Capitalism means: making things for others to buy in order to buy things made by others for someone else- everything for someone else. Anon.

SPRING 2014, STEFAN LITWIN, Lectures/Performances

Music and Aesthetics at SVA MA in Critical Theory and the Arts:

Contemporary composer and pianist–STEFAN LITWIN, the newest member of our faculty–will present three lecture/presentations of his own compositional work and the work of others in January, February and March. In Europe, Stefan Litwin’s presentations and performances have brought him widespread acclaim and interest.

“There are not many musicians who are able to combine the creativity and sensitivity of a real artist (composer/performer) with the philological rigor and interpretive skills of a major scholar in the humanities. Stefan Litwin’s playing is utterly brilliant. He is both a genuine virtuoso and a poet at the piano with deep insights into the crucial relationship between emotion and structure, extreme subjectivity and extreme sense of order.

Litwin’s compositions – and especially those for piano – display an originality of thinking in music that is remarkable. A work like the piano piece »Lyon 1943 (Pièce de résistance)« is in its expressive intensity a disturbing monument, an example of a political instrumental music in the succession of Stefan Wolpe.”

(Reinhold Brinkmann)

Psychoanalysis–Sociology–and Critical Theory

“A Cultural History of Fetishism” and “The Obsolescence of the Authoritarian Personality”

Plans in the works for academic year, 2014-2015:

We are making plans for psychoanalyst and sociologist—OLIVER DECKER—to present two brief seminar series on“The Cultural History of Fetishism: From Roman idolized bodies to Marx’s concept of the commodity Fetish”; and “The Obsolescence of the Authoritarian Personality and the Changing Meaning of Social Violence.”

“THAT FLOATING BRIDGE,” Reading and Reception at Critical Theory and the Arts

THAT FLOATING BRIDGE — First of the Year, Volume 5 — edited by Benj Demott

Readings by:

  • Novelist, Scott Spencer (“Endless Love”)
  • Writer, Fredric Smoler (“Before the Flood”)
  • Poet, Alison Stone
  • Editor/Writer, Benj DeMott
  • Others

Benj DeMott is editor of First of the Year, and a discussant at our Serious Times Lecture Series.

Peter Eleey, Laura Poitras, Nicolai Ouroussoff and others…

In the “Situation of the Arts” 2013-2014, led by curator and writer, Jay Sanders, and writer, publisher, Bettina Funcke:

  • A tour of the new Mike Kelly exhibition at MoMA PS1 with curator, Peter Eleey
  • A discussion with filmmaker Laura Poitras focused on “the level of the problem” in contemporary art
  • A seminar visit with writer and critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff, who is busy writing the first social history of 20th-century architecture
  • A meeting with the curators of the Whitney Biennial, 2014
  • A visit to the new Christopher Wool exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, and discussion with the exhibition’s curator, Katherine Brinson.

Roundtable Discussion,”Fear Itself: The Social Production of Fright and Its Impact”

Distinguished historian, IRA KATZNELSON, joins a roundtable panel at the Serious Times Lecture Series in December to discuss the historical reality of fear, its origins and social impact with psychoanalyst, Jay Frankel; political scientist, Antonio Y. Vazquez-Arroyo; sociologist, Jeremy Cohan; social philosopher, Devi Dumbadze; and department chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor. The discussion will focus on Ira Katznelson’s recent Fear Itself (2013).

“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

Ira Katznelson is currently the Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University. Katznelson is an Americanist whose work has straddled comparative politics and political theory as well as political and social history.

Publications: Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time; Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic for the Moderns (with Andreas Kalyvas); and When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. Earlier books include Black Men, White Cities: Race, Politics and Migration in the United States, 1900-1930, and Britain, 1948-1968; City Trenches: Urban Politics and the Patterning of Class in the United States; Schooling for All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (with Margaret Weir); Marxism and the City; Liberalism’s Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik; and Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge after Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust.

“Rituals of Rented Island” at the Whitney Museum — curated by faculty member, Jay Sanders

Whitney Museum Exhibition
Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980
October 31st, 2013–February 2nd, 2014

Curated by MA Critical Theory and the Arts faculty member, Jay Sanders. The students in the “Situation of the Arts” proseminar will take a private tour of this new exhibition at the museum, opening on Oct. 31.

