Revisited: Amateurism Across the Arts

19 Mar, 2018

Revisited: Amateurism Across the Arts

Amateurism Across the Arts, a sypnosium hosted by the Arts Research Center and co-sponsored by BCNM on March 9, explored "vernacular, popular, fannish, kitsch, informal, self-taught, user-generated, and DIY production in music, architecture, literature, the visual arts, dance, and new media– especially in relation to raced, classed, and gendered notions of value."

Many guest speakers and student-performances gathered 70 community members who appeared at Phoebe A. Hearst Musuem of Anthropology, all ready to learn about the role of an "amateur" in the cultural production of an industry. What does it mean to be an "amateur" in a current moment of time and trends, when "amateur" is an everchanging term with time and different across artistics disciplines? The syposium was centered on uprooting the literal term "amateur" with deep delvings into its root "amare", and how its elements capture the definition of "critical investment, pleasure, and love."

We were particularly pleased to see our own Abigail De Kosnik discussing how piracy is the future of culture in the panel on cultural production outside of industry.

Below, we've included a recap from Laura Belik, originally posted on the Arts Research Center website on March 9, 2018.

“We are all experts in amateurism”, stated ARC Director Julia Bryan-Wilson during her introductory remarks for the “Amateurism Across the Arts” Conference. The events were hosted at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and that was a special addition to the day’s atmosphere, because the museum’s current exhibition “Face to Face: Looking at Objects That Look at You” was itself within the context of the conference, co-curated by the Hearst staff and 14 UC Berkeley first-year students.

Discussion panels were combined with performances by students, including a music performance by Judith Peña & the Wolf Girls, hip-hop dance with Identity X, and a DIY Couture Fashion Show, hosted by Derrick Duren. The morning started with a panel moderated by Greg Castillo (UC Berkeley) discussing the high and the low in architecture and urban contexts. Talinn Grigor (UC Davis) brought examples of Iranian modernism and the built space within its connections to the countries’ political paths, as well as people’s everyday reactions to its monuments and architecture. In conversation, Fernando Luiz Lara (UT Austin) presented the Brazilian vernacular architecture as an example of the popular reactions and interpretations of the modernist style in vogue.

The following panel lead by Natalia Brizuela (UC Berkeley) introduced us to considerations about amateurism as a form of gaining agency within the realm of cultural productions. Abigail De Kosnik (UC Berkeley) discussed media and the role of Piracy as a response and possible solution to the future of culture, because of its part distributing content for free as well as building networks of resistance. Cecilia Palmeiro (NYUBA/ UNTREF) introduced the Brazilian Poesia Marginal and the role of independent productions in literature throughout Latina America as strong examples of counter-culture that open the space for inclusion, such as what she presents as the “Lenguas de Las Locas”, queer literature dealing with empowerment.

The closing panel mediated by Stephanie Syjuco (UC Berkeley) brought in the perspective of amateurism within music and fashion design. Benjamin Piekut (Cornell University) showed examples of performances that used music in an unconventional way creating inspiring pieces and challenging classic (virtuoso) formations. Piekut emphasized such spaces as sites for invention and their importance as a medium in which new forms of sound and art can emerge. Marci Kwon (Stanford University) reiterated the need for attention for the role of amateurism and the “self-thought” when it comes to performance and garment/costume making, and its connections to fork art and surrealism.