ARLES SYMPOSIUM PROGRAM

SATURDAY, JULY 2ND 2011 

9:45 AM          
Introduction

Maja Hoffmann, President, LUMA Foundation
Tirdad Zolghadr, Senior Academic Advisor and LUMA Foundation Fellow, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.

10:00 AM        
Keynote Address

Ariella Azoulay, Leverhulme Visiting Professor, Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies

“The Family of Man” as a Visual Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The exhibition “The Family of Man” was a landmark event in the history of photography and human rights. It was visited by millions of spectators across the world and was an object of critique that has become paradigmatic in the fields of visual culture and critical theory. Roland Barthes was the leading voice. He shaped the intellectual reception of the exhibition and set the tone for later critics. His conceptual observations were precise and compelling. A contemporary revision of “The Family of Man” should start with questioning Barthes’s observation and his role as a viewer. In my lecture I will argue that Barthes missed most of what the photographs in the exhibition showed, that what he claimed to see were invisible ideas, and that the hidden ideology he ascribed to the exhibition was nothing more than Steichen’s explicit intention in curating it. Instead of granting Steichen the position of an omnipotent author, as Barthes did, I propose to pay close attention to the exhibition’s potentialities, and instead of reading the photographs as descriptive statements with universal claims, I propose to read them as prescriptive statements claiming universal rights. In short, I will propose to reconstruct the exhibition as the first visual declaration of human rights.

10:30 AM       
Roger Buergel, independent curator, curator of documenta 12 in 2007

The Conditions for the Appearance of an Image
Two legendary exhibitions, “The Family of Man” (1955) and “documenta” (1955), will be compared to “Bahia no Ibirapuera,” an exhibition conceived by Lina Bo Bardi and Martim Gonçalves during the fifth Bienal de São Paulo in 1959. While the two Western exhibitions, due to their ideological underpinnings, had to be unashamedly universalist in their poetic zeal, “Bahia no Ibirapuera” (as well as other exhibitions by Bo Bardi) suggested an elegant way out of the impasse of an unspecified or humanist viewership. By foregrounding contingency or the aleatory as principles of display, Bo Bardi staged forms of sensual collaboration in which relational regimes based on individuality (and knowledge) lose their footing in favor of what Leo Bersani calls “the multiplication of the individual’s positionality in the universe.”

11:00 AM        
Respondent

Anselm Franke, writer and curator at the House of World Cultures in Berlin

11:30 AM        
Half-hour audience Q&A

12:00 PM        
Lunch Break

1:00 PM          
Alessandro Petti, Director, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Bethlehem
Sandi Hilal, Director, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Bethlehem

Return to the Commons
Territorially speaking, the Common is a concept that is different to both the public and the private. Private and public lands are institutionalized relations between people and things, regulated by the state, which guarantees private property and maintains the public one. In Palestine, the idea of the public is particularly toxic. Although prior to Israeli colonization there existed a wide multiplicity of collective lands, upon occupying the land and excluding its people, the Israeli state flattened them all into one category—“State Land”—and seized control. State lands were reserved to the only public acknowledged as legitimate—the Jewish Israeli one. The contours of public land become the blueprint for colonization, and state lands are often transformed into settlements. This form of sovereignty is willing to acknowledge Palestinian individual rights, in the “best” of cases, but, as we know, colonization has severely targeted Palestinian private property too. So in what way is the Common any different? It is a set of relations between people and things, organized by the principle of equality, that is not necessarily mediated by the state and through which the Palestinian-Israeli context provides priceless occasions for reflecting on old dichotomies anew.

1:30 PM          
Michel Feher, philosopher, co-founder, and President of the association Cette France-là, Paris

A Xenophobic Democracy
This talk addresses the advent of a new regime of a xenophobic democracy in the European Union. More precisely, the question is the following: How are we to make sense of the fact that an increasingly overt xenophobic immigration policy is arguably the main object of consensus among European governments, considering that the EU is supposed to be both morally cemented by the “never again” of 1945 and politically informed by the victory of liberal democracy and its universal values in 1989? The purpose is not to expose the hypocrisy of political elites or question the nature of their proclaimed universalism but to understand why the so-called “problem of immigration” has become so central in their discourses while claiming to hold true to humanist values.

2:00 PM         
Respondent

Eyal Sivan, Associate Professor, Media Production, School of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of East London

2:30 PM          
Half-hour audience Q&A

3:00 PM          
Coffee break

3:30 PM          
Marion von Osten, artist and Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

The Colonial Modern. Of Pylons, Airplanes and Donkeys
A lecture performance with five projected images and a public reading that could start like this: “Since World War II, aerial photographs are urban planners’ preferred perspective for land-surveying purposes, and are a strong example of civil applications of military technologies. In ‘La Découverte Aérienne du Monde,’ (1948) the French sociologist Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe, a key thinker of French post-war urbanism, formulates a methodology for ‘extracting’ geospatial information from aerial photographs. Aerial photography was a particularly important tool for urban intervention in the case of ‘New Towns,’ such as the master plan of Casablanca under French colonial rule.”

4:00 PM          
Eyal Weizman, Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, University of London

The Family of the Dead
The universalizing anthropology of Steichen’s 1950s exhibition may well be challenged by the forensic anthropologists of today. For these scientists digging up grave sites, jungles, and killing fields in Spain, Guatemala, and Bosnia in search of the victims of state crime, classifications of images of the living from around the world are replaced with those of the dead. Here, the study of bone and skull morphology becomes an epistemic and historiographic problem. Developments in the study of skulls, by means of algorithmic computing, have also led to another type of image/interpretation technique. Face recognition software of the kind that connects skull morphology—the “topography of the face”—with actual or potential crime bares strange resemblances to phrenology, the nineteenth century racial classification of skulls in relation to behavioral tendencies. In both cases, physical anthropology poses urgent questions of aesthetic and political nature. In this talk I will refer to work undertaken with Shumon Basar and Jane and Louise Wilson (Face Scripting) and research undertaken in collaboration with Tom Keenan and the Forensic Architecture project team.

4:30 PM         
Respondent
Thomas Keenan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Director, Human Rights Project, Bard College

5:00 PM          
Half-hour audience Q&A

 

SUNDAY JULY 3RD, 2011

9:45 AM          
Introductions

Tom Eccles, Executive Director, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
Thomas Keenan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Director, Human Rights Project, Bard College

10:00 AM        
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, artist

Tropicale Modernité
In this presentation, artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster revisits key moments in her practice from a particular angle, exploring the notion of “tropical modernism” in relation to architecture, film, and literature—starting with Tropicale Modernité, her 1999 proposal for the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona.

10:30AM         
Bassam el Baroni, director of Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum

Matters of Universality in Fine Art, Contemporary Art, and Cultural Politics
This talk will address the differences in the particular universalities pertaining to “fine art” and “contemporary art” and discuss what it means for a universality to be functional or non-functional. Moreover, it will consider universality as a largely clouded and unannounced space for contestations between different art practices and cultural politics. Most peoples’ image of what art is can be tagged under the term “fine art,” art characterized by the academic application or manipulation of canonical art histories. Contemporary art’s hostility towards “fine art” is perhaps because, unlike the latter, it lacks populist credentials. “Fine art” can be defined as art with a non-functional universality, a universality created by the canon, long expired yet still effective, whereas contemporary art’s universality is a functional universality, existing as a matter of sheer fact. In other words, what makes contemporary art contemporary is its willingness, or perhaps its need, to be compatible with a dominant and functional form of universality at present.

11:00 AM        
Respondent

Katya Sander, artist

11:30 AM        
Half-hour audience Q&A

12:00 PM        
Lunch break

1:00 PM          
Suhail Malik, Reader in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths

The Politics of Neutrality
The moral viability of globalization is partly consolidated by the mutual support of three distinct practical universalisms: (a) human rights, claiming a neutrality that gives them common validity; (b) contemporary art, constructing particularized indeterminacies of experience and interpretation; and (c) photography and its offshoots, materializing image-realities ubiquitously. Their convergence constructs a “second humanism,” giving credence to globalization on the basis of indefinite, non-prescriptive claims—a formalism generating democracy as its recognized quasi-order. Is there a politics adequate to this powerless-powerful affirmation of equivocation and contingency on a world-scale? What/who is its subject?

1:30 PM          
Georges Didi-Huberman, philosopher and art historian at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHSS) Paris

Fragments of Humanity
This talk proposes some fragments from an ongoing reflection on what might be called “l’exposition des peuples” (the exhibition of peoples). Beginning with the double sense of the term “exhibition,” which denotes the act of making visible, but also the inherent menace of this act itself (to be “exhibited” is to be threatened—at times one is even “exhibited to disappear”), thus invoking the very conditions of the appearance of the people (or peoples) both in theoretical discourse and the production of images.

2:00 PM          
Respondent
Hito Steyerl, artist and Professor at the University of Art Berlin

2:30 PM          
Half-hour audience Q&A

3:00 PM         
Coffee break

3:30 PM        
Alex Klein, artist and Program Curator, ICA Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania

Humanist Correspondence: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Family of Man (Man)
This talk uses the notion of humanist correspondence—the familiar letter as a mode of public address—as a framework to consider ongoing debates surrounding photography and universalism. Drawing on themes in Renaissance Humanism, personal anecdote, and critiques surrounding Edward Steichen’s exhibition “The Family of Man,” the talk will revisit an exchange between Thomas Hirschhorn and Thierry de Duve as an opportunity to question the limits of photographic representation within art practice.

4:00 PM         
Hal Foster, Townsend Martin ’17 Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

Toward a Grammar of Emergency
In this talk I consider the work of Thomas Hirschhorn, who represents Switzerland in the current Venice Biennale. I take up four concepts key to his practice but with relevance far beyond it: the precarious, the bête, expenditure, and emergency.

4:30 PM         
Respondent

Denis Hollier, filmmaker, author, and producer. Professor of media art at the University of Arts Berlin

5:00 PM         
Half-hour audience Q&A

 

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