Tania Bruguera & Anri Sala [2005] Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School), Havana, Cuba.

[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB

Bishop: Pedagogical Projects

Monday, 24 July 2017, 19:00–21:00
Guest Projects, 1 Andrews Road, London E8 4QL
Nearest Stations: Bethnal Green / Hoxton
Chaired by Renata Minoldo
Free, please book your place

A special edition of the book club at School of The Damned‘s Common Room, a week-long public programme of free educational workshops, talks and participatory events at Guest Projects (22-29 July 2017). We will be reading an essay on pedagogical partcipatory art projects from Claire Bishop’s book Artifical Hells (2012). This discussion will be chaired by Renata Minoldo from School of the Damned.

DOWNLOAD Claire Bishop (2012). Pedagogical Projects: How do you bring a classroom to life as if it were a work of art? In Artificial Hells, Participatory Art and Politics Spectatorship. London: Verso, pp. 241-274.

Tania Bruguera & Anri Sala [2005] Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School), Havana, Cuba.
Tania Bruguera & Anri Sala [2005] Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School), Havana, Cuba.
Artificial Hells, by Claire Bishop is a compendium of Participatory Art as a quite recent contemporary practice. It goes through the history of this medium and analyses from a critical and historical perspective its methodologies, processes and structures. In chapter 9 particularly, titled How do you bring a classroom to life as if it were a work of art? she focuses her attention to the most recent Participatory Projects and their main or more iconic examples, questioning the term participation as well and analysing the concept of art education in relation with participatory art, pedagogy and academic capitalism.

As I am currently member of an alternative art school, part of my interests have been focusing more and more into topics related with pedagogy, communities, education, participatory art and so does part of my practice.

Questions
How to give value to what is invisible, as the processes occurring on participatory art projects?
What is the relationship between art, education and performance?
What does Foucault mean with his notion of Parrhesia? (citing Irit Rogoff art an education revolve around Foucault’s Pnrreshia or free blatant public speech)
What is the difference in between Humanities and Social Sciences?
What is considered to be an Adornian understanding of art, according to Bishop?
Guattari says that we are on the brink of a new paradigm in which art is no longer beholden to capital. In this ethico-aesthetic paradigm, art should claim a key position of transversality with respect to other universes of value. Transversality for Guattari, denotes a militant, social, undisciplined creativity. Could we expand this concept of transversality according to Guattari?
What is to be considered as Pedagogical Aesthetics?
Bishop makes reference, in more than one occasion about Marxist and Post Marxist writing, Could you recommend bibliography to start approaching Marx for a beginner? And some introduction to Political Philosophy?

Renata Minoldo is an Argentinian based in Hackney, London. She has a BA in Fashion Design and studied Fine Arts at Uni and through going to museums and galleries, doing workshops, talking with friends, practising self education and doing crits. Her background involves visual arts and clothing. She has international working experience as a costume designer including London, New York and Buenos Aires. As a teaching artist she has facilitated art and clothing workshops for adults and children. She is also member of School of the Damned Class 2018 and is currently exploring alternative learning and teaching methods involving interdisciplinary practices.

Suggested further reading

Bourriaud, Nicolas (2002/1998). Relational aesthetics. Trans. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods, Mathieu Copeland. Dijon: Les presses du reel.

Freire, Paulo (2005/1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Guattari, Felix (1992). Chaosmosis: An Ethno-aesthetic Paradigm. Trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Plant, Sadie (1992). The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age. London: Routledge.

Rancière, Jacques (1991). The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Trans. & Intro. Kristin Ross. Redwood: Stanford University Press.

Kedziorek, Aleksandra and Lukasz Ronduda (2014). Oskar Hansen-opening Modernism: On Open Form Architecture, Art and Didactics (Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw – Museum Under Construction). Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art.

Zmijewski, Artur and Oskar Hansen (2013). Open Form Film, Space, Interaction, and the Tradition of Oskar Hansen. New York: Sternberg Press.

Monthly free and open-access reading group for artists, researchers and anyone interested in the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone can propose a text and chair the reading group. Participants are requested to book a place and download the shared document. Please scroll down for more information and an archive of previous events.

Please register to book your place
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Free & open access

The reading group is free and open to everyone who wants to join as long as they commit to the reading. Please register and arrive early, doors will close when we reach maximum capacity. Don’t forget to download the shared document and bring a hard-copy to the book club. Please consider leaving a small donation to cover our expenses and keep us going. Alternatively, you can donate via this link.

Discussion & decision-making

Texts are selected by group consensus on the basis that they reflect on the relationship between practice and theory. This includes a broad variety of texts, from philosophy to politics and aesthetics to science fiction – there is no limitation.

Chairing the book club

[SYMPOSIUM] is a supportive community of peers who discuss and unpack their research interests. All participants have the opportunity to chair the book club on a text of their choice. If you would like to chair the reading group, you can start preparing right now:

[1] Decide on a text that you want to discuss.

[2] Do some background research and write a short introduction to provide some context, from your own perspective. When was it written? Why was it written? Who wrote it? Was it a response to something else? Why are you interested in the text? How does it relate to, or inform, your practice or your research?

[3] Pace the reading. How long is the text? If it is short, can we discuss the entire text in a 2-hour book club? If the text is long you may need to divide it up between two or more sessions.

[4] Write down some questions that you would like to bring to the discussion. Suggest some further reading and an image or two, with captions.

[5] Download the infosheet and follow the directions to send us your proposal.


[SYMPOSIUM] ARCHIVE

 

#01 Kant: What is Enlightenment?▾

Friday, 13 November 2015, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

The reading for our first meeting on 13 November 2015 is a journal article published in 1784 by Immanuel Kant, titled An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? This short article addresses the topics of autonomy and critique, founding concepts of the Enlightenment, which continue to shape our understanding of individual freedom and the role of art in society. Please read the text and bring it with you to the meeting, along with your questions or comments.

DOWNLOAD: Kant, Immanuel (1784). An Answer to the Question What Is Enlightenment? Berlinische Monatsschrift. Dec 1784, pp. 481-494.

What, then, is this event that is called the Aufklärung [Enlightenment] and that has determined, at least in part, what we are, what we think, and what we do today? (Foucault, Michel (1984). What is Enlightenment? In The Foucault Reader, Paul Rabinow ed. New York: Pantheon, pp. 32-50)

First page of An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatsschrift. Dec 1784, pp. 481-494.
First page of An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatsschrift. Dec 1784, pp. 481-494.

