
Proposed topics may include (but should not be restricted to) the following:
How did Socialist Realist art develop over time and according to changing socio-political contexts? On what basis should specific periods can be identified, for example “Stalinist” or “post-Stalinist” art?
What were the variations in Socialist Realist art beyond Moscow and Leningrad: across the different parts of the RSRSR and the other SSRs? How did the centre-periphery relationship function in the Soviet art world?
Who were the audiences for Socialist Realist art and how was fine art consumed in the Soviet Union?
What was the role of the art critic in the definition of artistic merit? How was value and significance ascribed to works of art in the absence of an art market?
What was the role of the state in the definition of Socialist Realist art and how was the interface between artists and art world authorities managed?
What was the status of minor genres within the canon of Socialist Realist art (e.g. landscape, still life, personal portraiture) and what new and hybrid genres emerged?
How did artists seek to manipulate the development of Socialist Realism according to their own aesthetic preferences and agendas?
How did Socialist Realist art in the USSR relate to broader international narratives of Realism in the visual arts of the twentieth century?
How did Soviet Socialist Realism relate to the art sponsored by other authoritarian regimes, in the inter-war period and after? Is “totalitarian art” a viable concept?
How did the ideas and methods of Socialist Realist art relate to developments in other fields of cultural production in the USSR and vice versa? Was Socialist Realism a uniform canon, or did it vary across the fields of art, literature, music, film, architecture and so on.
Proposals for Papers
We invite proposals dealing with these or related themes. Proposals should include your name, institutional affiliation, email address, proposed paper title, 150-word abstract and short curriculum vitae. Post-graduate students are encouraged to apply. Successful applicants will be asked to submit a conference paper of around 3000 words for pre-circulation before the conference.
Participants will be asked to cover their own travel expenses. We are currently exploring possibilities for support for accommodation expenses.
The submission deadline for proposals is 20 April 2012. Applicants will be informed about acceptance by around 1 May 2012.
For general questions and further information, please contact Mark Bassin (mark.bassin (@) sh.se).
Please submit proposals via email to Oliver Johnson (o.johnson (@) sheffield.ac.uk)
To download a pdf version of the call for papers, please click here