Painter Nicole Wittenberg interviewed by John. H. Richardson for Elle Magazine: “Junk Art,” March 2017
Nicole Wittenberg is artist-in-residence at Critical Theory and the Arts, 2016-2017.
(Photo by Ellinor Stigle; retouched by Retouched Studios)
A recently established tradition at CTA is our Summer Symposium with Barbara Will, Associate Dean of the Arts and Humanities at Dartmouth College, A. and R. Newbury Professor of English. Barbara Will is the author of several important studies on Gertrude Stein and is currently researching the life of Lou Andreas Salomé.
Last summer, Barbara Will, along with the distinguished professor of comparative literature, Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvania) and Jamieson Webster (psychoanalyst, New School) joined the faculty and students at Critical Theory and the Arts to discuss Theordor W. Adorno’s and Alain Badiou’s writings on Samuel Beckett. This year our topic is still a big secret, even to us; but we’ll be announcing it soon. We’re all looking forward to it.
Upcoming panel discussion at the School of Visual Arts moderated by Jamie Keesling (MA Program in Critical Theory and the Arts, 2013).
For details and to RSVP:
“Graduate programs do not usually have students write briefly and fast. So Robert Hullot-Kentor, wise chair of the School of Visual Arts’ Critical Theory and the Arts department, suggested I take those CTA members stuck in New York over winter break to a dance concert of my choosing and subject them to the strict limits imposed on my own reviewing for the Financial Times: a 350-word review, with no more than six hours to draft, write, rewrite, then revise to address “queries,” as editors call their comments and objections.
The group met three times—once to look at several newspaper writers’ short arts reviews as models (my charges shredded them); once to go to Vicky Shick’s enchanting “Another Spell”; and once to share what we’d written for a final round of tweaking. (I wrote on the show, too, but exempted myself from scrutiny, in my fragile old age.)
I was so impressed by the results that I asked Danspace whether they were interested in publishing the reviews here.
I think you can discern in these short essays the balancing act these writers practice at Critical Theory and the Arts: to see the work before you in all its particularity, which means also in its revelation of some part of “the antagonisms, conflicts and promises of human history and of the moment we inhabit,” to quote from the Critical Theory and the Arts statement of intent. Given the dance’s sensual vibrancy and delicacy—its natural resistance to “making points”—Another Spell turned out to be the perfect choice for this intense challenge.”
How the previously announced three-day marathon seminar at Critical Theory and the Arts on contemporary performance and review writing led by Financial Times dance critic extraordinaire, Apollinaire Scherr, ended:
The Department is pleased to announce that CTA student reviews of Vicky Shick’s “Another Spell” have been accepted for publication by the online journal of Danspance Project. The pieces are to be included in the forthcoming issue.
Artist and wood carver, Francis Cape will visit the Chair Seminar at Critical Theory and the Arts to donate and install a bench!
Someday, it seems possible, the Chair Seminar may become a Bench Seminar. Cape will discuss the benches, modeled on furniture used in utopic communities, that he has been constructing for some years, which he conceives of as providing situations in which participants may discuss all those things–especially political realities—that we otherwise fail to confront. Each of the benches presents us with a model of a utopia community of open discussion and asks of us that we consider while sitting on them what fulfilling their utopia impulse might involve. It’s conceivable that there would be visitors to any one or all of these benches who might prefer them when no one is sitting on them.
Francis Cape’s benches have in fact successfully prompted considerable discussion and been shown in many venues and galleries in the US and Europe. His book, “We Sit Together,” accompanies the exhibition.
What were once called the New Social Movements—upsurges by students, blacks, women, and gays—are faced with a troubling new situation. For instance, the rapidity of the advance toward gay marriage has proven both heartening and disorienting. It is unclear how secure the accomplishments of gay politics will be in a future marked by resurgent nationalist movements. Nor are social facts such as the predominance of queer homelessness clearly encompassed by the progressive agenda of the last years.
Another example: the gender integration of the labor market and the transformation of women’s social roles are some of the most profound developments of human history. Yet the US election was marked by misogyny and the manipulation of the needs and demands of women. At what might seem the movements’ peak, it is worth considering a troubling thought—might the movements’ accomplishments have been to some degree premised on the sacrifice of their most profound implications and aspirations? We ask this question in order to give the best answer to another, the urgent question of the day—What resources do those committed to the advance of the causes of women and queers have to draw on in times marked by neoliberalism and the New Right?
AMBER L. HOLLIBAUGH joins the Serious Times Lecture Series at Critical Theory and the Arts to consider the transformations of the women’s and queer movements over the last 30 years that have led both to unexpected and transformative advances and to the limits and fragility of those selfsame accomplishments. Hollibaugh is a veteran of the New Social Movements, the director of the documentary “The Heart of the Matter” and the author of “My dangerous desires: a queer girl dreaming her way home.” She is a Senior Activist Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, following several years as the Director of Queers for Economic Justice. She has been a persistent advocate, speaker, thinker and provocateur, following the tenuous threads of class, race, gender, and desire in the struggle for emancipation.
Pseudepigrapha are writings that mask their true identities, if not their truths.
Pseudepigrapha interpreted by Critical Theory and the Arts are Pseudo-Graphia.
Post-Election Discussion at Critical Theory and the Arts
Gary Gerstle, distinguished scholar and Paul Mellon Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge, will visit the Serious Times seminar at Critical Theory and the Arts this week to discuss what resources the American political order has for contending with the Trump presidency.
Prof. Gerstle is an eminent historian of immigration, race and nationality, social movements, popular politics, and the nature of the state in the contemporary United States. He was previously the Annenberg Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociale in Paris. He has lectured across the world, and has given testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on questions of immigration.
Prof. Gerstle is the author of “Working-Class Americanism: The Politics of Labor in a Textile City, 1914–1960”; “American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century”, recipient of the Theodore Saloutos Book Award; and “Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present.” He is the co-author, with Steve Fraser, of “The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930–1980” and “Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy.” He also co-edits the book series, “Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America,” which has received several awards.
Prof Gerstle is a member of the Society of American Historians and a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians.
The historian, Gary Gerstle, will join Frances Fox Piven and the Serious Times Lecture Series to discuss: “What Just Happened?” Gerstle’s new book, “Liberty and Coercion,” a study of the way in which American democracy is impeded by an 18th-century constitution that is unable to provide representational equality, will form the backdrop to the seminar. Frances Fox Piven is now the “post-election curricular advisor” to our program.
Effective November 17th, 2016
Frances Fox Piven is now —
“The Post-Election Curriculum Advisor”
at Critical Theory and the Arts
The department of Critical Theory and the Arts is more than delighted—more, in the sense that in the wake of the presidential election, we are just as much enthused, heartened, and rather proud—to announce that the distinguished political scientist, writer and social activist, Frances Fox Piven, has accepted our invitation to act as Urgent Times Curriculum Advisor to the program. We welcome her with appreciation. She will work especially with us on the Serious Times Lecture Series.
The department looks forward to having the collaboration of Frances Fox Piven in continuing to make the MA program as real and valuable and intense a year of study as we mean it to be.
A series of post-election discussions at Critical Theory and the Arts
Frances Fox Piven, the day after the election.
Gary Gerstle, the last days of the Fall semester.
On November 9th, the day after what can only be described as an earth-shattering Presidential Election, the distinguished sociologist and activist, Frances Fox Piven met with students at Critical Theory and the Arts to calmly discuss the election results and what happens next.
Those who study political realities already know, Professor Fox Piven has been among the most incisive, humane and engaged voices on the left for decades in the struggle for voter rights, welfare rights, working people’s rights, and social reform. Her seminal work “Poor People’s Movements” (1978), written with Richard Cloward, remains an important research guide to the question of how and why poor people’s movements have characteristically failed and what can be done about it.
Our next post-election guest at Critical Theory and the Arts will be historian, Gary Gerstle (Paul Mellon Professor of American History, University of Cambridge). Professor Gerstle will meet with the students for a further examination of the election aftermath. Needless to say, we will all be discussing the results of this election for years to come.
We are dividing up the November 4th Open House at Critical Theory and the Arts into several groups to make it easier for interested students to visit and learn about the program.
Those enrolled for the Open House this Friday, are being contacted to reschedule your visit. If you were just planning on dropping by on Friday (the 4th), drop us a note instead, and we will include you in one of the groups that fits your schedule: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bettina Funcke and students visit the Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim.
