Symposium to be held at Birkbeck, University of London as part of Arts Week 2015

Deadline for submission of abstracts is 19th March 2015

Conveners/Organisers: Sarah Scarsbrook, Ruth Solomons and Niki Zanti

The central theme of this symposium is the notion of the artist identity: the variable, evolving and adapting representation of the artist’s self. How is it constructed? How is it maintained? How is it challenged? These questions invite reflection on the way(s) that visual artists develop their understanding of what it means to be an artist today. The artist identity may be viewed through a trajectory of ‘becoming’, ‘being’ and ‘persisting’. We invite theoretical, conceptual and empirical proposals, case studies, notes and commentaries that may address any the following themes that may be interwoven with this notion:

– We are interested in exploring how the artist identity is linked to the ‘precariat’, referring to the art worker and the wider themes of artistic labour, work, non-work or play. Where does the artist’s work begin and end? Is it possible to be freelance but not free, exist as an artist but not making art? The characteristics of the artist as a precarious worker may include: longevity, resilience and survival.

– The ‘fine art education’ is also relevant to the artist’s identity. This may include the ways in which modes of practice are (or are not) engendered in the formal training ground. How does the perceived necessity of the artist’s personal and professional development match up with the training gained through a fine art education? The institutionalised creation of artists could also be seen as intrinsically connected to future art objects and art audiences.

– The ‘studio’ may act as a framework within which an artist carries out his or her work, whether in a literal form, or through awareness of its legacy and the alternative modes of working which take its place. The literal, rented (or owned) studio can act both as an aid and a hindrance to a sustainable practice: a space for productivity, or a financial and impeding burden. In a broader sense, by legitimating and reinforcing the artist identity, the studio may foster community relations, provide support networks, and support personal development. How does the studio adapt to, support or hinder the artist identity?

– We also invite proposals that examine how the collective and external perceptions of what it means to be an artist become part of an artist’s identity. It is suggested that artistic identity might be learned though ‘myth, stereotypes and ready-made narratives’, that view the artist as a creative genius and a temperamental individual, free from the constraints of society and detached from commercial considerations. How do these notions compare with the reality of being an artist?

‘Career development’ may also be regarded as an interconnected facet of the artist’s self. We welcome proposals that consider how artistic identity may be formed, maintained and managed throughout an artist’s career. What are the external socio-economic factors that contribute to this development? How do public and private policies and practices influence an artist’s sense of self? What are the effects of these factors upon an artist’s career?

Submissions that relate to (but are not necessarily fixed to) any of the above described themes are welcome. We acknowledge that these are not exhaustive so we look forward to receiving papers that focus on the subject of the artist identity.

An abstract of no more than 250 words (excluding any references) and a short bio of 50 words should be emailed as a single Word document by March 19, 2015 to Please include the full name of the author(s) with current affiliation and contact details. 

The conference is being organised on a limited budget and we have focused on accommodating as many participants as possible while keeping participation and registration free. Sadly we do not have the resources to fund or subsidise travel and other expenses of the participants, but there will be refreshments during breaks and a drinks reception in the evening. Spaces will be limited so please indicate your intention to attend, even if you are not submitting a paper.

For more information on the symposium, its organisers and updates on our activity, you can visit the website.

Summary of important dates:
Submission Deadline: March 19, 2015
Decisions on submissions: April 9, 2015
Symposium Date: TBC mid May 2015

If you have any questions regarding your submission please contact: