States of Flux

Led by Roddy Hawkins, this research group has been established to share and advance knowledge of 'the contemporary' in music, art and culture produced since the onset of neoliberalism in the 1970s.

The history of the last half century is one of rapid change the very phrase 'a state of flux' has become a journalistic shorthand used to capture all manner of things that result from actual or perceived societal, political and ecological volatility. But ‘states of flux’ also speaks to scholarly interests in the contemporary arts, to the medium and study of sound in particular, and as a characterisation of established paradigms, disciplines and approaches used both in general terms and specifically in relation to music, art, culture and society in the recent past.

In the increasingly unstable climate of the 21st century, there is a sense of urgency and struggle over the terrain of the contemporary. The destabilisation of our world, and our ideas about it, have exerted myriad influences on methodological and theoretical innovation in the study of art and culture. As the number and range of entanglements multiply – and the exploration of previously neglected or minor practices continues – established categories and hierarchies for 'mapping' the contemporary appear increasingly outdated.

This situation requires us not only to develop our understanding of the ways in which different states of flux manifest themselves in art and culture, but also to consider how best to engage, critique and communicate (to the outside world, in our teaching and to our research communities) when our own paradigms are themselves in flux.

The group asks what practitioners and scholars of music, art and culture – especially those involved in 'writing culture' – might address in turning their attention to flux and related phenomena. It aims to encompass all aspects of music, art and culture wherever the question of 'the contemporary', its ideological formations and its entanglements proves problematical and productive.

There are three initial strands of investigation:

  • Historiographies of the Contemporary
  • Contemporary Materials and Material Cultures
  • Consuming the Contemporary

A series of talks and workshops exploring these strands will commence in 2022–23.

The group’s next major event is in June 2021, when it will co-host the symposium 'Beyond the Avant-Garde? Rethinking the Vanguard in British Music since 1970'.