E Pluribus Several: Important Announcement about the Open House
We are dividing up the November 4th Open House at Critical Theory and the Arts into several groups to make it easier for interested students to visit and learn about the program.
Those enrolled for the Open House this Friday, are being contacted to reschedule your visit. If you were just planning on dropping by on Friday (the 4th), drop us a note instead, and we will include you in one of the groups that fits your schedule: email@example.com.
Branko Milanovic is an important figure in a group of economists who have been making serious empirical advances in the measurement of economic inequality. These new techniques have been developed in the name of more accurately diagnosing income and wealth inequality, to better understand their consequences for the possibility of a decent society. Milanovic has pursued this work in the major international research efforts of the Luxembourg Income Study Center, as well as in his own scholarly work, where he has sought to understand both why the country in which one is born is so determinative of one’s life chances, and how global development structures a new economic elite that spans frontiers. Milanovic will join the Serious Times Lecture Series to discuss his new theoretical work, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, aiming to understand the evolution of global inequality with precision, depth, and an eye toward the social consequences of global development.
Milanovic is the Senior Scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center, and the Visiting Presidential Professor at The Graduate Center of CUNY. He served for nineteen years as the Lead Economist in the Research Department of the World Bank. He is author of several important writings on global inequality, including The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality and Worlds Apart: Measuring International and Global Inequality.
In Taylor Swift’s music video mega-hit “Shake It Off,” what is she shaking off, what is she glomming onto, and what does dance have to do with it?
Dance critic Apollinaire Scherr will join the Chair Seminar and graduate students at Critical Theory and the Arts this fall to discuss why the music video uses dance (as it imagines it) to exercise notions of romance, celebrity and female- and geek-empowerment.
Apollinaire Scherr is a dance critic for the Financial Times. She writes concisely and brilliantly and is immensely experienced in every aspect of contemporary dance.
Douglas Crimp, the distinguished art historian and critic, to visit “The Situation of the Arts at Critical Theory and the Arts this fall.
Crimp will discuss Before Pictures, his memoir of the early years of his life as a gay rights activist and critic of the New York art world in the 1960s and 1970s. His book traces how the artists in this milieu influenced him through the emergence of a new art form that pursued “representation freed from the tyranny of the represented” (“Pictures,” 1977). These artists included Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, and Philip Smith, among others.
The Crimp exhibition now on view at Galerie Buchholz presents work by members of this group. Graduate students at Critical Theory and the Arts will visit the exhibition this month, in conjunction with the discussion with Douglas Crimp.
Tom Porteous of Human Rights Watch will join the Serious Times Lecture Series at Critical Theory and the Arts this fall to discuss the situation of the world’s refugees and the global politics of fear.
Human Rights Watch is an independent human rights organization that conducts research into human rights abuses worldwide. Cultural scholars, lawyers, journalists, and people’s advocates collaborate to research regions of human crisis and catastrophe and develop ways that people who otherwise go without representation can find a voice.
Tom Porteous is the Deputy Program Director for Human Rights Watch. His background is in classical studies, international journalism, diplomacy, and UN peacekeeping. He has worked in Somalia and Liberia.
Human Rights Watch publishes yearly reports on human rights issues, including the World Report, its review of the current state of global human rights. You can read the 2016 World Report and other publications of Human Rights Watch at: https://www.hrw.org/publications.
The day after this year’s presidential election, the distinguished sociologist and activist, Frances Fox Piven will once again join the Serious Times Lecture Series at Critical Theory and the Arts, to discuss the election.
Professor Fox Piven has been among the most incisive, humane and engaged voices on the left for decades in the struggle for voter rights, welfare rights, working people’s rights, and social reform. She has been vilified by the right for her many efforts, and responded to these attacks with a collection of her writings, Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? Professor Fox Piven is also among the first guests Critical Theory and the Arts ever invited to our Serious Times Lecture Series. We will be very pleased to have her with us again.
Her Poor People’s Movements (1978), written with Richard Cloward, remains an essential research guide to the question of how and why poor people’s movements have characteristically failed and what can be done about it.
Our post-election discussion with Frances Fox Piven will be followed later in the semester with a second examination of the election results with historian, Professor Gary Gerstle.
Prof. Christoph Hesse will be joining the faculty at Critical Theory and the Arts. Prof. Hesse is a Research Associate at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies of the Free University of Berlin. His dissertation work at Ruhr University (Bochum, Germany) was a study of formalist film theory and critical theory. He has written frequently and extensively on the work of T.W. Adorno.
Prof. Sebastian Traenkle, who was a guest scholar of Critical Theory and the Arts this past year, will also be joining the Department. His dissertation at the Institute of Philosophy of the Free University of Berlin focuses on the critique of language in the works of T.W. Adorno and Hans Blumenberg.
Historian Gary Gerstle to join Critical Theory and the Arts for a Post-election discussion of his new book, Liberty and Coercion.
“A deep commitment to allowing individuals to live freely cohabits in one system of governance with a profound determination to police the population.”
-Gary Gerstle, Liberty and Coercion
The presidential campaign now underway presents the nation—as seen through our very own eyes—with a vision of the wrenching apart of its party system. It is an astonishing situation: even when obliged to argue vociferously for one candidate or the other, approximately no one is in favor of the nominees. The opposing sides of this fraying nation share unanimity, if nowhere else, in ‘disgust’ for, or ‘mistrust’ of the candidates. But however directed toward individual candidates, a slight shift of optic shows that these feelings expressively characterize how the nation senses itself as it threatens to breech long established representational boundaries. Populations amounting to much of the nation, no longer find their lives, their ideas, their moods, fears and aspirations credibly contained and represented by the political parties as evinced in their standard bearers. The parties themselves are excruciatingly aware that their constituencies are preparing to bolt, and would perhaps do so in a moment, if they had somewhere else to turn. Once this election is over, no doubt, the national parties will be scrambling to find ways credibly to recapture a suddenly remote electorate. How did it come to this?
In his brilliant, broadly learned and constructively illuminating new book, Liberty and Coercion, historian Gary Gerstle—the Paul Mellon Professor of American History, University of Cambridge—provides a study of the development of the political dynamic of representation in United States. The work reaches its conclusion in this thought, which the whole of the book develops: “A deep commitment to allowing individuals to live freely cohabits in one system of governance with a profound determination to police the population” (p. 349). That cuts to the quick; Tocqueville would have admired it. It is an essential formulation of the puzzle shaping the rage at government that otherwise now, mostly blindly, preoccupies the nation. Gerstle has written a valuable study, and it will present the context for our post-election discussion of the presidential contest with him later this year.
….at the MA Program in Critical Theory and the Arts, Spring semester, 2017.
Dr. Hansen will talk with the seminar about the two tactics he has advocated for to curb the worst of climate change: a carbon fee and dividend and a lawsuit on behalf of future generations. Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben have called the latter the most important lawsuit on the planet. And it has of late seen some success: on April 8, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young plaintiffs and Dr. Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry.
Dr. James Hansen, the recently retired chair of the Goddard Climate Institute, is a climate scientist and has been testifying for a generation about the impending destruction of a climate compatible with humanity. His book, Storms of My Grandchildren, is a seminal work on the environment, and an effort to educate the public as well as to advocate for political action.
ANTONIO Y. VÁZQUEZ-ARROYO joins JEREMY COHAN and the SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES, September 2016.
Prof. Vázquez-Arroyo, faculty in the Critical Theory and the Arts program, will field responses from the seminar to his new book, “Political Responsibility: Responding to Predicaments of Power.” The book asks why so many efforts at political thought today end up in moralisms—which are, at best, well-meaning but empty, and at worst, shields for power and interest. The book answers: By replacing politics with ethics, and by abstracting away from history, most contemporary efforts of political philosophy fail to comprehend or change the political world they take as their object. Through analyzing and contextualizing major contemporary American, British, and Continental political philosophers, Vázquez-Arroyo develops his own approach, a political philosophy that can confront honestly the real dilemmas of collective action, history, power, and responsibility.
Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University-Newark. He has written on Theodor W. Adorno, democracy, liberalism and neoliberalism, political responsibility, Simone Weil, Sheldon S. Wolin, universal history and postcolonial theory, and US imperialism. He is affiliated with the interdisciplinary research network Antropolítica, based at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
In addition to his scholarly work, Prof. Vázquez-Arroyo writes a monthly column titled “El diario de Clov” for http://www.antenapr.com.
