Previous Thematic Seminars and Projects
Previous Thematic Seminars and Projects
In this section you will find information about previous projects and public lectures
In addition to studio space, technical facilities and tutorial support for Self-Directed Research and Practice work, the Master of Fine Art curriculum includes an annually changing programme of thematic seminars and projects, which function as a framework for joint exploration of issues that are relevant to contemporary visual art and theory, culture and society.
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2018-2019
The Poetic Forging of Constitutive Politics, thematic seminar led by Jan Verwoert, 6 credits, October-June
How can we think through the push and pull at the heart of politics in such a manner that we don’t only see friends or enemies, contracts and institutions, but energies for shaping life together differently? We are currently facing a worldwide wave of political backlash, amidst undeniable signs of environmental crisis. At the very same time, the propositions for other ways of thinking and acting have never been more articulate. Environmentalist, feminist, post-colonial and post-marxist thinkers are touching on the very conditions of how we grasp the relations which constitute the conditions for sharing life: by means of how societies are built, how humans play their role on this planet, how histories are told, violence, injustice and discrimination are recognised and fought. The work of thinking through relations differently implies the struggle and joy of coining new concepts and drawing up new images. This effort to name things differently may not only be crucial for getting a different grip on realities, it may as such be a powerful medium for transforming the way one enters into relations with others. This is the poetics of constitutive politics: the perceptive recognition and transformation of the terms that govern our interactions in life, thought, language and action.
burdens of representation vs. burdens of affect (1989:2019), thematic project led by Nina Wakeford, 6 credits, January-June
How do we speak/make for ourselves, and how do we speak/make for others? This thematic project will address how modes of enunciation (on behalf of ourselves, of our communities, of others) become part of the making and exhibiting of artworks. The project is based on this provocation: whereas in the late 1980s many artists had to tackle the ‘burdens of representation’ we must orientate ourselves now around the ‘burdens of affect’. Related to this provocation are the following questions: Have we moved from collective politics to a more self-absorbed ‘politics of true feeling’? Or is it the other way around- does the creation of affect worlds make collective fantasy possible? We will take 1989 and 2019 as our temporal anchors to explore this provocation through readings, exhibition visits and the making of new collective/individual work.
In 1989 the first retrospective exhibition of British African, Caribbean and Asian modernism was staged at the Hayward Gallery in London. It was a controversial exhibition, not least because, as art historian Kobena Mercer has argued, the included artists were given the impossible role of speaking as ‘representatives’ of the communities from which they came. This ‘burden of representation’ influenced the form and aesthetic choices of some of the work. One filmmaker commented:
“There was this sense of urgency to say it all, or at least to signal as much as we
could in one film. Sometimes we can’t afford to hold anything back for another
time, another conversation or another film. That is the reality of our experience
— sometimes we only get the one chance to make ourselves heard”
(Martina Attille/Sankofa film collective, 1986).
Mercer explained this pressure as the ‘intolerable imperative to try and say everything there is to be said in one mouthful’ (1990). This is where we will begin our project, with a discussion of Mercer’s commentary on the 1989 Hayward exhibition and the way it has been represented and revisited. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which the ‘burden of representation’ might impact the way artwork are conceived, made and offered for public scrutiny, then and now. We will also read Linda Alcoff’s treatise on 1980s feminist politics of representation: ‘On Speaking For Others’ (1991).
Fast forward. Does a different burden now haunt contemporary art making, the burden of affect? The theorist Lauren Berlant has argued that the current forms and speeds of mediated events (e.g. the death of Osama bin Laden) ‘magnetize affect’ and ‘orchestrate emotion’ while not addressing what is systemic about power. Yet she insists that some of the most powerful cultural interventions (art, filmmaking, events) involve the creation of ‘affect worlds’. We will explore this claim through reading her thoughts on intuition and ‘thinking while feeling’. Berlant’s work insists on forces which may be seen as embarrassing in critical art marking, such as sentimentality. Berlant says:
I am not afraid of sentimentality – [it] is a main historical artery for making affect worlds, worlds organized by the unsaids whose open secret pulsations allow tender gesture, glances, and what all else goes without saying to suffuse and destabilize the ordinary, to make new social arrangements, even when it’s not being really revolutionary.
(Lauren Berlant, 2012)
Just as we studied the impact of the ‘burden of representation’ on the aesthetic vocabulary of artistic work, we will investigate the power of this ‘burden of affect’ on artistic processes and outputs today. For example, the current VanAbbemuseum exhibition ‘The Way Beyond Art’ (July 2018-Jan 2021) describes as work curated into ‘atmosphere rooms for the present’. We will discuss how art works (including our own) might enunciate a social-affective imaginary, and/or stage an impasse expressed as individual political depression. We will also explore the methodologies of affect which have been proposed in relation to contemporary work, including the ‘temporal drag’ of artists such as Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz (films, performance), and Allyson Mitchell (films, installation, sculpture).
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2017-2018
What is the offer? Exhibitioning is a verb! (Thinking, making, reading: what do exhibitions do?), a thematic project led by Liesbeth Bik.
November 2017-March 2018 (inclusive), once per month for 2 consecutive days, 6 credits.
We can all see that we are, worldwide, caught in a period of transition. Occupations of public squares, the ‘capturing’ of private information, the dissemination of counterfeit information, the loss of the boundary between public and private, the large flows of refugees escaping war, and climate change, demonstrate the urgency of the question of ‘the public’ as a site of conflict over rights, information, access, relations and objects. The project of global capitalism seems to have almost been accomplished, with considerable loss for citizens all over the globe. The increase in privatisation of public property and the outsourcing of services has led to a loss of public space and rights, while struggles over the definition of democracy are symptomatic of dramatic changes in the character of public life. How capitalisation changes communities and its implications for the type of shared space is not the focus of our work alone, but also a question of society-at-large.
What to do, with our work, our practice, our output? How can we think through ‘making public’, past and current, and how can we speculate toward what is not there yet, and what is needed?
This thematic project considers exhibiting as a verb: as process, performance, incursion, and as cultural technique. As point of departure we will look at examples of exhibitions from the past and present: examples of the mythical, the infamous, the overlooked and the ‘what now?’
What do they do? Together we will embark on fieldwork (reading of texts, archive, exhibitions, and sites), and formulate the issues at stake. We will think through and explore different models, positions and media, related to questions of space and public. As a collaborative team we will experiment with and work on set-ups and a choreography of exhibiting, exposing and making public (format tbd with the group).
The Discovery of Life, a thematic project led by Jan Verwoert
September-June (inclusive), once per month, 6 credits
The thematic project will look at how, around the turn of the last century, life itself became the key concept at the heart of philosophical, artistic, political and scientific inquiries. The point of departure for our explorations will be the philosophy of Henri Bergson. In close dialogue with the new sciences of his day and age, Bergson developed a critique of (the inherent logic and limits of) scientific rationality, and proposed an alternative path of thinking in tune with the dynamics of ‘creative evolution’ by synching up to the élan vital (the swing of life) via intuition. Not only did Bergson thereby become the artist philosopher of the turn of the century par excellence, his attack particular scientific approaches (Darwin included) kill off the life in evolution in order to turn it into ready-mades awaiting exploitation continues to resonate strongly until today.
Departing from the study of Bergson, we will then look at how the Bohemian culture in Paris developed around an aesthetics of life experiments (experimental lives), in which artistic work becomes inseparable from existential, sexual, spiritual and political experimentation. We will read Djuna Barnes and Simone Weil.
At the very same, the horror of the Imperialist exploitation of bare lives looms large, as does the Fascist biopolitics of a people’s common fate. We will look at how Achille Mbembe analyses colonial regimes in terms of politics of death, as well as Giorgio Agamben’s understanding of the politics of bare life, as well as his propositions regarding an alternative of the radical aesthetics life developed in Franciscan monasteries (strongly echoing the Bohemian experiment).
Finally, we will attempt to grasp how the contemporary philosophers of science, Karen Barad, picks up on Bergson’s attempts to open up a different horizon in which to understand the life science studies and the ethics of entanglement and responsiveness which, in this light, can be derived from a changed understanding of the perpetual vibrancy of the molecular world.
Performing Drawing with Optics, a thematic project led by Irene Kopelman
Every day, one full week in April, 3 credits
‘Performing Drawing with Optics’ will reflect upon the re-interpretation of historical optical instruments that were used for landscape drawing in the contemporary context. Optical instruments have been of extreme relevance in the history of sciences and art; telescopes were invented to enlarge the observer’s senses and be able to observe something that was out of reach (as the stars), microscopes were invented to see what the naked eye couldn’t see. In history of science many instruments were created to isolate certain aspects of the world (the vacuum is an example).
The history of human perception is very much related to the history of instruments that could modify, enlarge, and distort people’s perception. The trajectory described is still very much in motion; scientific studies, art manifestations, culture and landscapes are rapidly changing. This intensive weeklong thematic project will create a moment for reflecting upon these changes and how they connect to each other through lectures, excursions, and the practice of drawing.
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2016-2017
The Practice of Authority, An Our Future Network course on adapting and extending existing feminist theory-practices, two workshops, led by Alex Martinis Roe, in association with Master Artistic Research, KABK, and located at Casco, where Alex Martinis Roe’s solo exhibition opens on November 19, 2016.
December, 2016 3 credits
This course takes as its starting point a practice and a theory, which the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective developed over many years: “the practice of authority.” This practice could be described as a way of shifting agency within a group in such a way, that each participant is given authority by the others, according to her or his particular competences and desires. It is a way of reworking the politics of authority and authorship, using them as tools for active self and group formation, according to an ethics of difference. The aim of this course is to engage students in practical experimentation with this practice of authority, as a way to both affirm and challenge their working methods in relation to the others in the group. Working with this existing theory-practice will open up a conversation about the genealogies of the students’ own practices and their existing and potential relationships to feminist collective practices.
Information about the To Become Two project
To Become Two is a series of films, presented within interior architectural installations; courses, workshops, performances and public events; and an artist’s book. This body of work is a history project, tracing the genealogy of feminist new materialist philosophy to the concepts and practices of a number of activist communities in Europe and Australia and explores the currency of their historical political practices through practical experimentation with a network I established through my research. Each of the films explores the history and organisation of a particular group and its connections to the other groups explored in the series: the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective, Psychanalyse et Politique (Paris), Women’s Studies at Utrecht University, a network of people who were part of the Sydney Women’s Film Group and General Philosophy at Sydney University in the 70s and 80s and a milieu around Duoda in Barcelona in the 90s. For my primary historical research, I undertook the ethnographic methodology of participant observation, as well as oral history interviews and archival research with these communities, which has enabled me to tell these collective histories through personal stories. My focus on transgenerational feminist politics is explored in this project in both form and content. I engaged a younger generation in different formats for narration in each film, which performatively extends the content of those narrations. The different participants in each of these storytelling projects forms a new network of those who have engaged with these different activist communities through the project. This new feminist network is the focus of the final film in the series, Our Future Network, which interfaces with the courses, workshops and public events that activate each exhibition of the project as a space in which to continue the research. The central question addressed to this network that has been established through the project is: what can we learn from the political, theoretical and aesthetic practices developed within and among these historical feminist milieux, and how can we adapt these practices to our own needs, desires and contexts? The Our Future Network film and event series presents the outcomes of this collective research, which takes the form of a series of new and adapted relational political practices.
‘Sometimes a nicer sculpture is to be able to provide a living for your family,’ a thematic seminar led by Vivian Sky Rehberg
Fall 2016-Spring 2017, 6 credits
In 1998, U.S. artist Ben Kinmont opened his Antiquarian bookselling business, Antinomian Press, with the explicit intention that the proceeds from the business, and not the business itself, would exist as an artwork. Kinmont embeds and promotes what might have once been (ideologically) considered an aesthetic compromise—taking a side-job to support one’s artistic life and the life of one’s family—in the practice itself as a thing of value (it’s nicer), and the financial gains are maintained as his artwork, a sculpture, amongst other artworks.
I chose this quote as a title because it encapsulates the concerns of this unconventional art history seminar, which will shuttle non-chronologically back and forth between past and present, subjects and objects, and across limited terrain, in order to investigate the evolution of two terms, aesthetic value and artistic welfare, in an age of economic austerity and political crisis. We will read a variety of texts from different fields, and consider art historical case studies of works or practices (from the late 1960s to the present) that have tried to negotiate the relationship between aesthetic value and artistic welfare in the public sphere. Put more bluntly: what is a work ‘worth’, and according to whom, and how does one sustain a life practice, and according to what parameters? We will study examples in order to critically historicize and insert ourselves into current conversations around artistic labor, the value of community-led or participatory practices, creative enterprise, the crisis in art education, audit culture and management in the arts and in cultural policy, all of which have something to say about and an impact on the welfare of artists and the survival of art. Across the academic year, students will have the opportunity to work individually and collectively, to conduct field research in museums, galleries, libraries and archives, and meet with invited guests. Seminar will meet twice per month for 3-hour sessions, with occasional additional dates added for excursions or guests.
LIFEWORK, a thematic seminar led by Jan Verwoert
Fall 2016-Spring 2017, 6 credits
What does it mean to put your lifeblood into your art — to let life come out in the work? What philosophical, historical, political and pratical perspectives can this question open up today? What implications does it have to politicize the personal? Without merely putting the personal at the disposal of an exploitative industry? How to find the point where biography interlaces with historiography and individual intuition opens the doors to a collective unconscious? For a work to articulate a truth that is symptomatic for society, does its maker have to suffer from the symptom? What are the ethics and pitfalls of channelling the passions of the social?
How to address the particular passions, obsessions, memories or traumata that dwell in your body and soul, drive the work and may permeate it on every level, but may still be very difficult, if not impossible to articulate as such? What about the passions that are powerful motivating forces for making work but very difficult to admit to: thirst for revenge, grudges and jealousy? If art without subtext is like beats without bass, how do you create subtext, do you create it at all, or do you let it seep in, shine through, or filter it down, to avoid someone saying: TMI, too much information? When to play it cool, and let the audience do the work?
How does an audience receive subtext? Do they need to understand it, or do they first of all need to feel its presence? If you put your lifeblood into a piece, how will this come to figure when the work is shown or performed? Are we talking about delivering a punch? Or about creating an atmosphere in which what cannot be said but felt — the vivid yet unverifiable — somehow transpires? Do we need to refine the timing and spacing of words and objects, so that the rhythm and rhyme that connects them, brings out the passion that underpins them? Or is it an exercise in conceptual slapstick, in relinquishing control, and letting things slip and slide into place? The seminar will combine the reading of philosophical texts, and study of art practices addressing the questions above with a set of practical experiments and exercises in writing, performing and installing work. Its aim is to build a critical vocabulary and sharpen one’s practical intuitions in relation to the channels of the work into which we choose (or permit) its lifeblood to flow.
“The art of looking”- Description, Analysis, Interpretation, Judgement?, a thematic seminar led by Nana Adusei-Poku
Do you know how to look at art? Does an artist’s identity matter or do we only have to focus on form? What can understanding the context of the artist do for a reading of a piece? In which way do your own experiences/identity influence the way in which you read and create art?
Identity Politics in contemporary art have left the realm of representation (epistemologies). This means that identity is now also discussed through new materialist approaches (ontologies). Although identity politics are at the core of questions of i.e. decolonization- it is difficult to use the term. How is it possible that framings such as Queer Art, Black Art and Post-Black Art are a strong currency whilst identity politics and questions of representation are so often neglected?
This seminar will discuss the dispelling of the universal through exercises in critical analysis of contemporary as well as historical art-works in order to question the limits of our gaze. It will also give a historical perspective on how identity politics shifted from a focus on representation in art to institutional diversity politics.
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2015-2016
Devastatingly Experimental Sketch Komedy TV Ob-Pilot (DESKTOP), a thematic project led by Michael Portnoy in fall 2015
At the end of this 10 day course, we’ll have produced the most devastatingly experimental sketch comedy TV ob-pilot ever conceived and shot in South Central Rotterdam. Prefaced by an extremely compressed survey and analysis of both mainstream and more experimental TV sketch comedy, we’ll jump right into the making of the thing: developing the overall show concept, pitching ideas, writing sketches, rehearsing, shooting, editing and post-production. Comedy is quite easy. It’s just math. You take a known thing, break it into variables and do math on it until it cracks into an unknown that cracks you. And in sketch comedy you simply repeat the math with slight variations each time. It would follow then that experimental sketch comedy is very convoluted forms of math done to the known which produce very convoluted forms of unknowns that crack the ways you’re used to being cracked in unknown, devastating ways, which are then repeated, unpredictably. Art does the exact same thing, but usually with much fewer cracks and much less math. And its sense of timing is dreadful.
Bodies Know: Things Are in Motion. Spinoza’s Legacy: the many ways of thinking through the affective intelligence of all that brings the material world to life, a year-round thematic project led by Jan Verwoert
It’s not like we’re gazing at the world from afar. We’re part of it. Our thoughts, emotions and actions are part of earth’s living fabric, they connect us to the material world, and emerge out of that very connection. What concepts of agency, ethics, aesthetics gender politics and ecology can we develop when we understand our existence as deeply interrelated with what surrounds us?
These intuitions could be understood to lie at the heart of neomaterialist enquiries in contemporary philosophy. They find their vital inspiration in the provocative thoughts of Baruch Spinoza and his vocal translator, Gilles Deleuze. Today, this legacy is critically reworked and given a new edge by thinkers such as Karen Barad, Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti and Beatriz Paul Preciado. The seminar will take its time, closely reading Spinoza, using his philosohy as a point of departure and touchstone to then engage the key intuitions of the thoughts advanced by Deleuze, Braidotti, Barad, Bennett and Preciado.
The seminar will be equally dedicated to a practice of close-reading and engaged in a search for new vocabularies. It will find its point of departure and point of return in the writing of Spinoza. The ‘Ethics’ will remain a travelling companion throughout the year and sessions will begin by revisiting the book, so as to engender an experience of continuous encounters with the joys and challenges of this text. In each session we will then proceed read thinkers whose ideas comment on and develop Spinoza’s ideas. In the spirit of contemporary Spinozist thinkers, the seminar itself will go beyond merely reconstructing the history of an idea. We will seek to actively rework the thinking we find in the texts we study, so as to develop our own take on how to give voice to a materialist politics of affective intelligence and impassioned embodiments today.
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2014-2015
Invocation of the Demon Sister/On the specificities of becoming a medium
A year-round thematic seminar led by Jan Verwoert
Perhaps the channel always stayed open. And we received: Modernism. A tale of many voices, spirits and intensities, like electrical currents, conducted through bodies who offered themselves as conduits and performed invocations, in writing, thinking, art, music and other fields of bio-political revolt. If, from its moment of inception, modernity and its regimes of sex, power and money, knew about the vital importance of the bodies who command and channel both the generative and destructive forces of bodies conjoined in spiritual, material and corporeal exchanges, one of the biggest deceptions of the Moderns lay in their denunciation and persecution of mediumship as a form of madness, hysteria or witchcraft. Feminist scholars have reconstructed the history of the repression of corporeal mediumship — from the medieval witch hunts to the probing of the hysteric’s body and soul by the needles and pins of modern medicine — so as expose the violence committed, yet also to tap into the experience and knowledge demonized as heretic/hysteric/unverifiable.
In crucial points, this critical rewriting of modern history touches on another body of thought and research: the inquiry into the survival and resurgence of anarchic premodern practices of communal corporeal mediumship in cultures of carnival. Here, bodies under the influence (of subliminal forces) go to pieces but all the pieces mix, mingle, speak and dance, profanate and celebrate, the values of creation and death, in forms of what Mikhail Bakhtin called the “grotesque realism” of the people’s carnivalesque imagination, or what, in the environment of Brazilian psychedelic resistance came to be embraced in the revival of José Oswald Andrade’s notion of “Anthropophagia”.
The seminar will be take its point of departure in a brief investigation of the motif of the body of the possessed or undead becoming a vessel for disasters of the past to be transmitted into the present, as a standard in Gothic novels and scary movies. It will contextualize these readings by considering Tatiana Kontou’s research into the crucial importance of mediumship and the role of the female medium as a blueprint for a re-understanding of the novel as a medium for the invocation of many voices.
On Performativity: I must not be joking nor writing a poem?
A thematic project led by Katarina Zdjelar in fall and winter.
This two part thematic project explores the history and applications of the concept of performativity. Coined by J.L. Austin in 1955, the term has since been extensively explored, discussed and used in artistic practice and art history. A survey of recent press releases or exhibition documentation reveals the ubiquity of the term, with reference to levels of performativity, performative use, and the articulation of performativity, and engagements with horizontal performativity, performativity of the object or performative dimensions. We witness the creation of performative umbrellas, performative interventions, performative sequences of actions, next to performative installations, performative talks, and performative programs. There are constant claims to a performative potential, performative character, performative points of view, performative transformations, or to performative expeditions, performative screenings, performative readings, performative lectures, performative presentations. On Performativity: I must not be joking nor writing a poem?’ will actively look back at the history and development of this notion and explore its validity and its status in the present.
A thematic project led by Bernd Krauß, in collaboration with Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Fakultät Medien in fall and the Künstlerhaüser Worpswede (TBC) in spring.
This first session of the thematic project RADIO Sonne! will bring us close to the center of Fränkische Schweiz, a hilly area that was once the backdrop for the very early romantic “Pfingstreise” (Pentecost Journeys) by W.H. Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck, both students at that time of University Erlangen and so-called co-founders of German Romanticism. In letters to their families they describe the landscape and experiences during their 4 weeks of travel through this area towards Bayreuth and the Fichtelgebirge in 1793. In October, a group of Piet Zwart Fine Art students will travel with a group of Bauhaus University Media students to Egloffstein, a small village on the hillside of the Trubach valley, which will serve as a base camp for a week of collaborative work around literature and language, conversation and translation. We will study writings by Wackenroder and Tieck, as well as Adalbert Stifter’s ‘Waldsteig ind Hochwald’, Ernst Jünger’s ‘Auf den Marmorklippen’, and Philipp Moll’s ‘Blumen ind Wurst’. We will develop different formats for understanding texts in relation to landscape and transfer those outcomes for the audience of RADIO Sonne! Radio is hereby understood as a very general method of sending and receiving. Submitting to the radio format will be a contract between us: for both have to sign off, and to let the wave shine.
History decays into images, not into stories.
A thematic seminar led by Vivian Sky Rehberg in winter and spring, in collaboration with the Künstlerhaüser Worpswede (TBC).
The temporal dynamics of modernity and the majority of its accompanying social and cultural forms were steadfastly geared toward the future and maintained a complex and problematical relationship to tradition in their quest for the “new”. With the passing of mass utopias, the temporal dynamics of our contemporaneity share no such vision of the future. On the contrary, engagement with the past is a significant feature of contemporary cultural forms, including those circulating in the art world. Artists and curators alike recycle archival documents or documentary footage, revisit historic or commemorative sites, revive past (frequently modernist or conceptual) art practices and exhibitions, and record or re-enact past events. Today’s international artists are not beholden to traditions of historical representation or academic understandings of history as a discipline. Still, artworks that grapple with historical experience generally approach it via the methods of contextualization Frank Ankersmit refers to as the contextualization of an object or the contextualization of a subject. This thematic seminar will rely on case-studies to examine how narrative and non-narrative historical representation has infiltrated the art of today. What value does the past hold for the present? What are the possible reasons for this resurgence in interest in the past and in history? What critical and ideological purposes does it serve? And what forms of historical consciousness emerge from it?
THEMATIC SEMINARS AND PROJECTS 2013-2014
Who Is It For?
A Thematic Seminar by Matteo Lucchetti (trimester 1, 8 ECTS)
“How culture is made and who is it for?” was a recurrent mantra within Group Material’s operations, and “Democracy,” the iconic and complex project they developed for DIA Foundation in New York in 1989. That question was dear, and perhaps still is, to a number of artists that were seeking a role for art that extended beyond the art system, reach new audiences and contexts, in order to broaden perspectives on society and its mechanisms. In the 1970s and 1980s, myriad artists started to conceive of their work in connection to a broader paradigm than the one offered by the genealogy of the arts. The formats and mediums through which their research operated could take the forms of a poll (Hans Haacke’s MOMA-Poll, 1970), a free university (Joseph Beuys’s Free International University in Düsseldorf, 1974), a restaurant (Les Levine’s Canadian-Kosher Restaurant, 1969), a farm (Bonnie Ora Sherk’s Crossroads Community, 1974), a public assembly (Group Material’s Democracy, 1989), or a school (Tim Rollin and K.O.S., 1982). Those early examples showed that an artwork could at least have another life in the guise of something else, where non-art audience could encounter a speculative way of thinking about art in unexpected, practice-based ways.
“Participating in the system doesn’t mean that we must identify with it, stop criticizing it, or stop improving the little piece of turf on which we operate.” This quote by a New York State Supreme Court opened Group Material’s text in the book documenting “Democracy” and it served there to stress that the social interaction they sought was not destined to create alternative spheres of debate, but rather spatial and temporal conditions meshed with the everyday life and dynamics of the social fabric. Every show within the project gave room, in fact, to a public forum, and the exhibitions brought together “so-called fine art with the products from supermarkets, mass-cultural artifacts with historical objects, factual documentation with homemade projects”.
This kind of approach is still alive in many contemporary artistic practices, and it seems to be reflected in the words of Jacques Ranciére (in “The Paradoxes of Political Art”): “the artists are those whose strategies aim to change the frames, speeds and scales according to which we perceive the visible, and combine it with a specific invisible element and a specific meaning.” In other words, artistic work can resides nowadays in the ways artists are able to re-organize our perception, interpretation and participation in everyday realities. This thematic project will explore contemporary art practices that also exist outside of the frames of contemporary art discourses, and that are developing their own formats and devices in order to reach broader audiences and specific goals and targets. The question “Who is it for?” will be posed again and again as we consider the positioning and re-positioning of art in different contexts, outside dominant trends and clichés of the art system. Artist case-studies include: Jonas Staal, Superflex, Pilvi Takala, Jill Magid, Alterazioni Video, Amy Balkin, Hans Haacke, Group Material, Anna Scalfi Eghenter, Yael Bartana, Tania Bruguera, Nastio Mosquito, Marinella Senatore, Helena Producciones, Temporary Services, Pedro Reyes.
Between Me and the Wallpaper/Crooked Modernism, Craft Experiments and the Social Enactment of the Optical Unconscious
A Thematic Seminar by Jan Verwoert (year-round, 8 ECTS)
Doubt and Struggle. Who was first? To do what was new… and put an end to the old … This is how the story of modern art is usually told: as if it all had been one big competition. It may have been. Fiercely so. At times. But days and nights are long. They continue after the climax of the fight. And the people, things, cities, rooms, fields, feelings, pens, brushes, books, pictures, instruments and tools are still there. So the politics of being there and staying around outlast the high drama of intentions declared and battle come down (in the booze war at the art bar). Perhaps real avantgardism only ever started on the day after when, with an aching head, the question was to be faced: how to continue, in this mess, with, against and among all the things that perpetually render the attempts of being alive, being modern unfinished business (joy- and painfully so).
How to tap into this dimension of the modern in art that lies beyond the manifestos and grand antagonisms? The seminar will choose two points of entry:
1. THE TOUCH OF THE EYE: There is much more to Impressionism than a what-you-see- is-what-you-get type of indulgence in spectacular sight. At its heart there is a drive towards making the eye a social organ. Can the retina touch the skin of the world? And let vision melt with space? From the city and fields becoming the skin of vision, in a first wave of Impressionism, its second wave, the Nabis, took the sociorgan eyes to the parties and saw people blend in with the wallpaper and bodies emerge from multicoloured multipatterned clothes. In altered social states paintings become mimetic relays for the body electric circulating in their surroundings. We will take a close look at (and read around) the painting of modern life in art, philosophy, literature and poetry.
2. ORNAMENTATION AS WORLD-MODULATION: The big narratives of conquest and domination, on a global scale, with city layouts masterminded by the architect emperors of the international style made smaller scale work on interior designs, textiles, objects, fashion, costumes and props seem like a queer sideline to the main plot. But why would scale matter? When models (of any scale) for modulating the parameters of experiences are what make the modern come into its own in the lived experience of day in day out experimentation.
We will look at the patterning paralogisms of the Omega workshop, the carpet weaving cybernetics of Anni Albers (and crafts at the Bauhaus), the Ballets Russes as an exemplary space of temperamental artistic collaboration, and Natalia Goncharova’s role in it, as well as the fashion philosophies of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. It will end by reassembling the avantgarde in exile, in the salon, parties and paintings of Florine Stettheimer in New York and the pasttimes of the ‘Baroness’ Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven horsing around with Marcel Duchamp, inventing the ready-made in the process of finding ways to pass their time.
Taking works and practices neither (merely) as tokens for ideological positions nor (only) as styles to be savoured/appropriated, the seminar will — through close-looking and reading as well as comparative discussion/criticism — seek to open up the everyday experiential horizon of crooked modernisms as a resonating body and source book for unreconciled practices, open questions and fun still to be had, for artists today.
A Thematic Seminar by Nana Adusei-Poku
Chronopolitics will engage with questions of time, temporality and duration through arts and research. The body of work that has been produced on the notions of time and temporality is constantly growing. Not only is time a central aspect of our existence, which has raised philosophical questions for centuries, it is also a socio-political instrument that orders our (every day) life and biographies. Critical scholarship and activism from post-colonial, gender and queer studies has critiqued the political dimensions of time as producing normative orders. Contemporary queer and postcolonial studies have investigated the ways in which biographies, their temporal courses and canonizations, are responsible for the appraising of some biographies, historical or cultural narratives over others. This scholarship seeks to produce alternatives to a developmental concept of time, alternatives that counter the temporal cycles of nation states and capitalist markets, which also find their articulation in arts and aesthetic strategies. And it coalesces in the desire to displace colonial concepts of non-coevalness and normative ideas about the body by which some groups are characterized as progressive and others as regressive. The seminar will thus lay special emphasis on the notion of time as a political tool withinartistic practices. It will not only offer insight into the already mentioned body of work that accords the discussion of temporality, it will equally investigate the notion of time in artistic practice as a means to challenge hegemonic concepts of time, linearity, its affects on bodies, social normative orders, racial divides, processes of subjectification, economic logics and production of value.
Key questions for the seminar are ‘What are the means, methodologies and strategies through which artists are able to challenge normative, linear, straight notions of time and what kind of timelines/concepts do we as practitioners and researchers encounter in the art world? How do we engage with archival material and in which does the practice of exhibiting interact with the chronopolitical sphere?
These investigations demand an engagement with the concept and aesthetics of modernity (Hal Foster), its post-colonial critique (Bhabha/Hanchard), its discursive entaglements with power and knowledge (Fabian), and gendered chrononormativities (Halberstam). But also the notion of speed (Virilio), deceleration (Hewitt), synchronicity (Bergson), the notion of Utopia (Munoz), past potential futures as Afrofuturism, and the narration of the past that produces utopic presents (Foster) will be part of our discussions and inform our investigations. The Seminar will be structured through group discussions, theoretical debates, guest lectures, practical exercises, excursions and studio visits and use a wide range of media.
DON’T WRITE DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS
Because sometimes dance needs to talk and talk needs to dance
A Thematic Project by Ieva Misevičiūtė
In this 4 ECTS thematic project, we will use a number of theater, dance and performance techniques in order to access and explore the bodily apparatus and its various aspects, such as movement and speech, vocalization, rhythm and timing. These methods and approaches derive from Action Theater, Butoh, different improvisation techniques and action films. Although these methods are mainly used by stage artists, this is not a performance oriented project — this work accelerates the channels of expression, expanding the creative toolkit. We will have two focuses in mind: first, tracing and trying to understand the very functioning of ideas, how they emerge, what are their patterns, etc. Second, studying the transition from a thought, image or theory to an action. By isolating, putting constraints on and shifting the qualities of our movement and speech we strive to create a state of immediacy where action, thought and being are fused.
Thematic Projects 2012-2013
Camp e-dorf//The Hobbyist as Professional
A thematic project by Bernd Krauß
September 24-October 2
With a brief click on the following webpage (http://www.steinbildhauerei-herrmann.de/) it should be made clear that the participation in the introduction stone carving course by Walburga Herrmann can’t – at least for participants of a Fine Arts MFA – be understood as a challenge to their aesthetic methods. As the course is mostly offered to people that have a non-creative professional career but who seek an interesting spare time activity, the challenge for a professional artist a different one. Even Walburga Herrmann’s own career can’t be linked to that of a contemporary fine arts practice, though she might fantasize about it. However, each attempt to act creatively has its starting point in the individual decision making that can still be found in the amateur’s execution. Therefore the world of the hobbyist or the non-professional artist will always be of interest for those who do not understand creativity as a outer zone of their “making a living”. A discourse-free environment allows radical decisions that are not an option in the professional world. We as artists are constantly confronted with the aesthetic realm of this hobbyist branch of the creative industry, when we have to define or defend our existence/production. But this reality-check might be also understood as a perspective where art does not need to be art, but can simply be a practice in an environment where the surplus-value does not need to be pointed out.
The basic structure for this week long field trip is your participation in a stone carving course given by Walburga Herrmann (5 x half day). Depending on the pre-experience she will guide the participants through the techniques and tutor their stone projects. For a final presentation in Erkelsdorf, we will create parallel a temporary architecture using alternative methods as for example hay to create a small gallery/exhibition hall on the garden ground. As the size and the situation of Erkelsdorf is particular in its rural but contemporary structure, further possibilities for (individual/group) exploration and engagements follow:
- A local farmer producing organic vegetables (incl. direct distribution at the nearby markets)
- The particular cultural phenomena of small size farming due to the natural landscape and its residues in the social structure can be researched
- The city of Nürnberg (50km = 25min. train trip) with its medieval architecture, but also the architecture site of the Third Reich (Albert Speer´s Nazi Party Rally Ground), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the biggest museum of German culture with a fabulous collection, Neues Museum for Contemporary Fine Arts and the Fine Art Academy (1day trip/group)
- A one day walk through the countryside would be obligatory, but might be extended for those with more interest during the week (for example: Neukirchen – Neuhaus via Hohe Zanth or Ossinger 25km). The tradition of German Romanticism is strongly linked to the Frankonian landscape– since the famous walk of Wackenroder and Tieck in 1793 (“Reise in die Fränkische Schweiz”) became a starting point for at least the literary movement.
- As the village is so small the presence of a group (approx.10) will be obvious and will hopefully lead to formless contacts where individual interests can be developed besides the participation in the course.
Aby Warburg and the Orbits of Research
A thematic project by Lisa Robertson
Oct. 8-10; Nov. 5-8; Dec. 10-12 2012
In 1609 Johannes Kepler discovered in the sky the active geometry of the ellipse, transforming the closed and static geometry of the circle into the elliptic orbit of mobile centers and magnetic empathies. Aby Warburg recognized in Kepler’s eccentric ellipse a figure for the generative space of a new thinking. Within an actively configured field of art history Warburg charted intermediary relationships, divergent couplings of imagination and reason, desiring continuities and transformations in the life of images. The ellipse was Warburgs “thinking space,” figure for an always transforming, fully implicated relationship to research.
This fall we’ll explore Aby Warburg’s innovations in research methodology. What could research come to mean, as an open experiment in cognition and making? Much like “concept”, the word has ossified in our discourse and perhaps also in our practice. Here we’ll open to a compassionate scrutiny research’s potential techniques, histories, stances, projections, dreams, wagers, games and structures.
Warburg, born in 1866, was an art historian by academic training, in an era when clear disciplinary boundaries had not yet achieved their vertical consolidation. What Warburg achieved between 1889, the year of his doctoral thesis publication in Strasbourg, and his death in Hamburg in 1929, was the sustained development of three intensively inter-related research practices: Art Historian, (The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity) Librarian, (the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, now the Warburg Institute in London) and Visual thinker (The Mnemosyne Atlas). I am differentiating these three practices for rhetorical clarity, when no such clear differentiation determined Warburg’s ways of working. He thought across and via the energetic recombination of these various modes of material and scholarly research and their manifestations. And it was the experience of passionate energy, of dynamic temporal, even transhistorical and transcultural synchronic agency, that ran as a fundamental gesture through the scholarly, the bibliophilic, and the image-based work, disturbing the proprieties of historical periodicity and chronology, indexical logic, and formal analysis alike. For Warburg, Mnemosyne, the play of memory, unfolded among the charged intervals of image, document and concept in errant suspension. Revival, the interpretive cliché of renaissance culture, was turned to its full, discontinuous and disruptive vitalism. Research was the living orbit of a charged relationship with History and image.
We’ll let the radically heterodox thinker of Hamburg inflect and revivify what research could be now. Activities will include lectures, readings, collaborative presentations on the work of scholars shaped by the Warburg Library (including Giorgo Agamben, Frances Yates, Carlo Ginzberg, Erwin Panofsky, Georges Didi-Huberman), and individually determined research projects.
Invited guests: Matthew Rana (Gothenburg) and Antonia Hirsch (Berlin). Also proposed: a film screening (Pedro Costa’s Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie) and visits to local research institutes (Virtual Knowledge Studio, DRIFT: Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Huizinga Instiute).
Animal-Plant-Soul-Thing-Mimetic-Action-Response-Class (On mimesis as magical practice)
A thematic project by Jan Verwoert (On mimesis as magical practice)
Starts the week of October 1 2012 and runs through fall/winter
Imitation goes beyond representation: in magic, art and parody, to take the likeness of a person, spirit or thing (…) and act upon it, opens up a multiplicity of ways of relating to your surroundings. The mimetic relation to the world, repressed and transfigured as it may be in modern times, still underpins the logic of many signifying practices in contemporary life (from commodity fetishism to the optical unconscious caught on camera). How can such mimetic practice be freed up to a different use?
Retracing the basics of a critical theory of mimesis in the writing of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Roger Callois, Jacques Lacan, Marcel Mauss and Michael Taussig.
Scratching the museum walls: a series of case-studies
A thematic project by Bik Van der Pol (October-April)
Through in depth visits to a range of (different types of) museums throughout the year, we will explore how museums are dealing with their tasks in turbulent times, starting from the questions: what can a museum mean for you as an artist and a community of artists and what can artists mean/generate for a community? What could be common goals for artists and the museum? These case-studies not only allow insight in the ins-and-outs and main tasks of the museum–the collection, the archive, the program–and the history and the local and international context of the museum, we will also discuss the roles art and culture can play today. Who are the constituent publics or communities that could be addressed through the different types of museums, and what are the potentials and problems that may arise from those encounters?
First case study: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
Don’t rely on me to do anything tomorrow (Labour outside the factory, today)
A thematic project by Jan Verwoert (on labour outside the factory, today)
Starts in winter trimester runs through spring tbc
The conditions of labour have changed dramatically. How are we to understand the structures of power governing the new field of deregulated, immaterial labour — and how are we to resist them, socially, politically and existentially? What is there to be done when the distinction between work and free time becomes blurry, the factory of the self awaits you practically everywhere and demands, not just your time from 9 to 5, but your life, love and social skills to be put at the disposal of uninterrupted productivity? How to exit before burn out? Where to escape to, collectively?
A close look at the contemporary political theory of labour and resistance from Italy:
Paolo Virno, Toni Negri, Bifo Berardi, Maurizio Lazzarato, Carla Lonzi and others…
* title courtesy of Ruth Buchanan
The Revolutionary Table
A Thematic project with Lisa Robertson
April 15- 19 2013
April 17: Kathleen Ritter
April 18: Revolutionary Table Potluck
A Thematic Project on the topic of Revolution, with intense reference to the Publication Studio book Revolution: A Reader, edited and annotated by Lisa Robertson and Matthew Stadler. Two guests will participate in The Revolutionary Table: Kathleen Ritter, a Vancouver-based artist and curator, now resident at Cité des Arts in Paris, where she is researching postering, film and popular media around the May 68 Paris student uprising; and Roman Seban, a Paris-based graphic designer and member of the Castillo/Corrales—Paraguay Press collective. Roman designed the Revolution Reader, and will be talking to us about experimental publication models and new social structures of book production.
In this thematic project we will be reading, discussing and debating various texts included in the reader as well as viewing and discussing Peter Brook’s 1967 film Marat/Sade, orThe Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. The texts are literary, political, artistic, and philosophical in provenance. In gathering them and annotating them, we editors took an extremely eccentric view on Revolution, broadening and intensifying its definition so that it came to mean not just a mass political upheaval against a regime of power, nor only a planetary or other temporal circulation, but an incipient insurrectionary presence to be located in the present, in everyday life. Accordingly, in the class we’ll be seeking, describing and inflating such moments, textually, cinematically, socially and otherwise. A centerpiece will be Thursday evening’s community Potluck, a revolutionary dinner for approximately 50 people, to be held at Piet Zwart, and organized by us. Can Revolution begin with new structures of community? Our table, and our studios and classroom, will be the testing grounds. Continuing with Didi-Huberman’s concept of the table as a mobile laboratory for the composition of new thought and act, as discussed this past fall during the Warburg thematic Project, we’ll set wild tables, see what happens.