In this section you will find information about current thematic projects.
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 2022-23
WORLDS MADE, BROKEN, OR CONNECTED: On engaging totality, confronting totalitarianism, and channeling multidimensional cosmologies Jan Verwoert 6 credits October 2022 till June 2023, once a month
World building is a powerful force in artistic practice: weaving relations, within an ever expanding, yet somehow cohesive horizon, is what a rich imagination can do when it spins tales or relates visions of worlds, universes, realities in which all creatures, things, elements, and energies relate to each other in particular ways, under specific signs, voicing characteristic spirits. World building is a special mode of truth seeking, it doesn’t isolate insights, but seeks to project a many-layered picture of the world, in which what counts is how everything relates to everything. World building, however, has also been heavily abused by modern totalitarian leaders who claim the absolute supreme power of destroying the past and birthing the future world. Ideology is the toxic sibling of generative cosmology that modernity bred. How to tell them apart? We must figure out the vital difference between the wisdom of generative cosmology, as a form of dynamic relational thinking on one hand, and the systemic universalism on the other hand, which ideologies of supremacy (from imperialist colonialism to fascism, Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism) propagate, and parade as mythic truth. It is in the wake of the planetary destruction that total regimes of power have caused that the spiritual, political, artistic and environmental challenge arises today: how to readdress what makes and breaks worlds in the key of difference, diversity and living relationality.
The seminar will address three different aspects of world-building, in three thematic spheres: 1. We will touch on the dynamic interplay of totality and relationality, via the writing of philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant. 2. We will seek to grasp how modern totalitarianism and universialism hijacked and turned cosmological knowledge of world
making into ideologies of supreme power and world domination, and read Boris Groys, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Edward Said, Hannah Arendt, and Horkheimer/Adorno. 3. We will engage in dialogue with a recent history of writers freeing up the powers of cosmological thought, and multi-layered relational world-making, Alex Sparkly Kat, Gloria Anzaldúa, Amira El-Zein and Octavia Butler.
Sphere 1: Relations within Totality — The Poetic Philosophy of Édouard Glissant A question recurring in many studio conversations over the years has been the following: How can an art practice that thrives on building its own world avoid the danger of closing itself off from its audience? In other words: how can holistic art give people access to the web of relations it offers? How can the totality of internal relations (all relating to all inside the world) allow for specific external relations (particular viewers entering the world by relating to particular pieces)? How to work with the hermeticism that invariably comes into play when a world built from internal relations unfolds its own mysteries? With such questions in mind we will try to engage the writing of Édouard Glissant. Living in Martinique, Glissant characterizes his thinking as a Caribbean Poetics of Relation which doesn’t shy away from speaking under the sign of cosmic totality yet relays it via a multiplicity (and ‘archipelago’) of specific lived relations, embracing ‘opacity’ as the very key in which worlds may meet.
Sphere 2: Facing up to Totalitarianism — Universalism mimicking myth As Boris Groys reconstructs dictators like Stalin used the role model modernist avant-gardist artists had carved out for themselves: Prophet and Creator of a new, Destroyer of the old world, a millennial phantasy of the 19th century turned bloody reality. What happened? A thirst for a new myth of supremacy for the alienated and existentially lost people of a desolate modernity? Hannah Arendt and Horkheimer/Adorno investigate totalitarianism in this light. Imperialist colonialism had its own reasoning for justifying world domination, an ideology of scientific rationality, according to which to know the world is to own the world, and those in the possession of science and technology (of government, material extraction, and military domination) are destined to make all other people and lands the objects of their study, rule, and exploitation. Edward Said and Denise Ferreira da Silva analyse and dismantle the ideology of universal reason as the backbone of the ideologies of white racist supremacism and imperialist world domination.
1. Sphere 3: channeling cosmic relations today — in the key of difference Patriarchy has shrouded its architectures of power in myths from day one, from antiquity onwards many cosmologies are therefore steeped in the sexisms dictated by the status quo (regarding what it means to act under the sign of Mars or Venus, etc.), just as oracular apocalyptic prophetic/messianic rhetorics are a staple for modern dictators. As suggested by Gabi Dao, in studio conversation, Alex Sparkly Kat works towards a new take on astrology that exorcises these remnants of power codes from the knowledge of the stars. Amira El-Zein shows how the notion of world making in traditions of Persian and Arab poetry has always promised an understanding of the world as a multiverse, in which, guided by Jinns, poetry talks across multiple dimensions of alternative possible realities. Gloria Anzaldúa shows how poetic speech across dimensions may indeed testify to the way how, in the history of domination, a colonial culture may have imposed itself, yet never fully erased indigenous cultures, which survive as a parallel worlds, undercover and in translation,
yet accessible to someone who, artistically, politically, and spiritually traverses the borders between them everyday. What if world making in writing, reflects on how the world has already ended, has been made to end for all exposed to violent domination, apocalypse is not tied to grand speeches of coming supremacy (and rebirth of a great nation), but a real experience, making survival the imminent horizon? This is the departure point for Octavia Butler’s amazing writing, and where this seminar may lead and end.
This is the thematic arc of the seminar. It’s an outline to begin with. If, however, as our discussion unfolds, it turns out that people suggest further voices to be brought into the conversation, we will change course, and bring them in.
Color and Conquest
In this thematic project, artist and Fulbright researcher-in-residence, Addoley Dzegede, will introduce students to natural dyeing through an examination of the human quest for color throughout time—from the exploitation of flora and fauna to profiteering journeys across seas. Addoley will share what she has learned so far during her research period in the Netherlands, and demonstrate a variety of methods of dyeing that students may choose to incorporate into their current or future work. As spring arrives, the Piet Zwart garden will be populated with an array of dye producing plants for students to harvest and use with a new eye toward the origins, importance, and cultural significance of color.