Artist Liam Gillick will discuss his new book, Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820, in which he examines “hidden turning points” in the relationship between society, technology and the individual. These turning points, Gillick proposes, set the conditions for the emergence of the current figure of the artist and what we now think of as art, which the term contemporary no longer encompasses.
Liam Gillick has been a nominee for the Turner Prize and the Vincent Award. His work has been shown in exhibitions worldwide.
ED HALTER will join the “Situation of the Arts” Seminar at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS this Fall, 2016.
HALTER and BETTINA FUNCKE will lead the seminar in a discussion of aspects of Halter’s recently published “Mass Effect” (with Laura Cornell), a major study documenting and analyzing the transformation of art through web technology and commercial platforms. Ed Halter is a critic and a founder and director of Light Industry.
DOUGLAS CRIMP, art historian and critic, joins BETTINA FUNCKE and the seminar on the Situation of the Arts at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS this Fall, 2016.
CRIMP will discuss his memoir, Before Pictures. The book, Crimp says, means to “unsettle” the presumed identity of the gay liberation movement with the art of the period, the two cultures in which Crimp’s life took shape.
Douglas Crimp was a founding editor of October and worked as an editor with the journal until 1990. He is especially known for his essay and exhibition, “Pictures” (Artists Space, 1977), which defined the postmodern relationship to image production.
Today at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS, June 17th, 2016….
An examination of Adorno’s and Badiou’s writings on Beckett–and possible implications for the work of Gertrude Stein. Moderated by Robert Hullot-Kentor, Chair and faculty member, Critical Theory and the Arts. Participants included:
Barbara E. Will, Professor of English and Associate Dean, Dartmouth College. Author of “Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma” (Columbia UP), “Gertrude Stein, Modernism, and the Problem of ‘Genius'” (Edinburgh UP).
Jean-Michel Rabaté, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania; President, American Samuel Beckett Society (2009-2012). Author of “The Pathos of Distance” (Bloomsbury) and “The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Psychoanalysis” (Cambridge UP), among many other works.
Jamieson Webster, psychoanalyst; faculty, IPTAR; faculty, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts; supervisor, CUNY Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Author of “The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis” (Karnac).
Jeremy Cohan, sociologist; director of the Comprehensive Thesis and head of the admissions committee, Critical Theory and the Arts. Dissertation in progress on the radical turn of the Chicago Teachers Union and its opposition to the neoliberal state (NYU).
Critical Theory and the Arts is pleased to announce that the dance critic, APOLLINAIRE SCHERR, will join the department this Fall semester, 2016-2017.
She has written on the performing arts in New York City for the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Village Voice, The Atlantic and Fjord Review, and is a frequent contributor of dance criticism to the Financial Times.
The Department of Critical Theory and the Arts is honored to receive as part of its library holdings the book collection of Elizabeth Gero-Heymann, psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor.
Generously donated by Laura Kleinerman (psychoanalyst, IPTAR), the collection includes the collected works of Freud and Goethe, artist biographies and monographs, psychoanalytic journals, novels and many other books accumulated in a life that spanned two centuries (Gero-Heymann lived to age 105).
Elizabeth Gero-Heymann studied with Otto Fenichel in Prague. She fled mainland Europe for London in 1939; her parents perished in Berlin.
In London, Gero-Heymann worked closely with Anna Freud. After the war ended, she came to the United States where she established her own practice in New York City. She was eventually invited to join the New York Freudian Society (now the Contemporary Freudian Society) as a training analyst. She was elected Vice President of the Society at age 87.
Political Responsibility — Responding to Predicaments of Power
Antonio Y. Vazquez-Arroyo
Published by Columbia University Press
“Scholars in the humanities and social sciences have turned to ethics to theorize politics in what seems to be an increasingly depoliticized age. Yet the move toward ethics has obscured the ongoing value of political responsibility and the vibrant life it represents as an effective response to power.
Sounding the alarm for those who care about robust forms of civic engagement, this book fights for a new conception of political responsibility that meets the challenges of today’s democratic practice. Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo forcefully argues against the notion that modern predicaments of power can only be addressed ethically or philosophically through pristine concepts that operate outside of the political realm. By returning to the political, the individual is reintroduced to the binding principles of participatory democracy and the burdens of acting and thinking as a member of a collective. Vázquez-Arroyo historicizes the ethical turn to better understand its ascendance and reworks Adorno’s dialectic of responsibility to reassert the political in contemporary thought and theory.”
Claire Bishop (art historian, critic) visits with Bettina Funcke (writer, publisher) and students in the Critical Theory and the Arts seminar on the “Situation of the Arts” to discuss a work in progress, an essay about performance art in museums. Working title, “Black Box, White Cube, Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Claire Bishop is a professor of contemporary art at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and a regular contributor to Artforum. Her books have been translated into over 18 languages. Publications include, Radical Museology, or, What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art?; Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship; 1968-1989: Political Upheaval and Artistic Change; Participation; and Installation Art: A Critical History.
Oliver O’Donnell (UC Berkeley) will visit with students at Critical Theory and the Arts this Summer, to discuss Donald Judd, John Dewey and the place of pragmatism in American aesthetics and art practices.
Oliver O’Donnell studies modern art and intellectual history with a special emphasis on the historiography and philosophy of art history. His dissertation, “Art Histories of Consequence: Pragmatism and Art Historical Method from Formalism to Semiotics” investigates intersections between paradigms of art historical research and Pragmatist philosophy from the 1890s to the 1970s.
Writer and critic NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF, former head architecture critic for the New York Times, is currently at work on an overarching social history of 20th-century architecture that promises to be the first of its kind.
OUROUSSOFF will meet with BETTINA FUNCKE and students in the Situation of the Arts seminar at Critical Theory and the Arts to discuss the decisive moment in modern architecture when architecture fused opportunistically with fashion and developments in the visual arts to produce a mechanism for the camouflaged assertion of architecture as brand.
The graduate seminar will draw on studies of the collaborations between Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas, and the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, as well as on writings by Naomi Klein, Hal Foster and Pier Vittoria Aureli.
….to discuss the most obvious thing in the world, which no one can solve: How can it be, nation by nation, that a minority is so handily capable of inflicting so much damage on so many people? Almost anything one thinks of would serve as documentation: Most Americans today, for instance, want gun control–we don’t have that. Most Americans today are deeply disturbed by the reality of the transformation of the climate–we can’t respond. Most Americans are in favor of labor unions—labor unions are being destroyed.
And when our focus moves internationally we discover parallels in every instance, nation by nation—as if, one might speculate—that is what nations exist to do. Is that possible? And, if so, is there anything the disenfranchised can do in opposition? In the structure of global capitalism, could nations conceivably function in another way?
These are questions that SASKIA SASSEN—whose work specializes in cities and nations—will discuss with graduate students at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS. Central to our seminar will be Professor Sassen’s recent, “Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy.” As she writes, “The organizing thesis is that our global modernity is marked by systemic expulsions of all sorts: we are beyond simply more inequality, more poverty, more refugees in the global south, and so on. And it is often our complex intermediary processes, requiring talent and knowledge, which are facilitating such expulsions.”
SASKIA SASSEN is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, and chairs The Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University.
Jay Sanders (curator) will host the seminar on the “Situation of the Arts” at the Whitney Museum for a discussion and viewing of Laura Poitras’ first solo museum exhibition. “Astro Noise,” organized by Jay Sanders, is a series of immersive installations that expand on Poitras’ documentary film and journalism work investigating mass surveillance, the war on terror, occupation and torture.
Laura Poitras (filmmaker, journalist and artist) has been a seminar guest at Critical Theory and the Arts in previous semesters. Citizen Four, the third installment of her post-9/11 trilogy, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. She has received many honors for her work in film, including a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship and a Peabody Award. Her reporting on NSA mass surveillance based on Edward Snowden’s disclosures won the George Polk Award for national security journalism, and shared in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
William de Kooning wrote an enigmatic, brilliant and deservedly famous essay, “Content is a Glimpse.” What “glimpse” meant in de Kooning has important correspondences with what Adorno and Benjamin hoped to make out of the rather archaic idea of ‘physiognomy,’ a physiognomical glimpse, an eye for how an object’s appearance turns out to be no less a matter of essence. And if we continued on a roll here, students of Hegel will immediately recognize that a considerable tradition of thought was at stake in this conceptualization of physiognomy.