Kant’s article An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? was published in Berlinische Monatsschrift (an Enlightenment journal) in December 1784. It was one of many responses to a question in an article the previous year by Johann Friedrich Zollner. Zollner railed against the institution of civil marriage, an idea suggested in an earlier article by the journal’s editor Johann Erich Biester (September 1782). Biester claimed that associating marriage with religion was contrary to Enlightenment ideals. Zollner argued that marriage required the stability that only religion could provide. The very foundations of morality were being shaken, Zollner wrote, and cautioned against “confusing the hearts and minds of the people in the name of Enlightenment” (Steve Naragon and JF Zollner quoted in Kant, Immanuel (2013/1784). Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung? Trans and notes Daniel Fidel Ferrer. Creative Commons General Public License Attribution, Non-Commercial, version 3.0).

Suggested further reading

Foucault, Michel (1984). What is Enlightenment? In The Foucault Reader, Paul Rabinow ed. New York: Pantheon, pp. 32-50.

Foucault, Michel (2007/1979). What is Critique? In The Politics of Truth, intro John Rajchman, Sylvere Lotringer ed. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), pp. 41-81.

Butler, Judith (2002). What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue. In The Political, David Ingram ed. Boston: Blackwell, pp. 212–228.

Adorno, Theodor & Max Horkheimer (2002/1947). Dialectic of Enlightenment. Philosophical Fragments. Trans Edmund Jephcott, Gunzelin Schmid Noerr ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

#02 Abu-Lughod: Writing against Culture▾

Friday, 11 December 2015, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

We have selected Writing against Culture (1991) by Lila Abu-Lughod for our second reading led by OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury.

DOWNLOAD: Abu-Lughod, Lila (2006/1991). Writing against Culture. In Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology, Henrietta Moore and Todd Sanders ed. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 466–479.

This is an academic text on the pitfalls of anthropological methods of research and analysis, which often construct generalised and over-simplified assumptions based on cultural difference. Abu-Lughod proposed three different strategies of “writing against culture” to counter ethnographic accounts of the time, which presented culture as something that is static, discrete, homogeneous and coherent, ignoring the cross-over between societies, social and cultural change, subjectivity and everyday contradictions.

Suggested further reading

Clifford, James and George Marcus ed. (1986). Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. School of American Research Advanced Seminar. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

Foucault, Michel and Gilles Deleuze (1977). Intellectuals and Power. In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 205-217. PDF

Owens, Craig (1992). The Indignity of Speaking for Others: An Imaginary Interview. In Beyond Recognition, Berkley: University of California Press, pp. 259-262.

Owens, Craig (1983). The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism. In The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Seattle: Bay Press, pp. 57-82.

Omar Joseph Nasser Khoury [2011] Silk Thread Martyrs. Ccollection of 22 garments, each unique. Embroidered, fabric, coloured and dyed by hand using natural materials (indigo, tea).
Omar Joseph Nasser Khoury [2011] Silk Thread Martyrs. Ccollection of 22 garments, each unique. Embroidered, fabric, coloured and dyed by hand using natural materials (indigo, tea).
#03 Owens: The Discourse of Others▾

Friday, 8 January 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

Continuing with the themes of feminism and the other from last month, we are reading Craig Owens’ The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism (1983). Owens explores the intersection of the feminist critique of patriarchy and the postmodernist critique of representation, in search for a way to conceive difference without opposition. His starting point is a definition postmodernism as a crisis of the cultural hegemony of the west. For Owens, postmodern cultural production is characterised by pluralism and indifference, with consequences for our sense of cultural identity. He considers the absence of discussions of sexual difference from postmodern texts alongside corresponding feminist and artistic critiques of representation. Led by Sophia Kosmaoglou

DOWNLOAD: Owens, Craig (1983). The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism. In The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Seattle: Bay Press, pp. 57-82.

Sherrie Levine [1980] Untitled (After Edward Weston). Gelatin silver print.
Sherrie Levine [1980] Untitled (After Edward Weston). Gelatin silver print.
Suggested further reading

Buchloh, Benjamin HD (1982). Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art. Artforum 21, no. 1 (September 1982), pp. 43–56.

Derrida, Jacques (1982). Sending: On Representation. Social Research Vol. 49, No. 2, Current French Philosophy (Summer 1982), pp. 294-326.

Crimp, Douglas (1982). Appropriating Appropriation. In Image Scavengers: Photography, Paula Marincola ed. Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 27-34.

Foster, Hal (1986). Subversive Signs. In Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics. Seattle: Bay Press, pp. 99-118.

Mulvey, Laura (1999/1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen eds. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 833-844.

Owens, Craig (1992/1980). Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism. In Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Berkeley & Oxford: University of California Press, pp. 52-69. October 12 (Spring 1980), pp. 67-86.

Rosler, Martha (1981). In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On documentary photography). In Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Essays 1975-2001. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 151-206.

Carl Sagan & Frank Drake [1972] Pioneer plaque. Two gold-anodized aluminium plaques placed aboard Pioneer 10 & Pioneer 11.
Carl Sagan & Frank Drake [1972] Pioneer plaque. Two gold-anodized aluminium plaques placed aboard Pioneer 10 & Pioneer 11.
#04 Barthes: The Death of the Author▾

Friday, 12 February 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture… a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. (Barthes, 1977, pp. 146, 148)

Considering the reader, context, authority and authenticity this session will focus on Barthes’s 1967 essay The Death of the Author: its influence on a contemporary understanding of cultural production and the role of the individual with in it. Chaired by Henrietta Ross.

DOWNLOAD: Barthes, Roland (1977). The Death of the Author. In Image Music Text, Trans. Stephen Heath. London: Fontana, pp. 142-148.

[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, flyer.

Suggested further reading

Barthes, Roland (1993). Authors and Writers. In A Barthes Reader, Susan Sontag ed. New York: Vintage, pp. 185-193.

Benjamin, Walter (1986/1934). Author as Producer. In Reflections. New York: Schocken, pp. 220-238.

Burke, Sean (1998). Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes. Edinburgh University Press.

Foucault, Michel (1977). What is an Author? Trans. Sherry Simon & Donald F. Bouchard. In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, Donald F. Bouchard ed. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, pp. 113-138.

Karshan, Thomas (2009). Deaths of the Authors. Frieze, Issue 125, September 2009.

Ranciere, Jacques (2007). The Emancipated Spectator. Artforum 45/7, March 2007, pp. 271-280.

Wuggenig, Ulf (2004). Burying the Death of the Author. Republicart.

