Artists’ Writings 1750-present

Date: June 6 – 7, 2009
Venue: London, UK

Despite Matisse’s warning that “he who wants to dedicate himself to painting should start by cutting out his tongue”, artists in the modern period have frequently expressed themselves in writing (whether memoir, fiction or theory). This conference will ask what motivates artists to write, how they view the relation between their visual and textual practice, and how they use writing to manipulate or challenge the public reception and critical interpretation of their work. Challenging the myth of the visual artist as an intuitive anti-intellectual, it will demonstrate the extent and diversity of artists’ contributions to modern literature and criticism in various languages. It will also investigate how scholars interpret these texts: are they works of art in themselves or simply evidence about the artist’s life and craft? Do they conceal as much as they reveal? How has the role and perception of artists’ writings changed over time?

Suggested topics:
Questions of genre
Public versus private writing
Authorship, authority and intention
Writing as justification / explanation / polemic
Writing as obfuscation
Self-expression versus silence
Fact and fiction
The politics of identity (ethnicity, gender, sexuality)
Travel writing
Ekphrasis / transposition d’art / synaesthesia
Interchange and rivalry between the arts
The artist as critic
Artists’ interviews
Public lectures, instruction and guidance
Manifestos and treatises
Text-based art works and artists’ books
Writing and visuality
Writing and performance

Contributions invited from art historians, literary scholars and artists. Proposals (max 300 words) for 20-minute presentations to