With slight revision of order these associations provide us with either, Adorno, Benjamin, de Kooning, Hegel; or, alternately, physiognomy, glimpse, appearance, essence. Either way, they serve to introduce the seminar in the “Situation of the Arts” that Martin Scherzinger, composer and media theorist, will be leading. The discussion is meant to be a kind of ‘applied’ Adorno for our own times, with the essential caveat that these reflections be no less distant from, than they bear proximity to Adorno’s work. Department chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor, will host the seminar.
In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, professor of English and Environmental Studies at Princeton University, Rob Nixon, investigates a key aspect of the human failure to respond to what is now—after so many decades of research, evidence and acute warnings—the reality of the destruction of a habitable Earth:
“By slow violence” — he writes in the introduction to his book — “I mean a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.”
Rob Nixon’s study of this massively incremental destruction sets at the center of our focus the calamitous implications on the situation of the impoverished and colonialized.
Rob Nixon is a frequent contributor to the New York Times; his writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, The Nation, The Guardian, Outside, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Independent, Critical Inquiry, PMLA, Social Text, Slate, South Atlantic Quarterly, Transition, Cultural Critique, Contemporary Literature, Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, Ariel, Modern Fiction Studies, New Formations, Public Culture, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire.
Other works include, London Calling: V. S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin (Oxford University Press); Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (Routledge); Dreambirds: the Natural History of a Fantasy (Picador).
Iria Candela, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first curator of 20th and 21st century Mexican, Central American, Caribbean and South American Art, will meet with the students of Critical Theory and the Arts at the museum. They will discuss how this new regional focus emerged in the context of contemporary art, what the new department requires of the museum and how Candela developed her own approach to the establishment of this new part of the institution.
Iria Candela was formerly the international arts curator at the Tate Modern, where her parting exhibition was a wide-ranging presentation of Kasmir Malevich’s work. She has written widely in the arts, including important monographs on Joan Miro and Donald Judd. Iria Candela participated as an outside examiner at last year’s Critical Theory and the Arts MA thesis presentations.
Felix Bernstein (artist, writer) and Jay Sanders (curator) join Bettina Funcke and students of Critical Theory and the Arts in the Fall, 2015 session of the Proseminar on the “Situation of the Arts” to talk a bit about the situation of contemporary poetry. Bernstein’s musical performance work, “Bieber Bathos Elegy,” debuts at the Whitney Museum in January, 2016. His Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry was published earlier this year (Insert Blanc Press), and Burn Book (Nightboat), a book of poems, is forthcoming.
Earlier in the semester, the group was joined by poet, artist and playwright, Ariana Reines, for a discussion of poetry, performance, and Semiotext(e), with readings selected by Reines. Her works of poetry include The Cow (winner of the Alberta Prize from Fence Books), Coeur de Lion, Mercury, and Thursday; Telephone, a play, was performed at The Cherry Lane Theatre, NYC. As a performance artist, she has presented at Le Mouvement (Switzerland) and the Whitney Museum.
Plans are in the works for Professor Moishe Postone (University of Chicago) to return to the Serious Times Seminar at Critical Theory and the Arts, 2016-2017, to discuss the current transformation of labor in the “knowledge economy” and related developments in social theory. Professor Postone’s discussion will contribute to the program’s ongoing interest in how changes in technology and production are resulting in new forms of individual identity and how the ideal of the tech-savvy entrepreneur is changing the idea of what an “artist” is today. Moishe Postone was previously a guest of the Serious Times Lecture Series in the program’s inaugural year.
Joan Waltemath (painter) will visit with students of Critical Theory and the Arts and program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor, for a discussion of her work in relation to the paintings of Piero della Francesca.
A continuation of the Serious Times discussion, “The Contemporary Artistry of the Oldest Profession: Labor in the Knowledge Economy and a Solidarity of Self-Infliction.” On the changing figure of the artist in the 21st century. A comparison of labor and art.
“Adorno contra Badiou — Pro Beckett Pro Stein”
Summer, 2016 discussion and gathering at Critical Theory and the Arts
An examination of Adorno’s and Badiou’s writings on Samuel Beckett–and the implications of their writings for the work of Gertrude Stein–as focal points for understanding the sharp divergences of these two philosophers and social critics. Participants include:
Barbara E. Will, Professor of English and Associate Dean, Dartmouth College
Jean-Michel Rabate, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, UPenn; President, American Samuel Beckett Studies Association
Jeremy Cohan, sociologist; graduate associate, Critical Theory and the Arts
Jamieson Webster, The New School; psychoanalyst, IPTAR
Robert Hullot-Kentor, faculty and program chair, Critical Theory and the Arts
In the words of the New York Times, a “flood of capital has created colonies of the foreign super-rich” in major financial centers world wide.* Vast pools of capital, frequently of corrupt origin, are seeking ways to elude control by nation states and hide from observation and taxation.
Strangely, and absurdly as well, in Manhattan much of this hidden treasure is now secreted away in a group of vast towers looming over Central Park and the entire city along 57 St. in Midtown.
Brazen is one thing. But, these economic actors and, sometimes, literally bandits are so confident of their grip on the world, so sure they will go unchallenged, that they now proudly display their winnings with confident impunity as a kind of independent Landmark Committee for the Corrupt domination of New York City’s skyline and the capacity of capital to elude the laws of nation states.
If that is an elephant hiding under a pebble, that’s one big pebble.
Architect GEORG WINDECK, will discuss this bewildering new direction in architecture in the SITUATION OF THE ARTS Seminar this Fall.
*Read the New York Times article, “Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate”
Visiting scholar, SEBASTIAN TRAENKLE (Berlin) will present a discussion of T. W. Adorno’s “Theses on the Language of the Philosopher,” at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS in November. This early, fragmentary and enigmatic statement of Adorno’s philosophy of language remained an orienting statement of Adorno’s thoughts on language through the whole of his later philosophy. SEBASTIAN TRAENKLE is currently writing a dissertation on the concept of metaphor in the work of Hans Blumenberg and Adorno.
OPEN HOUSE at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS
MASTER’S DEGREE PROGRAM
2016-2017 and beyond
Wednesday, November 4th, 5-6:30pm
133 West 21st Street, 6th floor, Rm 600
Open House for the curious, the enthused but no less for those bored at heart and on the job who are hoping finally to figure out why life may seem so dull when it is obviously so interesting—and what can be done about that. Our Open House is an informal, usually small gathering. A chance to hang around and see what the Department is like. The MA Chair will talk about the Program; faculty will chime in; and former students will stop by, if they’re available.
To register: write us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up through SVA Admissions, here: https://school-of-visual-arts.secure.force.com/EventRegistrationMob?eventId=701310000010ALDAA2
For starters, the rise of the “Knowledge Economy” means the emergence of a broad swath of labor devoted to transferring human knowledge to machines intended to wipe out the workers who do the job. This has produced a vagabond existence for many millions of such workers. For them–meaning, frankly, many of us–the vestiges of available human solidarity amount to not much more than proud stylizations of self-infliction.
It is nothing new in the history of labor for workers to seek to escape a burden imposed from above by transforming the imposition into something done immediately to oneself: the internalization of domination is indeed the “Oldest Profession.”
But, these new forms of imposed self-infliction in the “Knowledge Economy” are turning out to present radically new impediments to any possible kind of social organizing.
This seems paradoxical since the products of the “Knowledge Economy” are generically known as “Social Media” and function in the mobilization of a vast population in a “Sharing Economy.” But, it is just these paradoxes—of a ‘social media’ that is more akin to an electronic wind tunnel, and a ‘sharing economy’ that is effectively a socialism of the expropriated—that can best be understood in terms of new structures of self-infliction.
Of special importance is the fact that these workers, when they have a job, often think proudly of themselves as “artists.” Thus, the “contemporary artistry of the oldest profession” is here meant literally.
The SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES in 2015-2016 will host RICHARD GREENWALD—writer, historian, urbanist and critic, and former union organizer (Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brooklyn College)—who is working on a book on these new forms of work in the “Knowledge Economy” and the corresponding emerging impediments to social organizing to discuss his research in round table seminar with graduate students and faculty.
Social activist and theorist, FRANCES FOX PIVEN (CUNY, Graduate Center) will join the SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS to discuss the situation of the impoverished in the United States.
How is a kind of social peace maintained in a country where almost 50 million Americans live in households suffering extreme social precariousness and food insecurity? How is social conflict neutralized here and kept from developing?