On Charles Ives’ writings and music

In November, Aaron Likness, our program’s pianist, will perform Charles Ives’, “Concord Sonata.” Following his performance Aaron will lead a special seminar to discuss Ives’ Essays before a Sonata.

Michael Katz (historian, social theorist) visits the Serious Times Lecture Series — “America’s Archaic Poverty”

The Proseminar on Serious Times  begins its Fall 2013 calendar with a visit from historian and social theorist, Michael Katz. He will join seminar leaders, Jeremy Cohan and Antonio Y. Vazquez-Arroyo, to discuss:

“America’s Archaic Poverty”

The United States is the richest nation in history. Yet even though productivity has more than doubled since the mid-seventies, poverty has only increased. A redistribution of wealth in the USA would conceivably guarantee everyone a full half year surcease from labor (see Juliet Schor, The Overworked American). Yet poverty instead now claims twenty-two percent of all children nationwide.

Much of the political-economic situation in relation to poverty in America is very old. Especially persistent is the sharp division between social insurance and welfare, with welfare reserved for the haunting and ragged figure of the undeserving poor. They are the weak willed; the morally corrupt; those who, exclusively through their own lapse and fault, have fallen away from the good company in god’s always economically ascending chariot of the elect and thus tumbled onto the hard times exclusively reserved for their kind. These are the people who do not deserve “insurance”—the kingdom secured for the true hearts, the veterans, the aged who had worked their share, the widowed, and so on.

Alongside these longstanding matters, we face new developments: a retrenchment of social provision over the last forty years has reached a scale that would have seemed impossible from earlier vantages that once assumed that history was on the side of the beleaguered.

Michael Katz will speak to us about the persistence of “the undeserving poor” as a concept in American social action, political psychology, and national mythology. He will help us inquire why policy continues to insist on a now outdated “individual responsibility” and what the emotional valence of “poverty talk” reveals about the country’s studied obtuseness to its reality. Alongside examining this deep-rooted orientation, he will guide us through some of the transformations that have taken place since the seventies with the establishment of the “war on welfare” as consensus politics. Is the whole project of “welfare,” thus far conceived, a bust? If so, what happens to the “surplus population” created by the society? How will persons live?

We hope to make some headway in questions of continuity and transformation, and the way in which poverty condenses truths about the nature of the society as a whole.

Historian, Milton Cantor, on “Radicalism and American Law”

Milton Cantor will discuss his new book on radicalism and American law later this year with students in Critical Theory and the Arts. He is the author of many works including, The Divided Left: American Radicalism in the Twentieth Century; Sex, Class and the Woman Worker; Black Labor in America; and American Working Class Culture.

 

SIX NOTES ON SUBJECTIVITY AND ABJECTION: FROM VIRGINIA WOOLF TO LUCIANO BERIO

RICHARD LEPPERT will join students in the Critical Theory and the Arts program later this year to discuss:

“Six Notes on Subjectivity and Abjection: From Virginia Woolf to Luciano Berio”

Professor Leppert teaches at the University of Minnesota, in the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. He is the author of many books on the visual arts, film, and music, including, recently, Sound Judgment: Selected Essays; Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema; The Nude: The Cultural Rehtoric of the Body in the Art of Western Modernity and Theodor W. Adorno: Essays in Music.

Conversations with Thomas Hirschhorn, Josephine Pryde, Paul Chan and others, 2013-2014

September/October

THOMAS HIRSCHHORN meets with students at the Gramsci Monument.

Artist, JOSEPHINE PRYDE discusses recent work with the Situation of the Arts Seminar.

PAUL CHAN in open conversation.

Historian, MICHAEL KATZ discusses the history of poverty and failed social policy in the United States.

MASSIMILIANO GIONI, curator at the New Museum, receives students at the CHRIS BURDEN exhibition.

Critic SVEN LUETTICKEN, (Amsterdam), joins Bettina Funcke, and Whitney curator, Jay Sanders in the Situation of the Arts seminar.

Composer/Pianist STEFAN LITWIN, open rehearsal of recent composition, EL ONCE, and RZEWSKI’S “The People United Will Never Be Divided.”

Psychoanalyst, JAY FRANKEL’S seminar begins.