#05 Latour: On Actor Network Theory▾

Friday, 11 March 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

The reading for March 2016 is an essay by Bruno Latour titled On Actor Network Theory (1990). This session will be chaired by Johanna Kwiat.

DOWNLOAD: Latour, Bruno (1996/1990). On Actor Network Theory: A few clarifications plus more than a few complications. Finn Olsen, Philosophia, Vol. 25, No. 3-4 (1996), pp. 47-64.

On Actor Network Theory is a spirited response to critics of Actor-Network Theory (ANT). Latour dispels misunderstandings about ANT, summarises its main premises and traces the consequences and stakes of this theory for our understanding of networks and semiotics. For Latour there is a radical incommensurability between the approach of ANT and the social sciences to the study of social systems. Sociology acknowledges the natural, social and semiotic character of human interaction but addresses these as separate categories. ANT proposes a methodology whereby investigators can unify these three categories by treating individual agents as natural, social and semiotic simultaneously, while at the same time contextualising them within inclusive networks that trace relationships between humans, animals, objects and signs.

ANT originates in the work of Michel Callon, Bruno Latour and John Law in the field of science and technology studies (STS), which explores the impact of society, politics and culture on scientific and technological development and vice versa. The first thing that the proponents of ANT like to point out is that it is not a theory, because it is descriptive rather than explicatory. Latour and Law describe it as a set of tools and methods used to describe the relationships between heterogeneous actors: humans, animals, objects and signs that generate networks of relationships.

Actor network theory is a disparate family of material-semiotic tools, sensibilities and methods of analysis that treat everything in the social and natural worlds as a continuously generated effect of the webs of relations within which they are located. It assumes that nothing has reality or form outside the enactment of those relations. Its studies explore and characterise the webs and the practices that carry them. Like other material-semiotic approaches, the actor-network approach thus describes the enactment of materially and discursively heterogeneous relations that produce and reshuffle all kinds of actors including objects, subjects, human beings, machines, animals, ‘nature’, ideas, organisations, inequalities, scale and sizes, and geographical arrangements. (Law, John (2008). Actor-network theory and material semiotics. In The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory 3rd ed., Bryan S. Turner ed. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 141)

The second thing that supporters of ANT like to point out is that it does not involve actors – because this implies human actors. They prefer to use the word actants. In fact, Latour says that “actant-rhyzome ontology” would be a more appropriate term (Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 9).

Lloyd, John Uri & Curtis Gates Lloyd [1884] Plate XXIII. A fresh rhizome of Cimicifuga racemosa. In Drugs and Medicines of North America. Cincinnati: Lloyd & Lloyd.
Lloyd, John Uri & Curtis Gates Lloyd [1884] Plate XXIII. A fresh rhizome of Cimicifuga racemosa. In Drugs and Medicines of North America. Cincinnati: Lloyd & Lloyd.
Suggested further reading

Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Latour, Bruno (2005). From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public. In Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel eds. Cambridge: MIT Press/ZKM Karlsruhe.

Latour, Bruno (1993). We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Law, John (2008). Actor-network theory and material semiotics. In The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory 3rd ed., Bryan S. Turner ed. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 141–158.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2004/1980). Introduction: Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. New York: Continuum, pp. 3-28.

DeLanda, Manuel (1992). Nonorganic Life. In Incorporations, Jonathan Crary & Sanford Kwinter ed. New York: Zone Books, pp. 128-167.

Serres, Michel (1982). Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kuhn, Thomas (1970/1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.

Eco, Umberto (1984). The Encyclopedia as Labyrinth. In Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. London: Macmillan, pp. 80-83.

#06 Duchamp: The Creative Act▾

Friday, 8 April 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

In April we are reading Marcel Duchamp’s The Creative Act, a paper he presented in April 1957 at a session of the American Federation of Arts in Houston, Texas. Listen to a recording of this talk at UbuWeb. The discussion will be chaired by F. D. and Penelope Kupfer will contribute in the role of respondent.

DOWNLOAD: Duchamp, Marcel (1957). The Creative Act. Published in The New Art, Gregory Battock ed. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc. pp. 23-26.

Marcel Duchamp [1942] Behind Mile of String. First Papers of Surrealism, New York. Photo by Arnold Newman.
Marcel Duchamp [1942] Behind Mile of String. First Papers of Surrealism, New York. Photo by Arnold Newman.
Suggested further reading

De Duve, Thierry (1990). Authorship Stripped Bare, Even. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics No. 19/20 (1990/1991), pp. 234-241.

Eliot, TS (1921). Tradition and the Individual Talent. In The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Online version

Haladyn, Julian Jason (2015). On ‘The Creative Act’. Toutfait, 1 Apr 2015.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Ranciere, Jacques (2009). The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.

Sontag, Susan (1961). Against Interpretation. In Against Interpretation and Other Essays, New York: Dell, pp. 3-14.

Koestler, Arthur (1975). The Act of Creation. London: Picador.

#07 Sewell: Tate Triennial III▾

Friday, 13 May 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

In May we will be reading a review of Tate Triennial 3 (2006) by Brian Sewell. This session will be chaired by Richard Lloyd-Jones.

DOWNLOAD: Sewell, Brian (2012/2006). Tate Triennial III. In Naked Emperors: Criticisms of English Contemporary Art. London: Quartet Books, pp. 101-105. Originally published Evening Standard March 10, 2006.

Raoul Hausmann [1919-20] The Art Critic. Lithograph and photographic collage on paper, 318 x 254mm.
Raoul Hausmann [1919-20] The Art Critic. Lithograph and photographic collage on paper, 318 x 254mm.

Brian Sewell recently died, aged 84 and until the last year of his life he wrote a weekly column in the Evening Standard. He was famous for his trenchant views on the art world and he was often very amusing. But – is a popular critique of art and exhibitions worth anything? Can such articles only amuse the reader and advertise popular exhibitions or do they have validity in contextualising the historical importance of the art? BS was at the epicentre of the debates about ‘public art’. He felt that the value of real artistic achievement was undermined by the development of ‘popular’ exhibitions, in particular at the Tate Galleries dominated by Sir Nicholas Serota and his acolytes, which Sewell called ‘the Serota Tendency’. Should national institutions aim solely at improving the quality of works in the collection or should they aim to reflect the art world today and popularise galleries with cafes shops and ‘outreach’ programmes? Did his scholarship give him the right to condemn some modern art – in particular conceptual art? Did his avowed prejudices, in particular his misogyny, invalidate his views on art in general? Is the new breed of curator becoming more influential than the academic?

#08 Rancière: Problems & Transformati…▾

Friday, 10 June 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, fully booked

For June we have selected Jacques Rancière’s essay Problems and Transformations of Critical Art. This discussion will be chaired by Stephen Bennett.

DOWNLOAD: Rancière, Jacques (2009/2004). Problems and Transformations of Critical Art. In Aesthetics and Its Discontents. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 45-60.

This event is part of Antiuniversity Now festival
9-12 June 2016
www.antiuniversity.org

Juno Ludovisi plaster cast. Junozimmer, Goethe Haus, Weimar. Photo NFG Library and KG Beyer, Weimar 1975, plate 8.
Juno Ludovisi plaster cast. Junozimmer, Goethe Haus, Weimar. Photo NFG Library and KG Beyer, Weimar 1975, plate 8.

If politics consists of distributing the sensible, then politics for Jacques Rancière turns out to have its own specific aesthetics. Likewise, aesthetics has its own specific politics. The problem of art for Rancière is not the clash between art and politics, but the clash between the politics internal to art’s own conditions of existence (its autonomy). Following Peter Bürger, Rancière describes this as a tension between formalist art (art’s withdrawal from the social) and political art (art’s dissolution within the social). Borrowing Theodor Adorno’s idea of the necessary interplay between autonomy and heteronomy in art, Rancière suggests that to be critical, art must negotiate between art and non-art. Hence, critical art “plays on the union and tension of different aesthetic politics… crossing the border between the world of art and the prosaic world of the commodity”. Following Walter Benjamin, Rancière proposes the collage as such a “third way”. In the second part of the essay, Ranciere elaborates on four different forms of heterogeneity in contemporary art: the game, the inventory, the encounter and the mystery. What are the consequences of this thesis for contemporary art practice? How does it re-frame traditional accounts of the transition from modernism to postmodernism? Why has Rancière been the most popular philosopher in the art world since Jean Baudrillard?

[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB #8 Rancière: Problems & Transformations of Critical Art, Friday 10 June 2016, 6:00-8:30pm.

Suggested further reading

Adorno, Theodor (2002/1970). Aesthetic Theory. Trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor. London: Continuum.

Benjamin, Walter (1969/1934). The Author as Producer. In Reflections, New York: Schocken, pp. 220-238.

Buchloh, Benjamin H. D. (1990). Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions. October 55, Winter 1990. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 105-143.

Bürger, Peter (2007/1974). Theory of the Avant-Garde. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ranciere, Jacques (2004). Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London and New York: Continuum (includes a glossary of Ranciere’s terms in Appendix I, pp. 80-93).

#09 Groys: Under the Gaze of Theory▾

Friday, 8 July 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

In July we will be reading Boris Groys’ Under the Gaze of Theory (2012) on the uses and abuses of theory in art practice. This discussion will be chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou with Johanna Kwiat in the role of respondent.

DOWNLOAD: Groys, Boris (2012). Under the Gaze of Theory. E-flux Journal #35, May 2012.

[SYMPOSIUM] #9 flyer

Boris Groys argues that theory is an unpopular and therefore ineffective form of advertisement for art. Theory for Groys is useful as a tool for artists to “explain what they are doing… to themselves”, to understand “what art actually is, and what the artist is supposed to do”. He begins with the premise that philosophical contemplation is a critique of art, while critical theory is in turn a critique of contemplation. For Groys the “true goal of every theory is to define the field of action we are called to undertake”. If theory is a call to action, then it is an accessory to, a precondition and vindication of practice. According to Groys, theory “calls for action that would perform – and extend – the condition of theory itself”. He claims that theory is not only informative but transformative, in other words we “perform theory” (something he distinguishes from “theory as propaganda”). Groys addresses the absence of criteria for judging the success and failure in art, with conclusions about the value of art and its role in society, life and revolution.

Is there a difference between theory generated by an external authority and theory generated by artists themselves? Does theory come before action, as Groys suggests, or does it come after action, with hindsight? What role does theory play in the creation of discourses on art, and thereby on the way we understand art?

Paul Klee [1920] Angelus Novus. Oil transfer and watercolor on paper, 31.8 × 24.2 cm.
Paul Klee [1920] Angelus Novus. Oil transfer and watercolor on paper, 31.8 × 24.2 cm.
Suggested further reading

Kant, Immanuel (1996/1784). An Answer to the Question What Is Enlightenment? In Immanuel Kant, Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 17-22.

Barthes, Roland (1977). The Death of the Author. In Image Music Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. London: Fontana, pp. 142-148.

Benjamin, Walter (2003). Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-1940. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lacan, Jacques (1998/1973). Seminar XI. In The Four Fundamental Concepts Of Psycho-Analysis. Trans. Alan Sheridan, Jacques-Alain Miller ed. New York, London: Norton & Co.

Tarde, Gabriel de (1903). The Laws of Imitation. New York: H. Holt & Co.

Welsch, Wolfgang (1997). Undoing Aesthetics. Trans. Andrew Inkpin. London; Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

#10 Sontag: Against Interpretation▾

Friday, 9 September 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

In September we are reading Susan Sontag’s essay Against Interpretation. This discussion will be chaired by F. D.

DOWNLOAD: Sontag, Susan (1966). Against Interpretation. In Against Interpretation and Other Essays, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, pp. 3-14.

Last Year at Marienbad [1961] Dir. Alain Resnais. France-Italy, black & white, 94min.
Last Year at Marienbad [1961] Dir. Alain Resnais. France-Italy, black & white, 94min.

Against Interpretation is a collection of critical essays written by Susan Sontag and published in book form in the early sixties in New York. It was her first collection of essays on the arts and contemporary culture and included an essay of the same title. The essay Against Interpretation was written within the context of 60’s America, when conceptual art was in its heyday and “theory” was paramount, she was among the first critics to write about the intersection between “high” and “low” art forms, giving them equal value as valid topics.

She argues that even at a time when most artists and critics had discarded the representational theory of art in favour of the idea that art was more about subjective expression, the main feature of the mimetic theory of art, i.e. that a work of art was assumed to be its content or that a work of art “says something”, was still dominant. However she states that in the 60‘s the idea of content is a hindrance and a nuisance.

Asking how this situation had come about she gives a historical reason claiming that over time form has become separated from content. She also claims that the over emphasis on the content of a work of art comes about through excessive interpretation which itself is designed to illustrate certain codes or rules of interpretation e.g. a Freudian or a Marxist analysis would have a bias towards that particular theory and that this bias then changes or transforms the text accordingly . Instead she believes that the function of criticism should be to show ”how art is what it is and that it is what it is rather than to show what it means”.

1/What is meant by “form” and “content”? Can they be separated?
2/What does Sontag mean by “interpretation”? A/ historically B/ in the present day when she says that “interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art” (Para. 4 p. 7).
3/ Does she believe that the artist’s intention is a valid indicator in the interpretation of the work concerned?
4/What does she mean by a “flight from interpretation”? (Para. 7 p. 10).
5/Is the idea of content being a hindrance still relevant today?
6/What are her proposals for desirable criticism of the arts?
7/What does Sontag mean by “an erotics of art”? (Para. 10 p. 14).

Suggested further reading

Wolfe, Tom (1975). The Painted Word. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Foster, Hal (1986). Signs Taken for Wonders. Art in America 74/6, June 1986, pp. 80-89, 139.

Said, Edward (1984/1975). The Text, the World, the Critic. In The World, the Text and the Critic. London: Faber, pp. 31-53. Originally published in Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 8, No. 2, Autumn, 1975, pp. 1-23.

Bordwell, David (1989). Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema. Cambridge, MASS: Havard University Press.

Buchloh, Benjamin (1982). Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art. Artforum 21, no. 1, September 1982, pp. 43–56.

Owens, Craig (1992/1980). Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism. In Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Berkeley & Oxford: University of California Press, pp. 52-69. October 12, Spring 1980, pp. 67-86.

Bazin, Andre. (2004). What is Cinema? (Volumes 1 & 2). Berkley: University of California Press.

#11 Badiou: Art & Philosophy▾

Friday, 14 October 2016, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, fully booked

In October we’re reading Art & Philosophy, the first chapter of Alain Badiou’s Handbook of Inaesthetics, which links up with and extends our previous discussions of Jacques Ranciere, Boris Groys and Susan Sontag. This discussion will be chaired by Kerry W. Purcell.

DOWNLOAD: Badiou, Alain (2004). Art & Philosophy. In Handbook of Inaesthetics, trans. Alberto Toscano. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 1-15.

Alain Badiou and Kerry W. Purcell have lunch in 2015.
Alain Badiou and Kerry W. Purcell have lunch in 2015.

Kerry is doing a PhD at Birkbeck on the role of ‘history’ in the development of Badiou’s thought. He will focus on the specificities of the Artistic Event (as opposed to the other Badiouian events of Science, Love and Politics). By ‘specificities’, Kerry means the phenomenological experience of undergoing such an event. Some of the Badiouian questions that emerge from this are:

What constitutes an artistic Event?
What does it mean (phenomenologically) as a ‘subject’ to experience such an Event?
How do we think “change” within art history?
By their very nature of being something radically new, are all artistic Events “abstract” (this is one of Badiou’s contention)?
How do artists/historians name what (the early) Badiou termed ‘infinity points’ in the historical discourse of art?
What happens when an artist betrays the ‘revelation’ offered by an epistemological rupture?
Following Badiou, how do we think ‘truth’ within art?

Suggested further reading

Shaw, Devin Zane (2007). Inaesthetics and Truth: The Debate between Alain Badiou and Jacques Ranciere. Filozofski vestnik Vol 28/2, pp. 183–199.

Tutt, Daniel (2011). Art and Philosophy in Badiou’s Handbook Of Inaesthetics.

#12 Foster: Post-Critical?▾

Friday, 11 November 2016, 18:00 – 20:30
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Rail/Overground: New Cross Gate, Queens Road Peckham
Free, please book your place

In November we’re reading Post-Critical? from Hal Foster’s collection of essays Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency (2015). This discussion will be chaired by Dasha Loyko.

DOWNLOAD: Foster, Hal (2015). Post-Critical? In Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency. London: Verso.

Isa Genzken [1991] X-Ray. Gelatin silver print, 100 x 80 cm.
Isa Genzken [1991] X-Ray. Gelatin silver print, 100 x 80 cm.

Hal Foster is an American art critic and historian. His essay ‘Post-Critical?’, originally published as a short article in The Brooklyn Rail in 2012, has been extended and included in his 2015 book ‘Bad New Days’. It is a contemporary text which addresses some pressing issues in the field of art criticism. Foster starts off by historically assessing the negative change of attitude towards criticality, from the distrust of the elitist and out-of-touch critic to the need for affirmation in the post-9/11 age. He then goes on to assess the arguments proposed by Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere against criticism, which builds up on our previous discussions, and to raise contemporary social issues which call for a return of criticality.

Questions:
– What does Foster mean by his distinction of pluralism and relativism? p.1
– Is he right that the attack on pluralism as ‘derealising’ culture was based on a misunderstanding of pluralism? p.2
– Does he effectively destroy Latour’s and Ranciere’s arguments by accusing them of circularity? p.3-4
– Is he right that our desire for a more positive critic is based on fetishisation and animation of art? p.5
– What is antifetishist critique? p.6
– What does he mean when he says that participatory art is a compensation for the loss of critique? p.8
– What is the relationship between the public sphere, critique and citizenship? p.9

Suggested further reading:

Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010)

Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason, trans. Michael Eldred (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987)

Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformations of the Bourgeois Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989)

Michael Newman, “The Specificity of Criticism and Its Need for Philosophy”, in The State of Art Criticism (London: Routledge, 2007)

Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern”, Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004)

Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, trans. Steven Cochran (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009)

Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliott (London and New York: Verso, 2009)

#13 Foucault: The Four Similitudes▾

Friday, 9 December 2016, 18:00 – 20:30
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Rail/tube: City Thameslink, Blackfriars, St. Paul’s
Free, please book your place

In December we will be reading The Four Similitudes from The Order of Things by Michel Foucault (1970/1966). This discussion will be chaired by Penelope Kupfer.

DOWNLOAD: Foucault, Michel (1970/1966). The Four Similitudes. In The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Random House, pp. 17-25. Originally published in 1966 as Les Mots et les Choses [Words and Things] by Gallimard.

Penelope Kupfer [2015] Moth (detail). Ink on paper, 1654mm x 2054mm.
Penelope Kupfer [2015] Moth (detail). Ink on paper, 1654mm x 2054mm.

In The Order of Things, Foucault connects the history of knowledge with the analysis of language and questions about aesthetics. In his foreword he says that he aims the book to be read as a comparative study where he puts side by side, elements such as the knowledge of living beings, the knowledge of the laws of language, and the knowledge of economic facts. Especially in the essay The Four Similitudes, he analyses the way people in the 16th century understood the world through resemblance and defines four kinds set in a philosophical context.

To search for a meaning is to bring to light a resemblance. To search for the law governing signs is to discover the things that are alike. The grammar of beings is an exegesis of these things. And what the language they speak has to tell us is quite simply what the syntax is that binds them together. The nature of things, their coexistence, the way in which they are linked together and communicate is nothing other than their resemblance (Foucault, 1970, p. 29)

1. What is the difference between resemblance and representation?

2. Are we still relying on resemblance to understand the world (or parts of it) today?

3. Can the four similitudes be seen as pillars of knowledge in the 16th century?

Benjamin Prud'homme [2004] Diversity of wing pigment patterns in Drosophila.
Benjamin Prud’homme [2004] Diversity of wing pigment patterns in Drosophila.
#14 O’Sullivan: The Aesthetics of Affect▾

Friday, 13 January 2017, 18:00 – 20:30
Louise House, Dartmouth Rd, London SE23 3HZ
Rail/Overground: Forest Hill
Free, fully booked

In January 2017 we will be reading The Aesthetics of Affect by Simon O’Sullivan (2001). This discussion will be chaired by Katie Tysoe.

DOWNLOAD: O’Sullivan, Simon (2001). The Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking Art Beyond Representation. Angelaki, Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 125-135.

Wassily Kandinsky [1923] Circles in a Circle. Oil on canvas, 98.7 x 96.6 cm.
Wassily Kandinsky [1923] Circles in a Circle. Oil on canvas, 98.7 x 96.6 cm.

Simon O’Sullivan is a theorist working at the intersection of contemporary art practice, performance and continental philosophy. The text is one of his first discussions that addresses artistic practice within an emerging and growing field of affect theory – that is an interdisciplinary investigation into what makes up experience and subjectivity. He reignited the debate between materialism and idealism within philosophy, otherwise seen as the debate between matter and mind, and applied this critical debate to the realm of aesthetics. O’Sullivan addresses a philosophically materialist thinking of our connection to the world by way of critiquing representation and art historical narratives. For him, aesthetics holds certain value for how we experience art. By reassigning a function and value to art through affect, it can become a portal to the sensational and perceptive, which, for O’Sullivan acts as an ethical imperative for both our experience with art and the world in which we encounter it.

My own interest in the text stems from an fascination with the sonic arts and situating sonic practice within a wider artistic field. Recent texts (Seth Kim-Cohen, Barrett) have tried to theorise sound as beyond materiality within the arts in order to reinstall a conceptual theorisation of our experience as representational. This basis is formed through linguistic and textual narratives with an orientation of ideas over matter. However, as I would like to discuss, how can we explore art and thus our experience of it in a way that reimagines how we are being in the world? How is sound particularly effective at enabling this access?

– Does art have a specific function or use that makes it important? P125

– Does O’Sullivan effectively address the representational within art through his critique of Marxist and Deconstructive accounts of art history? P125-126

– How do ‘affects’ relate to our own experiences with an artwork or art practice? P126

– Is experience central to our encounter with a work of art? P126

– Is the art object no longer useful at explaining our relation to art within contemporary practice? Should art be considered more like an ‘event’ or ‘zone’? p127

– Why is the production of subjectivity important for O’Sullivan? P128

– By restoring aesthetics and therefore affects to art, does O’Sullivan present an ethical dimension through his recourse to subjectivity? P129

– Can art enable us to reimagine our place and connection to the world? Is O’Sullivan theorizing art in a way that it bears a lot of responsibility? P129-130

#15 Marx: Fetishism of the Commodity▾

Friday, 10 February 2017, 18:00 – 20:30
Wimbledon Art Studios, 10 Riverside Rd, London SW17 0BB
Rail/Underground: Earlsfield, Tooting Broadway
Free, please book your place

In February we’re reading The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret, from Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, first published 1867 in Hamburg. This discussion will be chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou.

DOWNLOAD: Marx, Karl (1976). The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Harmondsworth: Penguin & New Left Review, pp. 163-177.

“Fetishism” is about relations among people, rather than the objects that mediate and disguise those relations. (MacGaffey, 1994, pp. 130)

The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret is the fourth and final section of the first chapter on The Commodity, the keystone of Marx’s critique of the capitalist mode of production. The section on commodity fetishism provides a way to think about the commodity status of art and the concept of reification more broadly.

Piero Manzoni [1961] Artist's Shit (Merda d'artista). 90 tin cans, each filled with 30 grams faeces, 4.8 x 6.5 cm.
Piero Manzoni [1961] Artist’s Shit (Merda d’artista). 90 tin cans, each filled with 30 grams faeces, 4.8 x 6.5 cm.

A fetish is a man-made object that has been invested with certain properties and power. The object is thus perceived to be animated with power and influence. In fact, these properties have been transferred to the object by humans (producers or users), who lose their own power in the process. Marx uses the metaphor of the fetish to demonstrate that humans misperceive the social relations between people in their labour as ‘material relations between persons and social relations between things’ (Marx, 1976, p. 166).

The concept of commodity fetishism can therefore be applied to other forms of reification, where abstract concepts are objectified in physical things that are considered to have intrinsic value.

The savages of Cuba regarded gold as a fetish of the Spaniards. They celebrated a feast in its honour, sang in a circle around it and then threw it into the sea… in order to save the human beings (Marx, 1975/1842, pp. 262-263)

Nkonde. Yombe people, Lower Zaire. Wood, nails, wooden spear and fabric. Height 97cm. Musee Barbier-Mueller, Geneva.
Nkonde. Yombe people, Lower Zaire. Wood, nails, wooden spear and fabric. Height 97cm. Musee Barbier-Mueller, Geneva.

Marx was well acquainted with the fetish since the early 1840s and had written about it on numerous occasions as he developed the ideas that would later be published in Capital.

Fetishism is so far from raising man above his sensuous desires that, on the contrary, it is “the religion of sensuous desire”. Fantasy arising from desire deceives the fetish-worshipper into believing that an “inanimate object” will give up its natural character in order to comply with his desires. Hence the crude desire of the fetish-worshipper smashes the fetish when it ceases to be its most obedient servant. (Marx, 1975/1842, p. 189)

The word “fetish” dates back to the 16th century and according to William Pietz, the fetish “could originate only in conjunction with the emergent articulation of the ideology of the commodity form”, defining itself “within and against the social values and religious ideologies of two radically different types of noncapitalist society, as they encountered each other in an ongoing cross-cultural situation” (Pietz, 1985, p. 7). In fact the nails hammered into N’kondi power figures (or nail fetishes) in the Kongo were often mass produced in the west.

Fetish market in Lomé, Togo. Photo by Torsten Lenk, 2012.
Fetish market in Lomé, Togo. Photo by Torsten Lenk, 2012.

The fetish is supremely phoney – and quintessentially too, according to the etymology of the word, coined in Portuguese from feitiço, meaning ‘artificial’. (Nancy, 2004, p. 142)

What is the secret of the commodity?
What is a commodity?
How do we judge the value of a commodity?
What is value? Where does it come from?
Is art a commodity?
How do we judge the value of art?
Does an artwork have intrinsic value? Do commodities?
How does Marx’s concept of value relate to the way we value art?

Suggested further reading

Baudrillard, Jean (1981). For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. Trans & intro Charles Levin. St. Louis, MO: Telos Press.

Beech, Dave (2015). Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics. Boston MA: Brill.

Debord, Guy (1994/1967). Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books.

Derrida, Jacques (1994). Spectres of Marx. London: Routlege.

Diederichsen, Diedrich (2008). On (Surplus) Value in Art. Berlin, Rotterdam: Sternberg Press and Witte de With.

Fried, Michael (1998). Art and Objecthood. In Art and Objecthood. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 148-172.

Groys, Boris (2010). Marx After Duchamp, or The Artist’s Two Bodies. e-flux journal #19 10/2010.

Jorn, Asger (2002/1959). Value and Economy. In The Natural Order and Other Texts, trans. Peter Shield. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 119-217.

MacGaffey, Wyatt (1994). African objects and the idea of fetish. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics No. 25 (Spring 1994), pp. 123-131.

Martin, Stewart (2007). The Absolute Artwork Meets the Absolute Commodity. Radical Philosophy, 146 (Nov/Dec 2007), pp. 15-25.

Marx, Karl (1975/1842). The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 1. London: Lawrence and Wishart, pp. 184-202.

Marx, Karl (1975/1842). Debates on the Law on Thefts of Wood. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 1. London: Lawrence and Wishart, pp. 224-263.

Marx, Karl (1904/1859). A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Trans. Nahum I. Stone. London: International Library.

Marx, Karl (1976/1867). The Commodity. In Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books and New Left Review, pp. 125-177.

Nancy, Jean-Luc (2004). The Two Secrets of the Fetish. Journal of Visual Art Practice, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2004, pp. 139-147.

Pietz, William (1985). The Problem of the Fetish, I. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics No. 9 (Spring 1985), pp. 5-17.

Pietz, William (1993). Fetishism and Materialism: the Limits of Theory in Marx. In Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, Emily Apter and William Pietz eds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 119-151.

Sholette, Gregory (2011). Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. London: Pluto Press.

Zimmerman, Dan (2012). Art as an Autonomous Commodity within the Global Market. Art & Education, May 3, 2012.

#16 Deleuze & Guattari: Rhizome▾

Friday, 10 March 2017, 18:00 – 20:30
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Rail/tube: City Thameslink, Blackfriars, St. Paul’s
Free, fully booked

In March we’re reading Rhizome, the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980) by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Rhizome was first published in 1976 by Éditions de Minuit. This discussion will be chaired by Katie Tysoe and Sophia Kosmaoglou.

DOWNLOAD: Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2004/1980). Rhizome. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. New York: Continuum, pp. 3-28.

Sylvano Bussoti [1980] XIV piano piece for David Tudor 4. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. New York: Continuum, p.3.
Sylvano Bussoti [1980] XIV piano piece for David Tudor 4. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. New York: Continuum, p.3.

With rhizome, Deleuze and Guattari propose a theory of knowledge that privileges connectivity, heterogeneity and multiplicity. The rhizome is a centreless network, where every node connects with every other in a subterranean and horizontal fashion, allowing multiple, non-hierarchical entry points. Deleuze and Guattari compare the rhizome with it’s opposite; the binary, vertical, linear and hierarchical model of knowledge represented by the tree (tree of life, tree of knowledge). The rhizome, on the other hand “ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004/1980, p. 7).

Richard Giblett [2008] Mycelium Rhizome. Graphite on paper, 120 x 240 cm.
Richard Giblett [2008] Mycelium Rhizome. Graphite on paper, 120 x 240 cm.

Rhizome fulfills its introductory role by demonstrating that A Thousand Plateaus does not work like most other books. For example, it doesn’t have to be read from start to end, you can start in the middle.

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004/1980, p. 25)

Why do artists have a affinity with Deleuze and Guattari, and particularly with this book?

Haeckel, Ernst (1866). General Morphology of the Organisms. Berlin Reimer.
Haeckel, Ernst (1866). General Morphology of the Organisms. Berlin Reimer.
#17 Judd: Specific Objects▾

Friday, 21 April 2017, 18:00 – 20:30
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Rail/tube: City Thameslink, Blackfriars, St. Paul’s
Free, please book your place

In April we’re reading Specific Objects, a controversial essay by Donald Judd, originally published in 1965. This discussion will be chaired by Richard Burger. Please note that in April the book club is on the third Friday of the month (not on the second Friday as usual).

Claes Oldenburg [1964] Soft Light Switches. Vinyl filled with Dacron and canvas, 119.4 x 119.4 x 9.1 cm.
Claes Oldenburg [1964] Soft Light Switches. Vinyl filled with Dacron and canvas, 119.4 x 119.4 x 9.1 cm.

DOWNLOAD: Judd, Donald (1965). Specific Objects. Originally published in Contemporary Sculpture: Arts Yearbook 8. Intro. William Seitz. New York: Art Digest, pp. 74–82. Reprinted in Judd, Donald (1975). Complete Writings 1959-1975. Nova Scotia: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design & New York: New York University Press, pp. 181–189. The download is a transcript via Art, Technology and Culture Colloquium, University of California, Berkeley.

Specific Objects is considered an important text by Donald Judd, wherein he describes the ‘new art’ produced in New York during the 1960s, and tries to distinguish it from ‘old’ painting or sculpture. He makes particular reference to new materials that had not until then been considered suitable for ’art’, and illustrates his point.

Judd is considered an icon of American art, for his practice, his writing and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, West Texas, where all the artists he admired have permanent installations that have made Marfa a required pilgrimage for art world participants in the USA. His influence can still be seen today in the institutions in the US as well as among artists, gallerists and curators.

This article is sometimes seen as a ‘manifesto’ for the minimalists. Others see it just as a list of artists that Judd likes. It is said that specific objects refer to art that is fabricated or manufactured and therefore an ‘object’. Is this what links the artists listed in the article?

Is it better to have an artist reviewing artists or do they tend to be biased towards other artists that reflect their own practice?

Judd’s writing tends to describe artwork in a very matter of fact practical way. Does this help our understanding of art?

To be an artist today do we all need a manifesto?

Donald Judd [1963] Untitled. Oil and plywood with iron pipe, 56.2 x 115.1 x 77.5 cm.
Donald Judd [1963] Untitled. Oil and plywood with iron pipe, 56.2 x 115.1 x 77.5 cm.
Suggested further reading

Donald Judd (1975). Complete writings 1959-1975. Halifax & New York: Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Robert Morris (1995/1966). Notes on Sculpture. In Minimal Art, Gregory Battock Ed. London: University of California Press, pp. 222-235. Originally published in Artforum, Part 1 (February 1966), Part 2 (October 1966), Part 3: Notes and Non Sequiturs (Summer 1967), Part 4: Beyond Objects (April 1969).

Judd Foundation. Objects.

Richard Shiff (2004). Judd through Oldenburg. Tate Papers No. 2, Autumn 2004.

#18 Virno: The Dismeasure of Art▾

Friday, 9 June 2017, 18:00 – 20:00
Tropics Café, Grow Elephant, New Kent Road, London SE17 1SL
Rail/tube: Elephant & Castle, Bus: 53, 63, 133, 155, 168, 171, 172,  196, 333, 363, 415, 453
Free, please book your place

In June we’re reading The Dismeasure of Art, an interview with Paolo Virno, originally published in 2009. This discussion will be chaired by Rubén Salgado Perez and will take place at Tropics Café, Grow Elephant in Elephant & Castle.

DOWNLOAD Sonja Lavaert & Pascal Gielen (2011/2009). The Dismeasure of Art: An interview with Paolo Virno. In Community Art: The Politics of Trespassing. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2011 . Originally published in Open! #17 A Precarious Existence, 1 Nov 2009. SKOR Foundation Art and Public Space, Amsterdam.

Club in Bologna called Kinki, photography courtesy of Graziella Ronchi for the exhibition Spaghetti Disco - Creare Spazio Alle Memorie 1975/85 at Red Gallery, London Oct 2016. ‘Spaghetti Disco’ was coproduced by Red Gallery/Kamio, and curated by London based Italian journalist Lorenzo Cibrario. The exhibition was supported by the printspace and GFsmiths.
Club in Bologna called Kinki, photography courtesy of Graziella Ronchi for the exhibition Spaghetti Disco – Creare Spazio Alle Memorie 1975/85 at Red Gallery, London Oct 2016. ‘Spaghetti Disco’ was coproduced by Red Gallery/Kamio, and curated by London based Italian journalist Lorenzo Cibrario. The exhibition was supported by the printspace and GFsmiths.

Paolo Virno, in The Dismeasure of Art (2009), an interview made by Sonja Lavaert and Pascal Gielen, addresses the concept of ‘common’ from the perspective of what he calls ‘the crisis of the unit of measure’. Virno thinks that the experience of avant-garde art is also “one of disproportion and of ‘excess’, of lack of moderation”. Avant-garde art is for him a clear sample of this disproportion rooted in the mass-production dynamic of Post-Fordism. With the avant-garde, art forms are showing new ways of feeling and living. The exploration of new forms in the avant-garde is like exploring a new public sphere with new standards to understand society.

Virno suggests that the common ground of society and art is about exploring new structures, new rules where the political and the aesthetic meet. He thinks that ‘general’ (or ‘common’) is a concept frequently confused with ‘universal’ in the fields of both art and philosophy. It would be very interesting to find out whether the common ground between art and politics could be understood here as a matter purely about form or whether it is also about content.

In this text, Virno explains on the one hand, how avant-garde art forms escape any proportional measure in the same way that the mass-production of goods in neo-capitalism. They both here have their own ungraspable grammar. On the other hand, the ‘common’ is not only something that occurs only “in between” two individuals but it is previous to the individual (as well). He asserts that the individual is a result of a movement that comes from the general under the jurisdiction of an ‘individuation principle’. The model for the ‘common’ that Paolo Virno uses is ‘language’, “which only exists within a community and that cannot exist apart from the community” (Virno, 2009:3). When language is the main tool for organizing, everything becomes aesthetic. The boundaries between aesthetics and policy are blurred because both are related with two forms of organization: the institutional and the police order.

This dismeasure is what Virno tries to explain when asserting that reality is aesthetic and everything is a matter of defining concepts. When language is dismeasure, what happens with communication? In a way, neo-capitalism, as any other form of domination in history, crystallises our possibility for autonomy. When a wrong is visible, it is because hierarchical structures cannot assume the task of addressing equality.

Gonzalo Borondo’s installation for the solo Exhibition ‘Animal’ at Gallery 50, Redchurch St., London, March 2015. ‘Animal’ was curated by Rom Levy, founder of RexRomae and co-curator Charlotte Dutoit from JustKids.
Gonzalo Borondo’s installation for the solo Exhibition ‘Animal’ at Gallery 50, Redchurch St., London, March 2015. ‘Animal’ was curated by Rom Levy, founder of RexRomae and co-curator Charlotte Dutoit from JustKids.

My question for this symposium is twofold:

How can an arts organization articulate its institutional structure in order to fertilize the soil of a ‘becoming’ equal community?

How can the public be addressed if this has been rooted in a ‘real’ common space?

Guy Debord, Michele Bernstein and Asger Jorn of the Situationist International, 1960. All that was once directly lived has become mere representation. Courtesy: Verso.
Guy Debord, Michele Bernstein and Asger Jorn of the Situationist International, 1960. “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation” (Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle). Courtesy: Verso.

Suggested further reading

Bataille, G. (1991) The Accursed Share, Volume 1: Consumption. New York; Zone Books.

Bataille, G. (2004) The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge. Minneapolis; University of Minessota Press.

Badiou, A. (2005) Metapolitics. London; Verso.

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‘Alice and Vladimir have tea in wonderland’. Anonymous, Photoshop.
‘Alice and Vladimir have tea in wonderland’. Anonymous, Photoshop.