Writing Art and Creating Back: What Can We Do With Art (History)?

Date and time: June 5
For: PhD and Research Master Students
Type: One-day conference
Place: Morning programme PC Hoofthuis 1.04, Spuistraat 134 Amsterdam / Afternoon: see programme
Organizer(s): Christa-Maria Hayes
Contact: nica-fgw@uva.nl

Programme, June 5, 2015

For Research Masters students and PhD researchers from any university in the Netherlands, there will be a preparatory meeting on 22 May, 10am, P.C. Hoofthuis room 434, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam. To receive texts and receive 1 EC credit point through NICA, please contact nica-fgw@uva.nl.
Register before May 21.
If you’re only interested in attending the lectures on June 5th, please send an e-mail to: info@onderzoekschoolkunstgeschiedenis.nl

The theme of this one-day conference is two-fold. On the one hand we are asking what it may mean for art historians that artists have more and more adopted the written word as a means of their visual art practice, that they do not just explicate their intentions, but write literary texts (Art Writing), as well as in historicizing and theorizing ways (including PhDs). Writing as the necessary skill in conceptual and “deskilled” (Bishop) art practices is prominent in art education and practice for half a century. For the same length of time, Modern and Contemporary Art History exists (with the first Chair established in 1963 at the UvA). Curators bridge the gap between the two symbiotic fields. As the self-understanding of the curator has moved from art-historical researcher to practitioner, a more recent development is not far behind: art historians create back, they collaborate with artists, write in poetic and performative ways, and consider their work as mobile in what can be called the art eco system.

What tasks follow from this broad assessment for art historians and for their education? This second question concerns the meanings and politics of such a development. If art historians value the artwork as capable of showing the world “it could be otherwise” (Adorno), if they believe in art’s education of sensory responses (Schiller, Rancière), they may well wish to create artworks. If they, however, observe that what reaches into societal concerns is maybe not so much the (failing) artwork as the (already at least as unsuccessful) discourse around it (Deutsche), generating discourse against all the odds, creating better failures (Beckett) and writing (about) art may look like a (paradoxical) way forward.

An intricate interplay between direct and indirect notions of both failure and efficacy emerges. This may be understood with the help of a consideration not just of how artists and art historians write, but also how (and who) they read. In her Inaugural Lecture, which will be closing the day’s proceedings, Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes will, among other things, propose the reading of James Joyce as a site where autonomous and heteronomous art (history) intersect. The question not just of an arte util (VanAbbe Museum, Eindhoven), but also (connected with it) of a “useful” art history is a pressing one and an open one.


9.00 coffee

9.30 am Welcome by Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes and introduction by Francesca Verga

(PhD students will introduce speakers and chair discussions throughout the day)

Gregory Sholette (artist/writer, CUNY), introduced by Florian Gӧttke

Maria Barnas (artist/writer, Amsterdam), introduced by Lotte Batelaan

Professor Alastair MacLennan (performance artist, Belfast), introduced by Janice McNabb

“Pain to Pane”

11.00 coffee

11.30 Professor James Elkins (art historian/writer, School of the Art Institute, Chicago), introduced by Jan van Oirschot

“Limits of Writing in Art History”

12.45 Panel discussion, chaired by Jan van Oirschot

1.30 Lunch (self-organised and delegates make their way to the Aula of the UvA)

16.00 (Aula, Uva) Professor Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes (art historian/curator, UvA)

“Writing Art And Creating Back: What Can We Do With Art (History)?”

Reception at the Aula


Gregory Sholette is an artist and writer whose publications include It’s The Political Economy, Stupid co-edited with Oliver Ressler, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture, both Pluto Press UK, as well as Collectivism After Modernism with Blake Stimson University of Minnesota Press, and The Interventionists with Nato Thompson distributed by MIT. His recent art projects include Collectibles, Action Figures and Objects, at Station Independent Gallery, Imaginary Archive: Graz, Rotor Art Center, Graz, Austria; NY; Exposed Pipe at the American University Beirut art gallery; Torrent for Printed Matter Books in Chelsea; iDrone for cyberartspace.net; and Fifteen Islands for Robert Moses at the Queens Museum. Sholette is an Associate of the Art, Design and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design Harvard University, a member of the Curriculum Committee of Home WorkSpace Beirut, and a faculty member of the Queens College Art Department, City University of New York where he helped establish the new MFA Concentration SPQ (Social Practice Queens): http://www.socialpracticequeens.org/

Maria Barnas (NL, 1973) lives and works in Amsterdam. Both in her written work, including novels, poetry and essays, and in her visual work, she focuses on how description shapes reality. She studied visual art at the Rietveld Academy and was resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and The American Academy in Rome. Barnas is currently advisor at the Rijksakademie. Barnas was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize. Her latest collection of poems Jaja de oerknal (‘Yeah-Right the Big Bang’) came out in 2013, a book focusing on mechanisms of fear, was nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize 2014. Barnas is currently working on visual and spatial essays (including film, drawing and text) in which language and image are combined. She has presented the results at Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam.

Alastair MacLennan (born 1943 in Blair Atholl, Scotland) is a major practitioner of live art. Since 1975 he is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was a founder member of Belfast’s Art and Research Exchange. He is member of the performance art collective Black Market International (BMI). He studied at Duncan of Jordanstone, received his Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He now is Emeritus Professor in Fine Art, University of Ulster in Belfast, where he has taught since 1975, Honorary Fellow of the Dartington College of Arts and Honorary Associate of the National Review of Live Art, Glasgow. MacLennan’s live work is prevailingly long durational. During the 1970s and 1980s he presented performances in Britain and America of up to 144 hours. His work engages with political, social, religious, ethical and aesthetical questions. For his performances and installations, he uses the term “actuations”.

James Elkins is E. C. Chadbourne Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism (1989) at the School of the Art institute of Chicago. Having obtained a degree in Painting, he turned to Art History (both Chicago). He states on his website: “Between now and 2016, I will be moving out of art history, art theory, visual studies, and art criticism, and into experimental writing.” His many books include: Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings; Chinese Landscape Painting as Western Art History; Pictures of the Body: Pain and Metamorphosis; The Domain of Images; How to Use Your Eyes; What Painting Is; The Poetics of Perspective; The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing; Why are our Pictures Puzzles?; On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them; What Happened to Art Criticism?; Six Stories from the End of Representation; Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction; What Photography Is; Art Critiques: A Guide.

Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Amsterdam. Until 2014 she worked as Professor of Iconology at the University of Ulster, Belfast. From 2007 to 2011 she was Head of the Research Graduate School there, leading particularly the PhD with Practice programme. She studied at the Universities of Heidelberg, London, Bonn and Cologne, where she gained her PhD in 2000. It was researched with a James Joyce Foundation Scholarship in Zurich and followed by an Irish Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship at UCD. She was Visiting Scholar at the University of Cologne in 2012. Her publications include the books Post-War Germany and ‘Objective Chance’: W.G. Sebald, Joseph Beuys and Tacita Dean (Steidl 2008, 2011), James Joyce als Inspirationsquelle für Joseph Beuys (Olms 2001), and Joyce in Art (Lilliput 2004). This book accompanied her exhibition on the theme, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin. She has curated for: Goethe Institut, Dublin; Tolstoy Estate, Russia; MoA, Seoul National University, Korea; Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast; LCGA, Limerick, CCI, Paris and (with students) Maagdenhuis, Amsterdam.

This conference serves as the OSK Summer meeting of the Modern and Contemporary Art History Section.

With many thanks for the generous support from:

Art History, UvA