Alena Alexandrova / Theory seminar

Participants: David Maroto, Yoeri Guepin, Rei Kaikiuchi, Eden Mitsenmacher, Padraig Robinson, Fraser Stewart, Silvia Ulloa, Kim Schonewille, Larraitz Torres, Quenton Miller


Alena Alexandrova's theory seminar provides an open environment to explore different paths around, and following the multiple lives of images. In many cases images resist being inscribed in linear types of historicising; they provide different forms of knowledge, and are elusive and in-appropriable by disciplines that claim them.
They open ways to re-negotiating histories, and ways of interventions in systems of knowledge. They have a capacity to create rhizomatic textures, and to ask questions. In other words, they are endowed with a certain degree of opacity. A variety of topics and texts, selected also according to the interests of the students in the group, will explore issues of mediality and materiality, representation, the body, desire, image-making, visual forms of knowledge. The group will read a selection of texts taking the question of the image in different perspectives: art theory, visual studies, philosophy, media theory, anthropology, a point of interest will be literary fragments and essays that describe and approach the paradoxes images crystallize and some psychoanalytical concepts. The list remains open, it will most likely include articles and chapters by: Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Mladen Dolar, Hans Belting, Clare Bishop, Hal Foster, Georges Didi-Huberman, Philippe–Alain Michaud, Keith Moxey, Jean-Luc Nancy, Georges Perec, Raoul Ruiz, Kaja Silverman and others.

June 25 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

June 24 Monday:

Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle never lost its relevance with its sharp analysis of a reality of woven by collective fantasies we live by in the contemporary capitalist spectacle. The seminar will focus on Debord's ideas of the spectacle and questions as what are its effects in the present moment, can we device strategies in order to reclaim our experience in the condition of its increasingly accelerating mode?

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone books, 1992), Chapter One "Separation Perfected," pp. 11-25.

May 28 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students 

May 27 Monday:

Art today is a broad and internally heterogeneous field with expanding and flexible boundaries, characterised by multiplicity of practices, gestures, and positions. Taking as its departure points the reflections of two central figures in contemporary French philosophy - Jacques Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy, the seminar will address issues as the different regimes of visibility of the image and the necessity to re-open the question of the meaning of "art today."

Jacques Rancière, "Artistic Regimes and the Shortcomings of the Notion of Modernity"; "Politicized Art" In: The Politics of Aesthetics, trans. Gabriel Rockhill (London:Continuum) 2004, pp. 20-31 Jean-Luc Nancy, "Art Today," Journal of Visual Culture, 2010:9

April 23 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

April 22 Monday:

The theory seminar will focus on the ever-open question of the image and its capacity to elude, and resist reading, the capture of concepts, or narratives that claim its truth. We will read parts of "The Detail and the Pan," an important essay by one of the key voices in art history and visual studies - Georges Didi-Huberman. The text addresses the tension between knowing and seeing and the implicit conceptual certainties that art historians project on images. Didi-Huberman proposes a way of looking at painting, which engages with its materiality and phenomenal presence. In contrast to the concept of the detail that claims a descriptive force but fails in its own terms, he proposes the pan, or blotch of paint that undermines, or destabilises from within the economy of representation. The pan, like the symptom it its psychoanalytic understanding, expresses several, often contradictory, meanings. In his essay "Images of Images" the film director Raúl Ruiz, central to whose approach is to take the image as a point of departure and to liberate it from the narrative, states that: "every image is but the image of an image," and describes images as contagious entities with lives of their own. And finally, those interested, can reread the opening pages of the exhibition curated by Didi-Huberman - Atlas: How to Carry the World on One's Back? which address the atlas as a "strange apparatus" as a "visual form of knowledge" and a "knowledgeable form of seeing."

Reading: Georges Didi-Huberman, "The Detail and the Pan," Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art, trans. John Goodman (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), pp. 229-237, 244-260, 260-267.
Raúl Ruiz, "Images of Images," Poetics of Cinema, trans. Brian Holmes (Paris: DisVoir, 2005), pp. 43-55.
Further reading: Georges Didi-Huberman, "Disparates. 'To read what was never written," Atlas: How to Carry the World on One's Back? trans. Shane Lillis (Madrid: Museo Reina Sofía, 2010), pp. 14-23.

