CFP: The Aesthetics of Social Equality - HSE Moscow

Call for Papers, Higher School of Economics, Moscow (May 10-11, 2018)
The Aesthetics of Social Equality: Avant-Garde, Populisms and the People

Papers due: February 15, 2018


Keynote Speakers
Sarah Wilson, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Yannis Stavrakakis, Professor of Political Theory, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


This symposium explores the social and historical interweaving of art and avant-garde aesthetics with universal demands for equality and the right of the “people”: the underclass, the underprivileged and the oppressed. Drawing on the technocratic rise of a current liberal anti-populist discourse in Europe and the USA that unilaterally discards appeals to the people as dangerous and irresponsible, whether coming from the left or from the right, this event explores the implications of artistic experiments that place discourses about emancipation, race and gender equality, the abolition of labour exploitation at center stage, while also advancing a contentious politics or dichotomous representations of social affairs. In the Western tradition of aesthetics, and especially in the writings of Clement Greenberg and Theodor Adorno, one can trace a certain disdain for artistic practices whose motives become too obvious, too moralistic or just too ‘easy’. Such practices seem to downgrade civil responsibility rather than enable it. The figure of the ‘philistine’, in Adorno’s work for instance, the uncivilized ‘other’ whose judgement relies on instinct rather than reflection, can be seen, according to this tradition, as the exact audience that populist art addresses. The current anti-populist discourse emerging in Europe and the world, which morally condemns the people as irrational and uneducated, often draws on such assumptions.


Rather than seeing populism as an evil category strictly separated from its ‘other’, this event will ask under which conditions populisms, and the rhetoric of intolerance and immediacy they harbour, can be thought as egalitarian and socially transformative practices.


We are looking for papers addressing the following themes:

  • Realism(s)
  • Socialist Art
  • Art and social engagement
  • Populism(s) in contemporary art
  • Populist culture
  • Art and precarity
  • Art and ethnography
  • The artist as producer
  • The artist as community worker
  • The role of the art object in radical aesthetics and transformative politics


Abstracts should be in English or Russian and no longer than 500 words. They should include a name, institutional affiliations, a short CV and contact details. Please submit you abstracts at by February 15, 2018.
Notifications date: February 25, 2018
Conference date: May 10-11, 2018


Angelina Lucento, Assistant Professor, Department of History, HSE
Panos Kompatsiaris, Assistant Professor, Department of Media, HSE

This conference is organized by the Department of Media and the Department of History of Higher School of Economics, Moscow