High/Low: Culture, Class, Technology: March 31-April 1, 2000
Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I'd like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show
-"Andy Warhol," Hunky Dory, David Bowie (1971)
Is there a fundamental gap between high and low culture? Who decides which works, practices, activities, technologies, etc., are high and which are low? Is today's low destined to become tomorrow's high? Low culture is characterized as the "popular" or unofficial culture-that which society's arbiters of taste despise, cultural pages of newspapers ignore and senators deign to debate. However, this culture overwhelms quantitatively the high culture, the "serious" culture which textbooks and historical presentations uphold as our "cultural heritage." High culture receives money from national departments of cultural affairs; its originators sit in academies and societies and are awarded with stipends and Nobel Prizes. Although a minority, high culture is important, as it is associated with the group that by its cultural position wields power over official taste. The guardians of the spiritual and moral high ground seek to protect youth from what is perceived to be the threat from the low. When debates arise, the line between high and low is shifted, but nonetheless continues to exist even though there are signs that it is becoming less entrenched because of the rapidity of cultural changes taking place within our postmodern, media frantic society.
Our focus for this conference will range over questions of culture, class and technology. Your proposal should fall generally under one of these topic areas. Because these categories often overlap, we encourage the transgression of their borders.
CULTURE-topics might include the cultural need for stories, avant-garde, celebrity, parody and irony, cartoons, MTV, opera, "high" style, zines, sampling, originality, museums, censorship, arts funding, Oprah, TV as "wasteland," exploitation and cult films, boy bands, rap, history and gossip.
CLASS-topics might include the haves and have-nots, consumerism and advertising, academia, the canon, decadence, decorum, ceremonial art, caricature, adolescence, urban wear, Versace, vogue, white trash, subcultures, Marx, perversity, nouveau riche, family.
TECHNOLOGY-topics might include hypertexts, www/internet, warfare, communication, transportation, exploration, new modes of evangelism, video games, electricity, e-mail, listservs, McLuhan, gender and the body, restorative medicine, plastic surgery, eternal life, genetic mapping.