STEFAN LITWIN joins program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor for a performance/discussion of “Vanishing Controversy in the Arts and Musical Differentiation.”

Visiting professor, CHRISTOPH HESSE, presents lecture series on the development of the idea of the “CULTURE INDUSTRY” since Marx and Nietzsche.

Some more to know about Stefan Litwin, composer, pianist, and upcoming guest at our program’s discussion of the “Vanishing Critical Engagement in the Arts and Musical Differentiation”:

Born 1960 in Mexico City, studied piano, interpretation and composition in the United States and Switzerland.

Solo Work
Solo recitals and performances with renowned orchestras and conductors, including Christoph von Dohnányi, Michael Gielen, and Marek Janowski.

Chamber Music
With Irvine Arditti, Kolja Blacher, Eduard Brunner, Bruno Canino, Manuel Fischer-Dieskau, Alban Gerhardt, Ib Hausmann, Aurèle Nicolet, Michael Riessler, Gustav Rivinius, Christian Tetzlaff, Jörg Widmann, the Arditti-, Danel-, LaSalle-, Minguet -, Pellegrini Quartets, and Ensemble Resonanz.

Lecture Recitals
On numerous topics, including music by Beethoven, Ives, Nono, Schoenberg, Schubert, and Schumann.

Lieder
With Claudia Barainsky, David Cordier, Rosemary Hardy, Henry Herford, Roland Hermann, Salome Kammer, Gisela May, David Moss, Sebastian Noack, and Yaron Windmüller.

New Music
Collaboration with composers Luciano Berio, Herbert Brün, Michael Gielen, Alexander Goehr, Johannes Kalitzke, Jonathan Kramer, Luigi Nono, Frederic Rzewski, Mathias Spahlinger, Jörg Widmann, Jürg Wyttenbach, and Hans Zender.

Composer
Litwin’s compositions include pieces for piano, orchestra and larger ensembles, as well as chamber and vocal music. In many cases his works focus on sociopolitical issues, whereby the ability to remember (as in ars memoria) is given an essential role.

Recordings
Television and radio productions in Europe and the United States. CD recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Auvidis/Montaigne, Arte Nova telos, Cala records, cpo, col legno, hänssler.

Sven Lütticken, critic, joins Bettina Funcke and Jay Sanders in the “Situation of the Arts” this October

Sven Lütticken teaches art history at Vrije University Amsterdam and Freie Universität Berlin. His works include History in Motion: Time in the Age of the Moving Image (2013), Idols of the Market: Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle (2009) — both published by Sternberg Press — and Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art (NAi Publishers, 2006). His critical, historical and theoretical writings on modern and contemporary art and culture have been published widely in journals and other publications. Lütticken has a blog and calls himself a Sunday-curator.

Link to Sven Lütticken’s blog: http://svenlutticken.blogspot.com/ 

Paul Chan discusses his “Selected Writings”

Paul Chan was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Next to animation and video, drawings, and language-based works, he engages in discussions around art and its relation to the world, including politics and war, through poetry, critical writing, activism, theater, and most recently, book publishing.

He joins us to discuss selected texts from his forthcoming book, Paul Chan: Selected Writings:

“Wanderlusting,” 2012
“The Unthinkable Community,” 2010
“X jxm vlr rpb pelria ilpb vlr,” 2011
“Duchamp or Freedom: A Comedy,” 2012
“On Not Knowing Stuart Sherman,” 2013

“Vanishing Critical Engagement in the Arts and Musical Differentiation”

Composer and pianist STEFAN LITWIN joins program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor to discuss the contemporary situation of music with MA students and faculty at Critical Theory and the Arts at SVA NYC.

A peculiarity of the contemporary situation in the visual arts as much as in music–and there is an exactly homologous situation in the political situation of the nation–is that, while strong feelings and no less intense opposing tendencies are involved, thinking controversy is rarely engaged. There are, of course, exceptions. But in public, the effort to talk seriously and discerningly is often met with outright distress, as if a presumed treaty and solidarity has been unfairly shattered.