Fox Piven sought to understand this situation in her and Richard Cloward’s important, Regulating the Poor (1971). At CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS, she will discuss her work in relation to the recently published contrasting theory of social manipulation in UCLA sociologist Loic Wacquant’s Punishing the Poor, who has himself commented importantly on Foucault’s theory of social control in Discipline and Punish.
Can contemporary art address this reality?
Leading art theorist, HAL FOSTER (Princeton U.) and writer, BETTINA FUNCKE (Critical Theory and the Arts) discuss Hal Foster’s new book, Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency in the SITUATION OF THE ARTS SEMINAR, Fall, 2015-2016.
NYC-based artist SETH PRICE discusses his new book
“FUCK SETH PRICE”
in the SITUATION OF THE ARTS seminar
this fall at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS.
The convergence of the arts may be the most striking aspect of art in the late 20th and early 21st century. Today, artists, almost as a rule, combine their many talents in hybridizing permutations: music is combined with sculpture, architecture with performance art, photography with painting and video with installation. At the same time, art in modernity has been marked by a strong tendency toward autonomy: just as the realm of art as such has tended to assert its separation from the rest of society, so the various arts have tended to assert their distinction from one another. In this seminar, we develop the background in art history to understand the significance of the ‘convergence of the arts’ and explore this central dynamic of the arts of our time, considering how the imperative toward what Clement Greenberg called “self-definition with a vengeance” came to take hold, and how the counter tendency toward the mixing of the arts has been shaped and shadowed by the drive toward artistic autonomy. This dynamic seems to be central to essential forces of invention and disintegration in contemporary art.
ISABELLE KLASSEN and CHRISTOPH HESSE, former lecturers at CTA, are editing Volume 3, Issue No.1 of the Journal for Critical Social Theory and Philosophy, which will concern questions of materialist aesthetics. The deadline for submitting abstracts is SEPTEMBER 1, 2015.
ALHELI de MARIA ALVARADO-DIAZ (PhD, Columbia University) will join the department faculty of Critical Theory and the Arts in the Serious Times Lecture Series. She will be leading a discussion of Pierre Rosanvallon’s THE SOCIETY OF EQUALS.
We are pleased to announce that ROSINE KELZ (PhD, Oxford University) will be joining the department faculty this Fall. Her book, The Non-Sovereign Self, Responsibility and Otherness, is forthcoming from Palgrave Press, 2016.
ASAF ANGERMANN (PhD., Philosophy, Frankfurt) soon to be affiliated with Yale University, joins CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS this summer to participate in student conferences and the Summer Colloquia. Asaf is a contributing editor to the German edition of T. W. Adorno’s “Collected Writings,” and recently published the much awaited correspondence between Adorno and Gershom Scholem (Suhrkamp).
McKENZIE WARK (Media Theory, New School) is a writer and public intellectual; his widely admired and impressive essays and books—most recently MOLECULAR RED (Verso)–address contemporary social and political issues in a way that is at once intellectually astute, highly informed and pragmatically engaged. CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS is pleased to announce that McKENZIE WARK will be joining the SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES to discuss “THIRD NATURE”.
RAUL ESTABAN DE PABLOS ESCALANTE, (Professor of Philosophy, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus, College of Humanities, Philosophy Department). Professor Escalante is joining us this summer as a visiting research faculty at Critical Theory and the Arts.
In the SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES…
“Freud on the Dialectic of Enlightenment: The Origins of the Civilizational Tendency toward Barbarism” with BRIAN KLOPPENBERG (Psychoanalyst. International Psychoanalytic Institute for Training and Research, New York City)
“A SOLIDARITY OF SELF-INFLICTION”: The Rise of Human Capital, Transformed Labor and New Impediments to Social Action.” A Colloquium with Professor RICHARD GREENWALD (Dean, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Professor of History), Jeremy Cohan (NYU) and Robert Hullot-Kentor (Chair, Critical Theory and the Arts)
Professors BARBARA A. WILL (Professor of English and Associate Dean, Dartmouth College); JEAN-MICHEL RABATE (Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania; a founder and curator of Slought Foundation in Philadelphia; president of the American Samuel Beckett Studies Association); JEREMY COHAN (Sociology, NYU); JAMIESON WEBSTER (New School for Social Research and Psychoanalyst); ROBERT HULLOT-KENTOR, (Chair, Critical Theory and the Arts).
DEVELOPMENTS IN CONTEMPORARY COMPOSITION
IMRI TALGAM, Pianist
Talgam is the winner of the 11th Concours International de Piano d’Orléans, in which he received 1st prize, as well as the Denisov prize and the Claude Helffer prize. Talgam’s performances of contemporary music with various ensembles, including Ensemble Modern, Axiom ensemble and the Israeli Contemporary players have brought him into close contact with figures such as Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Helmut Lachenmann and N.A. Huber. Festival appearances include the Lucerne Festival, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Mänttä music festival as well as Lincoln center’s annual FOCUS festival. A versatile performer of both contemporary as well as traditional repertoire, Imri Talgam has played throughout the world, including Finland, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Britain, Mexico and the U.S. Recent appearances include venues such as Theater des Bouffes du Nord, Salle Pleyel, KKL Lucerne, Alice Tully hall and Kiev’s Ukraine hall, both as soloist and in collaboration with ensembles and chamber groups. In Israel he has appeared as soloist with several major orchestras, such as the Haifa symphony orchestra and the ISO.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker LAURA POITRAS joined students and faculty at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS last week to discuss her films. JAY SANDERS (Whitney Museum) and art writer BETTINA FUNKE led the discussion in the SITUATION OF THE ARTS PROSEMINAR. POITRAS’ work includes the 2014 Academy Award winning Citizenfour, about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as well as films concerning the post-9/11 American ‘war on terror’: My Country, My Country (2006) and The Oath (2010). The discussion last week focused on the contemporary challenge presented by documentary film as a form.
In March 2015, PAUL CHAN met with students of CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS at the Guggenheim Museum for a morning’s exploration and discussion of his current installation, “Nonprojections for New Lovers.” PAUL CHAN has just won the 2014 HUGO BOSS PRIZE awarded to artists who have made a visionary contribution to contemporary art. PAUL CHAN’S work stirs many issues close to the questions and investigations of Critical Theory and the Arts, most importantly, ‘What is art today?”
In late March, as part of the SITUATION OF THE ARTS PROSEMINAR, CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS students went together to The Kitchen to see The Evening, Richard Maxwell’s first installment of a Divine Comedy-inspired triptych now in the works. The following week, Richard Maxwell joined the students here in the Department’s seminar room to discuss themes of the play – existence, isolation, death, and redemption. Richard also led the students through some theater exercises, and discussed the inspiration and methods of his work, partially outlined in his new book, Theater for Beginners.
Late March, professor STEPHEN BLUM joins CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS and ROBERT HULLOT-KENTOR, the program chair, to discuss the thesis that there is a form of critical theory implicit in the music of Charles Ives. The focus will be Ives’ “Concord Sonata,” (1915/1947), often referred to as “perhaps the most important composition of any American.” Can there in fact be a theory—a critical theory—of society implicit in music? Professor Blum has been teaching the work of Ives at different moments in his career over several decades and early in his career, performed both Ives’ first and second sonatas. Professor Blum’s contemporary specialization as an ethnomusicologist is Iranian music.
ELI ZARETSKY (New School), author of “Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis,” “Why America Needs a New Left: An Historical Argument,” and his broadly read, “Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life” joined Jeremy Cohan and program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS mid-March for a wide ranging discussion of contemporary realities in the SERIOUS TIMES LECTURE SERIES.
Professor OLIVER DECKER (Universities of Leipzig and Hanover, Center for the Study of Right Wing Extremism)
CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS is pleased to have visiting with us Professor Oliver Decker, a social psychologist, trained both as a psychoanalyst and in the tradition of critical theory social research. Throughout the Spring 2015 semester, Professor Decker is giving a series of seminars in which students are devising research projects concerning questions at the intersection of contemporary art and society.
Professor Decker lead a special seminar for the department faculty and students to meet and discuss Professor Decker’s own research into the contemporary rise of right wing political extremism. Professor Decker’s thesis is that there is an authoritarian dynamic implicit to societies structured by the dynamic of capitalist growth patterns. If this is correct then what seems to be today’s fringe phenomenon of expanding right wing extremism—unfortunately evident today throughout Europe and America—is considerably more than that: it gives insight into a fundamental aspect of modern society in the rise of capitalism.
DOES NATURAL BEAUTY HAVE LEGAL STANDING?