March 19 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

March 18 Monday:

The seminar will focus on the notion of gift. Departing from a key text by Jacques Derrida, we will discuss the conditions of, the possibilities and impossibilities involved in the act of giving, and its various aspects.

Jacques Derrida, "Gift and Countergift, Excuse and Forgiveness," In: Given Time:I Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 135-175

In the evening a lecture by Chris Kraus upon invitation by Alena Alexandrova.

February 19 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

February 18 Monday:

The seminar will focus on two important texts by Michel Foucault – the opening chapter of The Order of Things on Diego Velázques' painting Las Meninas (1656) and the essay "Of Other Spaces." Foucault's analysis of the painting addresses issues as the interrelationship between power and representation, the way it reflects on its own conditions in simultaneously assingning a position to its viewer. Foucault called heterotopias real spaces (archives, asylumns, gardens, colonies), in contrast to the non-existing utopias, and the operation that describes them - heterotopology. Heterotopias are integral part of cultures forming a counter-space, in which all other sites are represented, inverted and contested.

"Las Meninas" in: The Order of Things. An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, pp.3-19 "Of Other Spaces," Diacritics, 16:1986, pp. 22-27

Monday the 18th of February Theory seminar at 14:00-16:00

17:00-18:30 a writing workshop with the second year group

January 15 Tuesday

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

January 14 Monday:

The seminar will focus on mimesis in resonance with the evening lecture by Mladen Dolar. This key concept has a long history, modifying its meaning and signifying multiple moments, central to art but also to politics. In Plato's work mimesis has many meanings. The activity of imitation has contagious qualities, it implies the production of appearances and illusions, and has a power of affecting the behavior of people. Mimesis signifies a key political moment; according Rene Girard's well-known analysis it is at the heart of desire, violence and its communal management, sacrifice and victimhood. The article by Rey Chow discusses important moments within the theories of Girard, Giorgio Agamben, Luce Irigaray and Homi Bhabha.

Ray Chow, "Sacrifice, Mimesis, and the Theorizing of Victimhood," Representations, 2006:94 Plato, The Republic, book III, sections 393-398 and book X, sections 595-598

Evening Lecture: Politics of Mimesis Mladen Dolar

November November 29 Thursday:

The seminar will address two moments specific to variety of present-day art practices, what Hal Foster call "archival impulse" and Clare Bishop "delegated performance." Many artists create subjective, idiosyncratic constellations of objects, images or gestures. There personal counter-archives involve the operation of ordering as much as the operation of dis-ordering. What Bishop calls delegated performance involves artists using or delegating the performative gesture to groups or individuals who are not performance artists, and who are chosen because of their social or professional positions. Their social personae are thus used as ready-mades and embedded in different performance works. This indicates interest to restage and understand type of social positions and relations, and to bring to visibility a certain moment of "self-exploitation" and question issues as labour, ethics, pleasure.

Hal Foster, "An Archival Impulse," October, Vol.110, 2004 Clare Bishop, "Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity," October Vol. 140, Vol. 2012

October 30 Tuesday:

Face to face meetings Alena Alexandrova & her students

October 29 Monday:

The theory seminar will address the question of the image as embedded in different material media, our bodies being one of them, and will trace the different loci images occupy and define. Beyond its technical or material media images have life as dreams, and memories, different forms of virtual images. Bodies, as well, have a particular capacity to produce and mediate images. This particular plasticity of the definition of images is all the more evident in digital environments, which redefine the way we understand their materiality, status and veracity. We will discuss a chapter of An Anthropology of Images by Hans Belting who had argued for the irreducibility of the image to codes or signifying systems, and for considering their particular agencies and their presence within our bodies.

The second part of the seminar will address practical issues related to research and writing.

Reading: Hans Belting, "The Locus of Images: The Living Body," Chapter Two of An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body, Trans. Thomas Dunlap (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), pp. 37-61.