Why the situation is thus, is not obvious. But one aspect is clear: the terms and concepts in which controversy was once joined have withered. They seem archaic, forgotten, and wearingly inapposite. The struggle between ‘modernism’ and ‘post-modernism,’ for instance–to take several of the most obvious–or “representational” versus “non-representational” art, not only did take place a century ago, but might as well have happened many centuries ago.

In music, similarly, the struggle over “popular” and “classical” music—words at whose mention generations of critics once tumbled to the grappling mat to struggle over the perceived fate of music—-are now inertly obscure. Which is “popular,” which is “classical” music? What even can be presumed of the idea of “music” at all? We could barely say what “radio” is, let alone what “music” is.

Perhaps this vanishing of a critical language amounts to an achievement and an arrival at the proverbial open, Elysian fields of making and fashioning, where anything might happen and does. Or, perhaps, it represents an absolute loss of tension in what anyone is prepared to think or make. Certainly, this is not a question to be answered in any single afternoon.

But, all the same, is it possible, in this loss of critical language, to make distinctions in–in this case–musical composition? What are the possibilities for critical perception that can be made by a listening, examining, musical sensorium and intelligence keyed to nothing else than an impulse for, and obligation to, musical differentiation?

This is the question that composer and pianist, STEFAN LITWIN will consider when he joins program chair, Robert Hullot-Kentor for a discussion with faculty and students in the program in Critical Theory and the Arts, this October.

Nicholson Baker to discuss “Human Smoke”

The novelist, essayist, and musician, Nicholson Baker, meets with the MA students and faculty at Critical Theory and the Arts in January to discuss “Human Smoke,” his much admired, much disputed and altogether controversial study of the legitimacy of war, which profoundly challenges how World War II is remembered. Whatever position one finally takes in this dispute–which deserves a great deal of thinking and has been joined from all sides–his independence of mind and desire for anything but war, his undiminished sense of the bloody, mangling reality and utter waste of war–in a nation that has been almost constantly at war since WWII–marks as exceptional his work as a writer and public intellectual. Participants in the Serious Times Proseminar will also want to talk with Baker about how it can be that he wrote this considerable volume–close to 600 pages–and in fact writes all of his many novels and essays in his car (a Kia with bad brakes).

Touring Chris Burden’s “Extreme Measures” with New Museum curator, Massimiliano Gioni

Chief Curator of The New Museum and curator of this year’s Venice Biennial, Massimiliano Gioni, will take the MA students through the museum-wide exhibition of American artist, Chris Burden.

Since the 1970s, Burden has pushed the limits of sculpture and performance, focusing on weights and measures, boundaries and constraints, where physical and moral limits are called into question. 

Readings with artist Josephine Pryde in mid-September, 2013

Berlin- and London-based artist Josephine Pryde has worked with photography, impromptu objects, and installation and is a relevant voice of her generation, engaging in activism, criticism, fashion, and feminism in subtle, stubborn and hilarious ways. Her pictures have depicted credit cards, sheep, models, and chicken and more recently affect-laden photos of teenagers contemplating pregnancy, photos of a young boy, and close-ups of fabrics. She has also taught and written about art for some time.

For her visit, she has suggested a discussion of readings by Alexander Garciá Düttmann, Shulamith Firestone, and Jordan Bear’s article on Julia Margaret Cameron’s Collaborations.

Political scientist and historian, Ira Katznelson, scheduled to meet with the Serious Times Proseminar near the close of the Fall Semester

Ira Katznelson is currently the Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University. Katznelson is an Americanist whose work has straddled comparative politics and political theory as well as political and social history.

Publications: Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time; Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic for the Moderns (with Andreas Kalyvas); and When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. Earlier books include Black Men, White Cities: Race, Politics and Migration in the United States, 1900-1930, and Britain, 1948-1968City Trenches: Urban Politics and the Patterning of Class in the United States; Schooling for All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (with Margaret Weir); Marxism and the City; Liberalism’s Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik; and Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge after Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust

Historian ERIC FONER visiting in November, 2013

Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. He received his doctoral degree at Columbia under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. Foner is one of a handful of writers to have won the Bancroft and Pulitzer Prizes in the same year. Foner’s publications have concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations.

Publications include: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War; Tom Paine and Revolutionary America; Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy; Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award); The Reader’s Companion to American History (with John A. Garraty); The Story of American Freedom; and Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World. His books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Italian, Japanese, Portugese, and Spanish. His most recent book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Pulitzer Prize for History, and The Lincoln Prize.