The Defense of “Storm King”
Astonishingly, the answer is “yes.” American law in most every instance grants “legal standing” in civil court—that is, the right to have a complaint heard by the court—only on the basis of an interest originating in injury of various kinds, especially physical, emotional or pecuniary injury. But in an extraordinary moment, on December 29th 1965, the New York State Court of Appeals blocked Consolidated Edison from constructing what would have been one of the world’s largest hydroelectric plants on the banks of the Hudson River, at STORM KING mountain, and devastating the region. In the precedent setting decision, the court ruled that “the preservation of natural beauty” can be represented in court—that natural beauty does have legal standing—as a legitimately specific interest. That mountain is now STORM KING STATE PARK and the court case that defended the park is itself referenced as having founded the origin of environmental law.
But the extraordinary precedent that was set in the struggle to protect Storm King has largely languished. Judges have since failed to recognize it or uphold it.
In March 2015, students and faculty at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS discussed the case—the puzzle of natural beauty and the law— with Albert Butzel, the distinguished environmental lawyer who led the struggle to protect Storm King over 15 years. Robert Hernan, formerly Assistant Attorney General of NY State, New York State Dept of Law, and Senior Council for Commissioner Initiatives in the New State Department of Environmental Conservation, also joined the discussion.
Why was the Storm King case able to prevail in the moment when it did, and why have the several precedents set by that case continued since then to languish in the courts?
The discussion is part of our study in aesthetics of the relation of natural beauty to art beauty. Storm King State Park, bordered by the Storm King Art Center—one of the largest sculpture parks in the world—and the social and political disputes in which the entire region is situated, present every aspect of the questions concerning aesthetics and contemporary social conflict.
Over the course of the year, nine artists will have joined writer and critic, BETTINA FUNCKE and Whitney Museum curator, JAY SANDERS—who together direct our Proseminar on THE SITUATION OF THE ARTS—for small-scale and serious discussions of their work along with occasional visits to their studios. This year opened with a triangle of the situation of the arts, a film, a dance, an exhibition: A double screening of Laura Poitras’s long-form documentary films My Country, My Country (2006) and The Oath (2010) launched the year, followed by choreographer Sarah Michelson leading a dance class with the students, and curator Scott Rothkopf touring us through his Jeff Koons exhibition at the Whitney Museum. We also invited students to attend the book launch of John Knight who then came to discuss his art in situ with us and we met Christopher Williams during an installation of his gallery show in Chelsea to discuss his exhibition at MoMA and the books he made along the survey show. Together these positions offered a deep insight in issues of the formation of American art in the 1980s and how these artists evolved over the next three decades in a changing cultural and political landscape of the U.S.
The Spring 2015 semester began with an intimate discussion with poet, performance artist, and translator Ariana Reines discussing poetry, how we gather, and the processes of writing. We will meet Paul Chan in his exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, curator Yasmil Raymond from the Dia Art Foundation will visit us to discuss her current projects and Dia’s Minimalist history. In addition we will meet playwright and director Richard Maxwell whose new theater piece we will go to see at The Kitchen.
-Distinguished critic and intellectual historian, MARTIN JAY (UC Berkeley)—author of The Dialectical Imagination, Downcast Eyes, Marxism and Totality and many other works on critical theory—ushers in the Spring semester with a visit to CTA in early January for a lawless open seminar with students and faculty. No papers. No readings. No preparations. Just spur-of-the-moment questions for spur-of-the moment answers.
-Distinguished environmental activist ALBERT BUTZEL visits CTA to discuss his lifelong effort to protect the environment, what the law can and cannot accomplish in these struggles, and what room there is—or isn’t—for innovative legal strategies in contending with corporations. In particular, we will discuss the effort to save Storm King Mountain in the 1960s-70s, and Albert Butzel’s central role in establishing what truly deserves to be called a landmark case of environmental defense that became, in fact, the basis of much modern environmental law.
-Dr. STEPHEN BLUM, Professor of Musicology at CUNY, talks about the compositional practice of Charles Ives and Gustav Mahler. In particular, Professor Blum intends to discuss how Ives and Mahler transformed and recomposed quotations and fragments from popular and traditional music in several of their major works.
-OBIE Award winning artist and writer–DAVID LEVINE–teaches “ON THE SPECTACLES” this Spring at Critical Theory and the Arts. David’s work includes performances at MOMA, Mass MOCA, Documenta xii, Gavin Brown@ Passerby, Tanya Leighton Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Watermill Center; video, photographic, and installation work at Blum and Poe Gallery (LA), Untitled Gallery (NY), Galerie Feinkost (Berlin), ISCP (New York), TPW Gallery (Toronto), Matadero (Madrid), HAU2 (Berlin), and Goethe Institute New York. Beyond his OBIE Award (2013), he has received grants from: NYSCA, NYFA, Florence Gould Foundation; German Federal Cultural Foundation; and fellowships from: Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, MacDowell Colony; Village Voice OBIE award, 2013
-2014-2015 Artist-in-residence JEANNE SILVERTHORNE returns to continue a discussion that started at the tip of the Fall semester, on the possibility of several extinctions underway in the situation of the arts and artists: “post-studio” production and social media challenge many of the fundamental assumptions of a private practice including notions of interiority, the creative potential of some degree of isolation, intimacy and the presupposition of an immediate, individual relationship with a viewer—all realities that are now vanishing.
-Pianist AARON LIKNESS (our resident performer) prepares four concerts for this academic year that will introduce students to experimental compositional work of the 20th century. The first concert marks a turning point in the emergence of musical experimentalism, including pieces by Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and composers from the New York School, including Morton Feldman and Earle Brown.
-Architect GEORG WINDECK (Cooper Union/Critical Theory and the Arts) presents a seminar in Fall 2014, “Art City, City Art: On Site.” The seminar originates in Max Weber’s observation that “without cities, there is no art history.” Professor’s Windeck’s seminar investigates one aspect of Weber’s observation by studying the relation between the built environment of art institutions in NYC in their complex relation to other urban functions and structures. Recently, seminar lectures have prepared students for studies of Roosevelt Island, the Cloisters, and the memorials, monuments and towers of Lower Manhattan. Professor Windeck’s seminar amounts to a consideration of New York City itself; readings and discussions draw on contemporary urban and architectural critics: a very large topic.
-2014-2015 Guggenheim Fellow artist MOWRY BADEN joins program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor, in the second half of his seminar on “The Arts, their History, and the United States.”
-Sociologist, JEREMY COHAN (CTA) will be in Chicago this year working on a study of the history of the Chicago Teachers Union and what this union’s complex history has to do with the situation of education in Chicago–a matter relevant to the situation of education nationwide. In Spring 2015, however, Jeremy returns to NYC to lead a mid-semester seminar at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS on Richard Hofstadter’s distinguished, THE AMERICAN POLITICAL TRADITION. Hofstadter called this ‘visibly a young man’s book’. Perhaps that’s what it took to espy the infrastructure of American politics–rancor, moralism, love of property, lack of system, suspicion of democracy–and to raise the pen in protest against heroes who don’t deserve the honor. We, with Hofstadter, ask: Can we pry open the narrow bounds of citizenship?
– CTA faculty member JOHN CLEGG (economist, activist) heads up the Spring session of the “Serious Times” Proseminar, with plans for a series of discussions on money and capitalism.
-Visiting professor OLIVER DECKER (Leipzig), a sociologist and psychoanalyst, presents to the students on the history of social research, and get them started on a social research project of their own.
IRIS DANKEMEYER (Philosophy/Literature: Berlin) joined department chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor to discuss Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory and the related reflections on this work by one of Adorno’s last doctoral students, whom Adorno considered especially brilliant, ELISABETH LENK. Central to the discussion was Adorno’s thesis that the problem of contemporary art is “to make things of which we cannot say what they are.” It was an occasion to introduce American students to one of the very few women of Adorno’s circle of students who took a leading role in Critical Theory.
Historian and constitutional law expert, Professor MILTON CANTOR, will be joining CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS this November to discuss how the American judiciary system increasingly came to function in the round up and quashing radical political protest and dissent beginning in the 1900s of anarchists, IWW, and labor unionists, right up through the present.
