System Shifts: Politics of Artistic Form in ‘Post’-Imperial Britain

22 June 2022
While the histories and ongoing effects of empire have become major areas of art historical focus, the 1970s remains an overlooked decade in this growing field of scholarship. Partly fuelling this oversight is the common narrative of the 1970s as a period marking the end of Britain’s empire. This seminar instead asks how the British empire’s breakdown abroad spurred imperialism to turn inwards, manifesting domestically in an upsurge in racist discourses and institutionalized practices, deepening conflicts in Northern Ireland, and new state techniques of social control and ‘crisis management’. It explores how artistic responses to this context entailed a radical rethinking of art: a repudiation of formalist and object-based practices in favour of conceptually-driven artistic tactics that increasingly engaged social systems as both artistic material and locus of critique. This seminar invites reflection on the ways these new artistic modalities critically engaged the internal recodings of imperialism, seeking to articulate the 1970s as a period of interconnected ‘system shifts’ in Britain’s artistic practices, socio-political situation, and geopolitical position.
22 June 2022, 10am–5pm
University of Manchester
Mansfield Cooper Building, Room 4.10
Alina Khakoo (University of Cambridge)
Kylie Gilchrist (University of Manchester)
Adeena Mey (University of the Arts London)
Lynn MacRitchie
Luke Skrebowski (University of Manchester)
Catherine Spencer (University of St Andrews)
Moderated by Alice Correia

Organised by Kylie Gilchrist and Dr. Luke Skrebowski from the Dept. of Art History & Cultural Practices, University of Manchester, and generously supported by the Northwest Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership and the University of Manchester.