call for papers – summer 2013

Cars, Crashes, and Culture

One key interest for the Popmodernism study circle is to find material that can broaden our perspectives. As one part of the summer-session we want to focus on some works (“artworks,” expressions of “popular culture”) that can be approached from the framework so far established in the study-circle’s workings, works that are, perhaps, themselves examples of “popmodernism.”

During conversations in the previous two meetings we have decided upon three works: J. G. Ballard’s Crash (1973), David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), and David Bowie’s Low (1977), which includes the track “Always Crashing in the Same Car.” The three works are thus bound together, on a perhaps superficial level, by the topics of cars and crashes. Several dimensions, however, are possible to expand upon in the seminar. Firstly, different media are presented – literature, film, and music. Secondly, all auteurs – Ballard, Cronenberg, and Bowie – relates both to popular culture and to so-called “high art.” The possible inter-mediality arrived at by trying to grasp these three works together should also make possible some interesting discussions about whether or not there is a media-specificity within what we term “popmodernism.” That said there are leaky boundaries between these three works, when it comes to media. Cronenberg’s Crash is an adaptation of Ballard’s novel, thus opening up for questions about adaptation and transformations with “the same” material. Bowie’s Low, on the other hand, contains material he worked on as a possible soundtrack for Nicolas Roeg’s movie The Man Who Fell to Earth (from 1976), in which Bowie plays the main role. Here the relation between music and film is one strand, the relation to science fiction another. Related to Bowie’s album, where some would see it “simply” as a pop-music album, it is of interest that there are many relations to the compositional practices known as “Minimalism” (with Philip Glass and Steve Reich as the arguably most important representatives). Minimalism too might be seen as relating both to “art” and “pop culture” as Robert Fink makes clear in comparing Glass and Donna Summer in his book Repeating Ourselves.

These three works will be important and we would appreciate abstracts relating to them in one way or another. We plan to have a workshop session during the seminar, where the three works are up for discussion after short introductory statements from participants. That way the project is for a collective exploration of possible themes binding them together.

In addition to the three works, however, different continuations or expansions are highly welcome. That might be other works of the same authors/filmmakers/musicians – Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012) comes to mind, as does Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (1970); it might be other works with similar themes (road-movies; transportation and traffic; accidents) – Andy Warhol is an obvious case, but others are welcomed too –; it may be works extending some of the topics/themes of the works – such as Philip Glass’s symphonic adaptation of Low, Low Symphony (from 1992); It might also be other artist working similarly with elements from both popular culture and high art, thus approaching the general project description of the study circle.

Finally papers might deal with themes related to the project description of the study-circle, taking the discussion of popmodernism further in other directions than the thematic dimension described above.

Send title and abstract (300 words) to the coordinators by 01.05.2013.

The summer seminar takes place July 29 to August 5. For participation in the summer seminar it is mandatory that you also register for the Nordic Summer University’s summer-session; see the NSU website.


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