PROFESSOR ISABELLE KLASEN will be visiting from Bochum, Germany for the first several weeks of the Fall, 2014 semester at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS. Professor Klasen is a philosopher, artist, and lecturer at the Institute for Philosophy (Bochum), and co-founder of the Institute for Social Theory (Bochum). She will be giving a seminar on the possibility of beauty — or the experience of the Beautiful — in art today, drawing on Adorno, Lyotard, and Danto’s extensive writings on the situation of the subject in the post-modern, sublime condition, and stemming from Hegel’s continually controversial claim of the “end of art”.
Albert K. Butzel, a New York City environmental lawyer, will visit with the students at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS in the Spring 2015 semester. Mr. Butzel specializes in anti-establishment lawsuits, and was instrumental in successfully organizing public citizens against a proposal to build a power plant in the Hudson Highlands in the Storm King Mountain case. The ruling held that groups with “special interest in aesthetic, conservational, and recreational aspects” had legal standing to be included in the class of ‘aggrieved’ parties. This was the first decision of a court to grant standing on such terms, and is considered to be the basis of modern environmental law.
Click here for a New York Times profile of Albert K. Butzel by Jan Hoffman:
SEBASTIAN TRAENKLE (philosophy, University of Leipzig) recently joined faculty and students at the CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS department to present, “WHAT IS AT STAKE IN A METAPHOR.” The paper drew on aspects of Sebastian’s dissertation, which is a comparative study of the aesthetics and philosophy of language in T. W. Adorno and Hans Blumenberg (author of The Legitimacy of the Modern Age) by focusing on “metaphorology”: a critique of the philosophical and social functionality of metaphorics in expressing and constituting knowledge. The very provocative paper quickly made the case that there is a great deal at stake in a metaphor and the open discussion that followed the paper made brought some participants to conclude, as Sebastian had suggested, that virtually everything might be at stake in a metaphor.
The department of Critical Theory and the Arts warmly congratulates our departmental ally and friend MOWRY BADEN on being granted a Guggeneheim Fellowship this year to continue the development of haptic sculptures that utilize ingeniously—mysteriously—accelerated condensed packets of air to investigate the body’s sensorial resources for aesthetic phenomena. Baden is a well-known contemporary artist and sculptor of experimental experiential objects that address human sensory experience. Mowry Baden will again be a visitor to Critical Theory and the Arts in 2014-2015.
Martin Jay will return to the department in January, 2015 to join students and faculty of Critical Theory and the Arts in an attempt to “Answer Every Last Question.” No paper will be presented. Questions only, to the final gong.
IRENE LEHMANN (Performance Studies, Comparative Literature and Philosophy/Berlin) will discuss the work of the Italian avant-garde composer LUIGI NONO at Critical Theory and the Arts this week in the Social Theory Seminar.
Critical Theory and the Arts is fortunate to have with us in 2014-2015, as our first artist-in-residence, Jeanne Silverthorne whose own work as a sculptor has long and centrally been concerned with the possibility of several extinctions: “post-studio” production and social media challenge many of the fundamental assumptions of a private practice including notions of interiority, the creative potential of some degree of isolation, intimacy and the presupposition of an immediate, individual relationship with a viewer—all realities that are now withering away. Is there a future for studio work; is there a way to acknowledge the new realities that are supplanting it without jettisoning the studio? And, of all that is threatened along with what has historically been the figure and work of an artist, Silverthorne’s practice is alert to the recognition that art, which is now capable of mobilizing unprecedented forces of manufacture, has itself become complicitous in the production of a world-wide carbon footprint that presages environmental extinction.
As the second part of a two-part class on 20th-century musical composition, AARON LIKNESS, the department’s resident pianist, will perform work by JOHN CAGE, MORTON FELDMAN, EARLE BROWN, ERIC SATIE, WEBERN, and SCHOENBERG.
Feldman, Palais de Mari
Feldman, Piano Piece for Philip Guston
Cage, Etude Australis No. 10
Schoenberg, Six Little Pieces, Op. 19
Webern, Variations, Op. 27
Satie, Avant-dernières pensées or Gnossiennes
Brown, December 1952
RACHEL PRICE (Princeton University, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese) will join students and faculty at Critical Theory and the Arts to discuss the work of Brazilian artist LYGIA CLARK.
LYGIA CLARK will be the subject of a major retrospective at MoMA beginning in May. Ahead of this important exhibition, Professor Price will situate Clark’s work in the context of poet-critic Ferreira Gullar’s 1959 “Theory of the non-object” and other period developments in concrete and neo-concrete poetics and art.
AK THOMPSON joins Critical Theory and the Arts to discuss Walter Benjamin’s theory of dialectical images.
“When Shock Is No Longer Shocking: Walter Benjamin and the Dialectical Image Today”
In Convolute N of the Arcades Project and in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Walter Benjamin elaborated a brief but systematic account of what he called “dialectical images.” According to Benjamin, such images were notable for their capacity to produce moments of revelatory shock in which the viewer could come face to face with “a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past.” By constellating disparate fragments of historical experience and compressing them to a single point of reckoning, Benjamin imagined that the dialectical image could enjoin viewers to consider what would be required to act upon history as such.
Although his conceptualization remains an invaluable analytical tool, Benjamin himself never outlined the precise means by which such images could be consciously produced (rather than merely discovered) by those seeking revolutionary change. Nevertheless, it’s possible to find visual approximations of important aspects of the dialectical image’s epistemic premises in Diego Rivera’s “Man at the Crossroads” (1933) and Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937). Conceived as responses to fascist ascent in the interwar period, these images gain new relevance in our contemporary moment, which has been characterized by the wholesale reiteration of fascist themes.
Nevertheless, since the dialectical image is inseparable from the “now of its recognizability,” these images no longer resonate as they once did. For this reason, generating an image capable of living up to Benjamin’s concept demands that we account for the significant perceptual transformations that have occurred between the 1930s and our own endless present. By reading the epistemic demands of the dialectical image through Frederic Jameson’s analysis of the cultural logic of late capitalism, it becomes possible to begin envisioning what such an image might look like today.
Next week, AARON LIKNESS, the department’s resident pianist, will discuss the emancipation of dissonance in early 20th-century music to provide an introduction to the music and ideas of the New York School of composers, including the work of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. Aaron’s discussion will also develop the relation between these developments in music and what happened in the visual arts in New York City in the same period. The presentation will prepare us for Aaron’s evening concert of a selection of these composers’ work.
Architectural critic and Cooper Union faculty member, GEORG WINDECK, joined faculty and students for a second week to continue his discussion of New York City architecture, this time using the history of Rockefeller Center as the focal point to consider the aesthetics and technologies that emerged in the first half of the 20th century in the construction of New York City’s once famous skyscrapers. WINDECK’S presentation showed that the ‘visions of the future’ drawn up by architects as models for utopic city life actually originated in periods of economic depression when considerable numbers of architects were unemployed, and that the plans for innovation were often displaced by the same economic chaos in which the plans were developed. Rockefeller Center was itself an instance of an ideal plan that was then put aside by the economic exigencies of the day.
BARRY C. LYNN recently returned to the Critical Theory and the Arts department and the Serious Times Lecture Series to discuss with students and faculty his recent work on the development of contemporary monopoly corporations. His books, END OF THE LINE and CORNERED investigate the destruction of markets that fulfill human needs and their replacement by ‘arbitrage’ corporations, such as Walmart and Target, that seize economic control by disaggregating production—that is, sending production off-shore—and using computerized techniques for dominating the mechanisms of commodity distribution. The drive for ‘efficiency’—which LYNN shows to be by no means a self-evident value—hyper-rationalization, the opportunistic manipulation of prices, in the global market since the 1990s, has defeated the much touted promises of globalization. Instead, a precariously fragile web of powerful but elusive monopolies and closed markets has emerged that can be all too easily disrupted by political, economic, and environmental upheaval. LYNN has struggled to present the treacherously perilous situation that has emerged. The globalized economy is now such that the shock to one node in the production cycle is felt by all, the imaginable consequences of which are potentially catastrophic. That the mechanisms of these systems have been made mostly invisible by corporations that are now adept at eluding national regulation and oversight has prevented governmental and political assessment of the reality of our situation: “our,” here meaning the hardly conceivable world as a whole.
GEORG WINDECK, an architect and faculty member at The Cooper Union, visited the program this past Tuesday and talked on “”Junk and the Ground it is Built on: What’s Wrong with New York City Architecture?”