Historian MICHAEL KATZ visiting in October, 2013

Michael Katz is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History and Research Associate in the Population Studies Center in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a resident fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies (Princeton), the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; he also has held a fellowship from the Open Society Institute. His work has focused on the history of American education; the history of urban social structure and family organization; and the history of social welfare and poverty.

Publications: Recent books include Why Don’t American Cities Burn and the forthcoming book The Underserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty. Earlier works include In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America; Reconstructing American Education; The Social Organization of Early Industrial Capitalism; The “Underclass” Debate: Views from History; Improving Poor People: the Welfare State, the “Underclass” and Urban Schools as History; and The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State. 

“Precedents and Remnants of the Culture Industry” with visiting scholar, Christoph Hesse

This month, the MA Critical Theory and the Arts class of 2013-2014 meets with guest scholar, Professor Christoph Hesse. The topic under discussion is:

“Precedents and Remnants of the Culture Industry” 

Adorno and Horkheimer’s essay on the culture industry, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” (Dialectic of Enlightenement, 1947) is as famous as it is now presumed, and as presumed as it is in fact now little understood. The term, “culture industry,” coined long ago in that essay, has lost any critical edge.

In this series of lectures, Christoph Hesse, one of our visiting professors this year, wants to capture anew the critical impulse of the idea of the “Culture Industry,” as a materialist critical theory opposed to what was once called ‘conformist’ traditional theory, by following the development of the idea from Marx, through Nietzsche, Freud, Kracauer and Benjamin, and other forerunners of the concept in Weimar Germany.

Student Colloquium at Critical Theory and the Arts this June

–“The First Annual I.I. Rubin Conference on Ideology Critique, Critical Theory and the Arts, Class of 2k13”–

MA students in Critical Theory and the Arts, in the summer months primarily engaged in preparing their Comprehensive Thesis, have organized a conference with several members of the department faculty, including Jeremy Cohan, Jay B. Frankel, Devi Dumbadze and Robert Hullot-Kentor. The topic concerns ideology, art and identification with the aggressor. Students and faculty will present brief papers for round table discussion.

Francis Cape’s “Utopian Benches” at Murray Guy / “WHAT TALK WILL BEAR”

Francis Cape has an installation of his “Utopian Benches” coming up this summer at Murray Guy in Chelsea, from June 27th to August 2nd. The benches are meant to present a situation of potential discussion.

Robert Hullot-Kentor will join Francis in initiating these discussions, this one on the topic of “What Talk Will Bear.” Graduate students from the Program in Critical Theory and the Arts will be there to participate as well.

Dr. James Hansen visits the Serious Times Lecture Series on Earth Day, 2013

Before MA students began writing their Comprehensive Thesis Projects this summer, we had one last visitor to the Serious Times Lecture Series, DR. JAMES HANSEN, the world-renowned climatologist and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Below is a description of the discussion that took place between Dr. Hansen and the students in the MA program.

****

POST SANDY — TOO LATE?

Not long ago, social critics on the left were easily able to drive a critical wedge into capitalism’s dynamic of transmuting every surplus into scarcity by insisting on the utter, even ineluctable abundance of capitalist manufacture. A title from 1970, such as Murray Bookchin’s “Post-Scarcity Anarchism”, characterized this critical approach–capitalism’s own success was fated to making capitalism itself obsolete.

But this vision of an inexhaustible human productivity relied on the ancient image and reality of an inexhaustible nature: nature as the horn of plenty, an infinite cornucopia that manufacture needed merely to learn to tap to bring to all an abundance beyond what anyone might ever use.

This cornucopia, the vision of it, is now gone and with it the entire utopian tradition of thought. No doubt, there is less imagination today because there is less to imagine. Humanity will never again, in the entire rest of its history, exist in a stable climate. The most urgent questions have become—not how we might somehow dispose of our overwhelming productivity—but the ways in which we might limit the effects of the global catastrophes that we are already well in the midst of.

Critical Theory and the Arts has invited DR JAMES HANSEN to help us understand these contemporary realities. How much has the climate warmed and how much warmer can we expect it to get? What are our prospects?

