Plenary sessions Alena Alexandrova

Plenary session 17 April 2012 

Theory Seminar 14:00-17:00

         "And such inversions contributed to the making of an art world in which, without much irony an art dealer could be presented as a master of deconstruction, a stockbroker could assume the mantle of Duchamp, and an investment banker could cite institution critique as his formative influence. ... Such inversions suggest more than another crisis in criticality; they point to a deep mortification of critique." (Hal Foster, 1996)

The theory seminar will focus on the possible conditions of a genuinely critical position that artists can occupy in the increasingly complex environment of advanced capitalism, which has the capacity to appropriate the criticism directed at it, thus making itself immune to it. We will discuss the possibilities and the potentialities implied in the present moment, by taking into account a moment in the recent past marked by arguably similar complexity. The art of the 80s was characterized by a crisis of criticality after appropriation art, and by a desire for re-evaluation of the previous modes of criticality - ideological critique and deconstruction, which as Hal Foster argues, when taken as general tendencies "devalue artistic agency" or "the very activity of representation." Art of cynical reason emerged as a reaction to this impasse. It took the paradoxical mode of thinking of cynical reason as "enlightened false consciousness" described by Peter Sloterdijk in his Critique of Cynical Reason (1987).

Reading: Hal Foster, "The Art of Cynical Reason" In The Return of the Real (Cambridge.Mass: The MIT Press, 1996), pp. 99-124. Additional reading (only for those interested): Hal Foster, "Post-Critical" October 2012: 139,pp. 3-8.

16:00-18:00 Writing workshop (16:00- 17:00 first year students 17:00 -18:00 second year students)

Plenary session 20 March 2012

The seminar will introduce some Deleuzian concepts, vocabulary and style of philosophizing and chart ways and possibilities to read, look and sense in a Deleuzian way, going beyond the constraints of representation. What is Philosophy? explores the three modes of thought: philosophy, science and art insisting that there is no hierarchy between them. Both art and philosophy are understood as creative activities. While philosophy is the creation of concepts and conceptual personae who operate conceptual machineries, art creates sensations or compounds between percepts and affects.

Reading: Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith (London: Continuum, 2003) Chapter Eight "Painting Forces," pp. 56-64 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy? trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) Chapter Three "Percept, Affect and Concept," pp.163-201.

Plenary session 7 February 2012

The first part of the seminar will focus on the critique of, what Martin Jay calls, “ocularcentric discourse” and the dependence of philosophy on disguised visual metaphors that render vision as a vehicle of reason. Central figures in the twentieth century French thought have addressed critically the capacity of vision to survey and control, and later the idea that art should be fitted for optical display and pleasure. The seminar with introduce central moments in Jacques Lacan’s thought, with a particular emphasis on those related to vision and his critique of the visual constitution of subjectivity. 

Reading: Martin Jay, “Lacan, Althusser ad the Specular Subject of Ideology” Chapter six, in: Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (University of California Press, 1994), pp.329-81.

Plenary session 10 January 2012

The seminar will focus on iconoclasm and appropriation art as are multi-faceted practices that need existing images to attack, re-frame or manipulate. In other words, they produce new images by using old ones. These two practices are present throughout the history of art, but had either negative connotations or marginal status until they became integrated in the discourse of art and became valid strategies of producing images. Iconoclasm and appropriation are usually employed as a means of critique of large set of concepts and issues - value, authorship, gender and social issues among others.

Plenary session 29 November 2011

The seminar will focus on the question: what does it mean to think with or through images? Georges Didi-Huberman’s writing is key with regards to the field of visual studies; he insists that the image is a site and a medium of a specifically visual knowledge that cannot be reduced to language or concepts. His latest exhibition Atlas. How to Carry the World on One’s Back? explores the atlas as a “visual form of knowledge” and a “knowledgeable form of seeing.” Sarat Maharaj discusses the hotly debated topic of the (im-) possibilities of considering visual art as a field, or even a method, of knowledge production. The last part of the Theory Seminar will focus on introducing the thesis project in a more detail and discussing issues around research process, finding and working with research resources.

Reading:Georges Didi-Huberman, "Disparates 'To read what was never written' In: Atlas. How to Carry the World on One's Back? Trans. Shane Lillis, Exhibition Catalogue (Madrid: Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía, 2010), pp. 14-23
Sarat Maharaj "Know-how and No-How: stopgap notes on 'method' in visual art as knowledge production" in Art and Research, Vol.2, N2, 2009

Plenary session 18 October 2011

With their Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (1985) Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe articulate the concept of antagonism as central to democracy. Vital to democracy is maintaining and debating points of conflict, insofar as this is the antidote to a false or imposed consensus, which erases differences, or the possibility of genuine debate.  Art can play a crucial role in such process by bringing antagonism to visibility, and thus opposing the all encompassing, all consuming program of capitalism that is particularly skilled in appropriating the critique directed at it. Without excluding utopian imaginary, art has the mission to articulate it into a radical political imaginary, which sets the horizon for further debate.

The second part of the Theory Seminar will focus on introducing the thesis project in a more detail and discussing issues around research process, finding and working with research resources.

Reading:Chantal Mouffe, "Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces" Art and Research, 2007: 1,2.
Additional reading for those interested: Claire Bishop, "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics" October, 2007: 110.