This question can be more directly answered than one might guess. As Professor Windeck explained, the tawdry, meretricious city architecture is a function of a conflict between architectural values, on one hand, and, on the other, the fact that almost all major buildings in NYC are constructed on rented land. Speculation on the value of this land inevitably triumphs over the architectural value of what might be constructed on it. By economic calculation, longevity of well constructed buildings is the last concern on anyone’s mind in what is actually built here. This is why every building that hits the NY City skyline seems to say, right on its shiny facade, “Going Out of Style!” Windeck pointed out that this construction of junk on rented land amounts to a radical inversion in the historical relationship of humankind to land and place. Professor Windeck will be back next week to continue this discussion of New York City architecture.
“What Everyone Knows about Nick Baker”
Everyone knows that Nicholson Baker played the bassoon for many years, wanted to be a composer, and is still enraptured by Debussy’s “Cathedrale Engloutie.” His father taught him to stand on his hands—even on one hand—while listening to the entirety of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” As a boy growing up in a household without watches or clocks, his responsibility, on request, was to call the 1-800 number for the exact time. He traces to this chore and setting his finger for a free ride on the counterclockwise return of the rotary dial, his love of the telephone. We know, authoritatively, that in his youth Baker was prophesized to become an even a greater writer than his hero, John Updike. His mother told him so—plainly under his pressure. We know from his many books and, in national broadcast interview as well, that Nicholson Baker willingly talks about his grandfather, his mother, his father, his children and his sweetheart wife of a lifetime as if we were all welcome to know them and perhaps already do. Nick is a large man, who gets nose bleeds easily, wishes he didn’t need to wear a beard, and struggles with psoriasis. In the middle of the night, out of consideration for the possible contingency of his wife’s bare feet later on the bathroom tiles, he sits down on the toilet seat to urinate. We sense an encompassing privacy even when he is unavoidant of any detail of body, life or mind; in the rudest matters, he is incapable of vulgarity. He has written three erotic novels that are the most compelling rebuttal to original sin since Rousseau. One of those erotic novels, Fermata, is dedicated to his father, a perhaps historically unprecedented deed. Reading Nicholson Baker, we are aware that he will unflinchingly romance, under devoted scrutiny, a potato, a milk carton, or a flat screen computer monitor. To universal bewilderment, he has asserted in the New Yorker that Korean manufactured flat screen monitors could bring world peace. He knows that “human” means—if it means anything at all—no pushing. He knows, no less, (though I don’t think he would ever say or write it) that human history, regarded from most any angle, is a fathomless sea of blood. Pulling onto a busy highway in a Kia with faulty breaks, he feels marvelously enjoined with the whole of humanity. He has an active imagination. His tenderness originates in the perception that this is the only world we will ever have and that, what we do to each other, is in every instance, what we have indeed done to each other. The intentional excess of tenderness says, point blank, that we should all know this. He applied to Harvard University for a PhD in philosophy, and was turned down because he had only taken three philosophy classes, two of them in his first year of music school, a line of reasoning about which he later remarked, in modestly Socratic superlative: “What is that for a reason?” A close reader of his—to date—15 books might well observe that Nick Baker never ever mentions William Maxwell, whom I frankly prefer to John Updike. That these are just the very first words of all that we know about Nicholson Baker, and that any of his readers might go on and on, innumerably listing off all that we know about Nicholson Baker, seems to me a prodigious achievement; for those willing to turn the pages, as Wallace Stevens might have said, the light of his imagination constantly becomes a light in the many minds—and it is my good fortune to be able to thank him for that on the part of the many people who might wish to have the moment to thank him for his work.
This past Tuesday, our department’s pianist—AARON LIKNESS—met with the graduate students one last time before the Winter Recess begins in preparation for composer and pianist, STEFAN LITWIN’S presentation in early January, which will be the first of three monthly classes culminating in a discussion of 20th-century composition.
More about Aaron Likness: http://www.eccensemble.com/about/our-ensemble/aaron-likness-piano/
More about Stefan Litwin: http://www.eccensemble.com/about/our-ensemble/aaron-likness-piano/
This week, IRA KATZNELSON joins the last Fall semester meeting of the Serious Times Lecture Series at Critical Theory and the Arts to discuss his new book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” -Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radian with triumphant calamity.” -T. W. Adorno
NICHOLSON BAKER visits CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS in January, 2014
Nicholson Baker is one of the most interesting, ingenious and prolific writers of our day. Among his many novels are “Vox,” “Mezzanine,” “House of Holes,” “A Box of Matches” and recently, “Traveling Sprinkler.” His essayistic work includes, “How the World Works,” “The Size of Thoughts,” and “Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper.” And he is also the author of “Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.” This is the book we will especially be discussing with Nicholson Baker, interested to know how it is related to his work of fiction.
Listen to four of Baker’s recent Protest Songs at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/10/four-protest-songs.html.
MARK A. IZEMAN, Director, New York Urban Program and Senior Attorney, Urban Program met with students at CRITICAL THEORY AND THE ARTS on December 3rd to discuss his own work in environmental activism.
Mark is the author or co-author of many publications, including The New York Environment Book. He started out as a research associate in NRDC’s New York office in 1989. After graduating from New York University School of Law in 1992, he clerked for a federal judge and returned to NRDC a year later as a staff attorney. From 2006 to 2009, Mark lived in Moscow, Russia and continued to work for NRDC on energy efficiency and climate change issues. He received his undergraduate degree from Brown University.
Statement from the NRDC Website:
NRDC–NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL– is the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.4 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.
The New York Times calls us “One of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups.” The National Journal says we’re “A credible and forceful advocate for stringent environmental protection.”
Our dedicated staff work with businesses, elected leaders, and community groups on the biggest issues we face today. Our priorities include:
Curbing Global Warming and Creating the Clean Energy Future
Reviving the World’s Oceans
Defending Endangered Wildlife and Wild Places
Protecting Our Health by Preventing Pollution
Ensuring Safe and Sufficient Water
Fostering Sustainable Communities
November 13, 2013
It is more than a pleasure to welcome Eric Foner this evening, to join us in conversation and discussion at Critical Theory and the Arts. – And more than a pleasure, as well, to introduce Eric Foner to several of our faculty, to our wonderful students, and to allies of the department, who are all here at the table with us. — For your own curiosity, Professor Foner, you are following a visit from Michael Katz—and a discussion of the sorry puzzles of American welfare—and preceding Ira Katznelson, to discuss his new book, ‘Fear Itself.’ He will be with us in early December.
We all much appreciate Jeremy Cohan, the moderator of the Serious Times Lecture Series for organizing this evening’s discussion. I’ll be turning things over to Jeremy in a moment.
It is customary in an introduction to name the works, honors and awards of a distinguished guest. But, I suspect that Eric Foner has heard this all, so often enough before, and in such loftier circumstances, that, here in our clubhouse, we can abbreviate the long list of his many books and accomplishments to saying that even a small part of what Eric Foner has written would for most of us amount to a lifetime’s worthy accomplishment.
But, the reason that Eric Foner’s work matters as it does; what makes it remarkable, apart from the shear number of achievements—is the extraordinary convergence we find in it of the most considerable powers of intellectual erudition, on one hand, and of historical motivation, on the other. Throughout his many works, Eric Foner is not only writing about history; he knows himself to have been born into history—not only into its realia and forces, in which endlessly more people founder than otherwise, but he knows himself to have been born into a struggle for the self-consciousness of the impulses in history and, with the self-conscious recognition of these impulses, no less the received obligation to craft the energies and talents to do justice to them.
What these impulses are is not easily described. Difficult as it is, however, Walter Benjamin attempted to say something about them in “On the Concept of History,” when he wrote that the possible transformation of the world is lodged not in dreams of utopia but in the memory of enslaved ancestors.
Eric Foner, for his part, in his essay, “My Life as a Historian,” is effectively glossing Benjamin when Foner comments—in telling how he came to spend nine years in the archival research and writing of his magisterial Reconstruction—that, “If Reconstruction was born in the archives, it was written from the heart.” Anyone reading the book is consistently aware of this. The volume’s entirely sustained human voice through its many often difficult pages would not otherwise have carried; and neither would we readers find ourselves reading, and then repeatedly reading the volume’s last sentences, on p. 612, that after Reconstruction “nearly a century elapsed before the nation again attempted to come to terms with the implications of emancipation and the political and social agenda of Reconstruction. In many ways, it has yet to do so.” It is true, just as you say, Eric Foner, from the heart, and even thirty-five years after the writing of your book: it has yet to do so.
Thank you for joining us this evening. To Jeremy…
Read about Eric Foner at: http://www.ericfoner.com/.