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Photos of the speaker and the cover of his book

The Contemporary Art Novel: Narrating Creativity after/against Creative Capitalism 

Carlos Garrido Castellano, PhD, Remote Guest Lecture

December 8, 2023
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. PST
YouTube LiveStream

Free & Open to the Public!

This talk examines contemporary literature concerned with creative practices and economies at a planetary level. Its main argument is that literature and artistic creativity are advancing modes of creative care and solidarity that go beyond creative capitalism. The term “contemporary art novel” attempts to capture a significant transformation within literary narratives on art’s social role (on the ways in which we make sense of ourselves by making sense of creativity) at a time when processes of neoliberalization have blurred the distance between art and life. 

During the 19th century, the artist novel or Künstlerroman emerged as a central literary genre that resourced to artistic creativity to address and normalize understandings of creative autonomy, individualization and social reproduction that had the figure of the creative genius at its core. Despite its emphasis on an exceptional individual, the artist novel should be seen as a mechanism of socialization: simultaneously speculative and conservative, this genre established a connection between systems of artistic value and social patterns and hierarchies that determined how a life worth being told and lived should be.

Engaging with examples from Africa, Asia and the Americas, this talk expands and complicates the relationship between the artist novel genre and broader contemporary processes and techniques of social reproduction, including, but not limited to self-curation, ranking anxieties, ideologies of the entrepreneurial self and unbounded emphasis on productivity linked to originality and flexibility. The main argument advanced is that the contemporary art novel is becoming a contested site where diverse understandings of cultural creativity are advanced and alternative (art) worlds designed. Rather than assuming that there is a correlation between the task of making sense of artistic creativity and accepting normalized understandings of the creative industries, recent fiction engaging with artistic processes is challenging and moving forward from artistic and creative capitalism.

Carlos Garrido Castellano is Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer at University College Cork, where he coordinates a BA programme on Portuguese Studies. He is also Associate Researched at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), University of Johannesburg. He is the author of Beyond Representation in Contemporary Caribbean Art (Rutgers University Press, 2019), Art Activism for an Anticolonial Future (SUNY Press, 2021) and Literary Fictions of the Contemporary Art System (Routledge, 2023), as well as of two other monographs in Spanish and one in Portuguese. He is also Principal Investigator of the IRC Laureate Consolidator Project “Assessing the Contemporary Art Novel in Spanish and Portuguese: Cultural Labour, Personal Identification and the Materialisation of Alternative Art Worlds” ARTFICTIONS, which will run from September 2023 to September 2027.