DR JAMES HANSEN heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

Professor Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change. In recent years, Hansen has become an activist for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which on a few occasions has led to his arrest. In 2009 his first book, Storms of My Grandchildren, was published.

Jay Sanders and students at “Frozen Lakes”

At the end of February, Jay Sanders and the MA students visited Artists Space for a closed discussion and tour of the exhibition, “Frozen Lakes,” with Artists Space curator, Richard Birkett.

“What is Cubism?” art historian Sebastian Zeidler at the MA program

“In the fall of 2013 a seminar on the Cubism of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso will be convened at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington. In preparation for it, the participants have been asked to produce a reply to the question, ‘What Is Cubism?’

The fact the question should be asked at all is reason enough to give one pause, for a quarter-century ago it seemed to have been settled for good. To be sure, the answers were varying widely at the time, depending on whether one was asking a semiologist or a social historian; but everyone did indeed have an answer ready. Today, that is no longer the case. As the methodological battles of the 1980s and 1990s have faded away, so have the certainties about the work of Braque and Picasso which they used to generate. One hundred years after its inception, Cubism looks more elusive than ever before.This talk will attempt to turn that elusiveness into a virtue by looking at the art anew and from an unfamiliar perspective. Its focus will be double. It will extract a set of theoretical terms from the art criticism of Carl Einstein, writer, friend of Braque, and co-founder of Documents magazine. These terms will then be made productive for a close visual analysis of some of the most hermetic paintings by Braque from 1911/12. The discoveries that will emerge in the process will demonstrate graphically that the longer one stares at a Cubist painting the less familiar it becomes.

Discussion after the talk might extend out to Picasso. We still refer to the Cubism of “Picasso and Braque,” as though the latter was simply the understudy of the former. Looking at a number of paintings of Guitars which Picasso made at Sorgues in 1912 can help invert that hierarchy. Picasso’s passion was certainly different from Braque’s, but it was not for that reason better than his.”

Spyridon Papapetros (Princeton University) presents “The Prearchitectonic Condition: Modern Architecture and Prehistory”

“Can there be a world without architecture? Is there an “arche” that precedes the appearance of tectonics? Such prearchitectonic condition was envisioned by a number of architectural writers during the late 1940s, when, confronted with the ravages of World-War-II as well as specters of modern architecture’s ending, modernist architectural historians tried to answer these fundamental questions by studying the earliest traces of human creativity in prehistoric art and architecture. During the first decades after the war, historians such as Sigfried Giedion and Bruno Zevi reinterpreted a number of recently discovered prehistoric monuments, yet only to corroborate theoretical principles that were already in use by modernist critics. This presentation focuses on Giedion’s research on prehistory, parts of which date from the 1940s and leading up to his 1957 Mellon lectures on “Constancy and Change in Early Art and Architecture,” as well as the publication of the first volume of The Eternal Present in 1962 titled “The Beginnings of Art.” Emphasis is given on archival documents from Giedion’s visits to prehistoric sites, the early drafts of his manuscripts, and his correspondence with archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, such as Edmund Snow Carpenter, Abbé Lemozi, Abbé Breuil, and André Lehroi Gourhan, who later wrote a rather negative review of Giedion’s book in an anthropological journal. Following Gourhan, Giedion’s greatest strength was also his weakness, namely the quasi-photographic treatment of his material—a type of viewing which could capture surface similarities, but failed to penetrate into the fundamental discontinuities of each layer. Abstraction, transparency, simultaneity and movement were the formal principles detected by Giedion on the rock tracings of the Aurignacian and Magdalenian periods, and visually rhymed by the historian next to the works of modern artists, such as Braque, Harp, and Klee, within a process of reciprocal Gestaltung. A similar form of simultaneity applied to Giedion’s historiographic method: by juxtaposing the fossils of prehistory with the prognostications of post-histoire, Giedion invented a pre/post/erous history—not only a prehistory but also a new history—of modern architecture. The study of prehistoric origins could uncover not only causes of modernity’s present crisis, but also signs of architecture’s futures past.”

“American Empire and the Contemporary Political Situation” – Joshua B. Freeman

In March, 2013, the MA students met with Joshua Freeman (CUNY Graduate Center/History), author of American Empire, 1945-2000: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home and Working-Class New York: Life and Labor since World War II.

