This series of lectures reflects on the new forms of materiality underlying contemporaneity. The art of recent decades has been shaped by its taking the processes of dematerialisation described by Lucy Lippard in the late 1960s to the extreme; namely, the now off-centre position of the object, the development of project-based practices, the changes to the status of art work and the displacement of the concept of authorship. This setting has been questioned by new paradigms which lay out new relationships between the object, experience and the body. Thus, the return to materiality opposes the virtual hegemony of today’s digital society, whereby cultural and economic spheres have been subsumed under identical immaterial dynamics of production and consumerism.
Therefore, the series encompasses ideas for debate, from disciplines such as art history, performance studies, anthropology and the philosophy of science. It sets out to contemplate how the transformations of materiality have impacted on the modes of collecting, archiving and exhibiting objects; how the limits between inert objects and living bodies from a post-humanist perspective have become indistinct with regard to the forms of creative work that have become commonplace in the post-industrial world; and the disruptive potential of magic and ritual in the face of technocratic logic, as well as the mounting interest in the physicality of cultural artefacts. This displacement must not be interpreted as a shift towards formalism, but rather a symptom of the need to analyse current artistic practices from the dynamics governing a new historical period.
Following on from a first lecture given by Carmen Bernárdez in January, the programme will primarily take place in the spring and will feature the participation of John Roberts, Michael Taussig, Diana Taylor and Jesús Vega.
Carmen Bernárdez is an art historian and professor in the Contemporary Art Department at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her international academic studies in two traditionally opposing disciplines — art history and restoration — outline a research arc focused on the technique of the artwork understood as a cultural process. Drawing from these directives, she has written essays, edited catalogues and curated exhibitions on avant-garde artists across history, such as Ángel Ferrant, Pablo Gargallo, María Blanchard and Pablo Picasso, and has published the books Historia del arte. Primeras vanguardias (Planeta, 1994), Joseph Beuys (Nerea, 1999) and María Blanchard (Fundación Mapfre 2009), as well as contributing to a broad number of collective publications.
John Roberts is a cultural philosopher, art theorist and professor of Art and Aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton. His research is concerned with the relationship between art work and production, the analysis of post-Duchamp deskilling in art and the contemporary limits of authorship. He is the author of The Intangibilities of Form. Skill and Deskilling in Art After Duchamp (Verso, 2007) and The Necessity of Errors (Verso, 2011), a cultural and scientific exploration of error throughout history.
Michael Taussig is a social anthropologist and professor at Columbia University. He is the author of a broad number of essays, including The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (The University of North Carolina Press, 1990), in which he explores how indigenism dismantles capitalist exchange; Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (University of Chicago Press, 1991), an essay on the fictions of death during colonial terror in Latin America; and Magic of the State (Routledge,1997), on how the modern colonial state operates through principles of power and abstraction akin to magic. His work is key to understanding a material sense of the object which differs from the fetishist sense and that of the value of traditional change.
Diana Taylor is an art critic, theorist and professor of Performance Studies at NYU (New York University), as well as the director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. She is the author of the book Performance (Duke University Press, 2016), which explores the expanded use of the term, not only on an artistic level, but also economically, sexually and politically, with a view to conceiving of performance as an act which is inseparable from the manifestations of power, memory and identity. Moreover, she has studied the relationships between civil society, trauma and performance practices in Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's 'Dirty War' (Duke University Press, 1997) and The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2003).
Jesús Vega is a philosopher of science and lecturer of Philosophy at the Autonomous University of Madrid. His work is based on an analysis of the epistemology of technique and perceptive experience. From the sphere of the so-called post-humanities, he has analysed the modes of knowledge production and awareness of the object. He is also the author of Los saberes de Odiseo. Una filosofía de la técnica (Eudeba, 2009), and a broad range of articles and contributions in collective books on the philosophy of science and technology.