2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy

The arts in its many forms play many important roles in society. They allow us to discover, reinvent, and interrogate our imagined and real concepts of society, community and the individual. They are also a vehicle for us to celebrate, present, and critique our past, our present, and our future.

The arts emanate from the society of which they are a part, and as such they can be a reflection of that society and its many layers, reflecting differently as we move from generation to generation, from gender to gender, from one age group to another, through different socioeconomic groups, across different cultures, nationalities and languages, through different historical and current political and environmental crises and, in more recent times, across different mediums of delivery.

The practice of art also allows the artist to question our representations and reflections of our self in many - sometimes strident, sometimes subtle - different ways. Thus, although the arts are shaped in many ways by the societies from which they emanate, the arts are also a force in shaping society.

As we approach the end of the second decade of the third millennium, new and old forces are beginning to shape our societies in different ways, including inter alia changes in the ways we access news and other media, access to and various levels of education among the population in general, levels of income and disparities in levels of income, how we interpret political movements at local, national, and geopolitical levels, and the impact of technological advances on how we communicate, how we work, the number and types of jobs available, and the ability of government, businesses, and other organizations to gain access to our life preferences, patterns, and personal information. These challenges are contributing to a perceived or real crisis regarding democracy in contemporary society.

How does the Arts engage these changes? How has the practice of Art and the role of the Arts in Society been changed by these forces? How do the Arts interpret these changes? What normative assumptions exist in the Arts about what democracy is or should be, and of what the role of the Arts as a force in democracy should be?

This provides the scope for the 2020 Arts in Society Conference, which invites submissions from artists and academics across all artistic and academic disciplines which will contribute to the discourse on how the practices of art and our ways of interpreting art have shaped and is shaping society and how we present, critique, and engage with the forces defining our current understanding of the nature of and the challenges facing the future of democracy as a core organising principle of society.

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