How did the United States shape a global empire; how did its imperial role reshape the United States; and how do we understand the causes and reality of its decline? In his new book American Empire, Joshua Freeman, much admired for his history of New York City in Working-Class New York, describes the post-war confluence of imperial expansion, extraordinary economic growth, and the “democratic revolution” at home. Prof. Freedman will help us navigate the murky waters of American imperialism, and understand its significance for domestic political life.

“Post Sandy – Too Late?” James E. Hansen at Critical Theory and the Arts

Not long ago, social critics on the left were easily able to drive a critical wedge into capitalism’s dynamic of transmuting every surplus into scarcity by insisting on the utter, even ineluctable abundance of capitalist manufacture. A title from 1970, such as Murray Bookchin’s “Post-Scarcity Anarchism”, characterized this critical approach–capitalism’s own success was fated to making capitalism itself obsolete.

But this vision of an inexhaustible human productivity relied on the ancient image and reality of an inexhaustible nature: nature as the horn of plenty, an infinite cornucopia that manufacture needed merely to learn to tap to bring to all an abundance beyond what anyone might ever use.

This cornucopia, the vision of it, is now gone and with it the entire utopian tradition of thought. No doubt, there is less imagination today because there is less to imagine. Humanity will never again, in the entire rest of its history, exist in a stable climate. The most urgent questions have become—not how we might somehow dispose of our overwhelming productivity—but the ways in which we might limit the effects of the global catastrophes that we are already well in the midst of.

Critical Theory and the Arts has invited DR JAMES HANSEN to help us understand these contemporary realities. How much has the climate warmed and how much warmer can we expect it to get? What are our prospects?

DR JAMES HANSEN heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He has held this position since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

Professor Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change. In recent years, Hansen has become an activist for action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which on a few occasions has led to his arrest. In 2009 his first book, Storms of My Grandchildren, was published.

“Dispossession and Domination” – Moishe Postone (historian) and Barry C. Lynn (journalist, writer)

The experience of economic domination may be—and certainly is by most—felt as an all-encompassing structure of manipulation. Whichever way one turns, that way is blocked. Whatever one would like to plan for oneself, the situation has already made more than enough plans for what it intends to do with each of us, with how each of us is to be used or discarded with regard to purposes that are rarely our own.

This experience makes it difficult to comprehend that the powers that one encounters at every turn have long been in the midst of severing any engagement with actual social planning. Economic domination and national planning—whether with regard to infrastructure, work, innovation, housing, education, health, the financial structure, the natural environment itself—which were once unitary in corporate America, have over the past thirty years been in a process of extricating themselves from each other.

These corporations act according to one principle: that dispossession has become the fiercest form of possession. This is not the ‘dispossession of the commons’ in which capitalism originated. It is a form of capitalism that is powerful by disaggregating itself of factories; disaggregating itself of employees and even of needing to have a street address: it dominates the mechanisms of distribution and from that vantage is able to manipulate outsourced producers as well as its trapped ‘customers’.

This form of corporation does not so much use the state as its functionary, but aims to elude state control and functional collaboration with the state—even on the level of foreign policy—and instead seeks to act as an autonomous state with disregard to national boundaries. “Congressional gridlock,” the inability of congress to act and to engage the real problems of the nation, is fundamentally a function of this transformation of the corporation

This technique of domination has penetrated every level of American life. The place of cell phones in daily life functions as a small-scale model of the same “just in time” production that opportunistically uses everyone in their range on short notice. The exact same dynamic is evident in the art world, where the rise of a curatorial mechanism is taking precedence over what anyone makes or sees. And it is this same society-wide mode of production that has made any attempt to criticize, contest or transform national life so difficult, right into our faltering ability to imagine anything other than what we already have.

In our day of discussions, Barry Lynn will help us understand the new “arbitrage corporation” and its monopoly forms, and Moishe Postone will be on hand to think with us about how his interpretation in his seminal work on Marxism gives us further insight into these social transformations.

Readings:

Barry C Lynn, End of the Line and Cornered; several recent articles are also circulating.

Moishe Postone, Time, Labor and Social Domination; several interviews and articles are also circulating.