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Controversy, Art and Power

CMCI’s Dr Richard Howells has just returned from the Unites States where he had been invited to give a public lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Richard argued that controversies in the arts are rarely only about the arts. While he agreed that some controversies are deliberately created for publicity and commercial reasons, he stressed the greater importance of the power dynamic in both the making and the understanding of controversy. Case studies ranged from punk rock to theatre and the fine arts, with special attention to the “Sensation” exhibition of Young British Artists which caused so much controversy in both London and New York.

His lecture, “Controversy, Art, and Power” will now become the lead chapter in a forthcoming book by the Center for the Arts in Society, which is based at Carnegie Mellon.

While in America, Richard also conducted archive research at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, led a Modern British History seminar at the University of Pittsburgh and was a guest at an induction ceremony of Phi Kappa Phi, the American academic honour society. Richard, a former Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carnegie Mellon, is currently on sabbatical from CMCI.

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