Elvis lives in Amsterdam. Manifestations of the imaginary musician

University of Amsterdam, 29 November – 1 December 2018

Conference convenors: Rutger Helmers and Oliver Seibt.

From Marvel’s Kiss comics of the late 1970s to Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger acting out different facets of Bob Dylan’s public persona in Todd Hayne’s experimental film I’m not there; from continuous assertions that the guy on stage isn’t the real Paul McCartney to YouTube videos showing Nigerian Michael Jackson impersonators; from Hans Sachs, the sixteenth-century Meistersinger, still performing regularly in Wagner’s opera, to a virtual band like Gorillaz; from Adrian Leverkühn’s pact with the devil in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus to the unsolved mystery of Chet Baker’s defenestration from Amsterdam’s Prins Hendrik Hotel.

During this conference, hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), we aim to have an interdisciplinary discussion about the various ways in which our understanding of musicians taps into the imaginary, and what case studies about musicians can teach us about the imaginary constitution of our everyday experiences.

Thereby, our interest will not be to debunk myths, but to understand what role imaginary representations of musicians play in our personal lives, in society and the arts in general. In discussing collective as well as individual imaginations of musicians, we are especially interested in the concurrence of the dimensions of “the real”, “the fictive”, and “the imaginary” in music cultures. Theories of the imaginary as, for example, those by Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Wolfgang Iser, or Cornelius Castoriadis could thereby serve as theoretical background that allows for an interdisciplinary communication about the topic.

The conference will include three confirmed keynotes by Nicholas Cook (Musicology, University of Cambridge), Lydia Goehr (Philosophy, Columbia University), and Nick Prior (Sociology, University of Edinburgh), and feature the affiliated masterclass “Marsyas to Madonna. The construction of the musician as figure and type” with Lydia Goehr and Marlies de Munck (University of Antwerp) as well as the ongoing exhibition “Elvis has just left the panel” on musicians as characters in comic books and graphic novels.

For registration, please send an e-mail indicating the days you plan to attend to e.a.presley-fgw@uva.nl.

Click here for the conference booklet with programme.


Marsyas to Madonna. The construction of the musician as figure and type

NICA Masterclass | Thursday 29 November, 9:30-11:30 | Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam, Singel 425, Vondelzaal

With Lydia Goehr (Columbia University, New York) and Marlies de Munck (University of Antwerp / Royal Conservatory of Ghent)

This seminar will run through a history of the arts, from antiquity to popular culture, to ask what is at stake in putting musicians on view. Why look at them as opposed to listen to them? What does that say about music as an art? We will start with Apollo and Marsyas and go from there.

Central to the reflection are the contest of the arts and the rhetorical device of ekphrasis. Both rely on dynamics of competition and comparison to make a strong appeal to the imagination. But how does that affect our conception of the art of music? And how are these competitive practices related to the typical depiction and description of the musician? A careful analysis of the relation between music and words, and between music and the visual arts, will bring to the fore the importance of the imaginative experience in music.

Lydia Goehr is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Her research interests are in German aesthetic theory and in particular in the relationship between philosophy, politics, history, and music. She is the author of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (1992), The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy (1998), Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory (2008), and co-editor with Daniel Herwitz of The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (2006). She has written many articles on the work of Theodor W. Adorno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Arthur Danto. Her current book is titled Red Sea – Red Square: Picturing Freedom – Liberating Wit.

Marlies De Munck studied at the Institute of Philosophy in Leuven. In 2012 she obtained a PhD in the philosophy of music with a dissertation on the concept of musical meaning, under the supervision of Lydia Goehr (Columbia University). She currently teaches at the University of Antwerp and at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent. She regularly gives lectures on themes in the philosophy of music and published articles on various topics in aesthetics and philosophy of art, such as literature, film and painting. She is co-editor of the essay-collection Muziek ervaren (Damon 2014) and recently published the book Waarom Chopin de regen niet wilde horen (Letterwerk 2017).


Participants of this seminar are asked to prepare a five-minute statement about a video, painting, picture, literary passage or other representation of an (imaginary) musician or musical work. The statement should be based on the readings and will be the starting point for discussion. In addition, every participant is asked to prepare two questions for debate.

The obligatory readings are:

Shadi Bartsch and Jaś Elsner. “Eight Ways of Looking at an Ekphrasis.” Classical Philology 102, no. 1 (January 2007): i-vi.

Lydia Goehr. “How to Do More with Words. Two Views of (Musical) Ekphrasis”. British Journal of Aesthetics 50, no. 4 (October 2010): 389–410.

Walter Pater. “The School of Giorgione.” In The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Literature, 130-54.

  1. W. Adorno. “On Some Relationships between Music and Painting,” translated by Susan Gillespie, The Musical Quarterly 79, no. 1 (Spring, 1995): 66-79.

Friedrich Nietzsche. “On Music and Words” (1871) [excerpt].

Lydia Goehr. “Improvising Impromptu, Or, What to Do with a Broken String”. In The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, edited by George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Lydia Goehr. “ ‘All Art Constantly Aspires to the Condition of Music’—Except the Art of Music: Reviewing the Contest of the Sister Arts”. In The Insistence of Art: Aesthetic Philosophy After Early Modernity, edited by Paul A. Kottman (New York: Fordham University Press: 2017), 140-69.

Lydia Goehr. “The Central Claim.” Chapter 4 of The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works.


How to Register

To register, please send to a note to NICA (nica-fgw@uva.nl), in which you supply us with your name, affiliation (the master’s programme or research school you are associated with), and a brief motivation. Please register before November 15th. There is room for 20 participants in total. All are welcome, but NICA members will have priority. This masterclass counts for 1 EC for NICA participants.


Associated conference

This NICA masterclass is organized in parallel to the conference Elvis Lives in Amsterdam: Manifestations of the Imaginary Musician (29 November to 1 December), for which participants can register separately. For more information, see: http://asca.uva.nl/programme/conferences/elvis-lives-in-amsterdam/elvis-lives-in-amsterdam.html


Picture credits: The Torment of Marsyas (Louvre Museum, Paris); Madonna during her concert in Paris, France, as part of her Confessions Tour on August 31, 2006, © Pascal Mannaerts / www.parcheminsdailleurs.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Academy and the Idea of Decolonisation

Masterclass and Lecture by Toyin Falola (University of Texas)

The aim of this workshop is to revisit the state of the art on theories of decolonisation of mind and knowledge. More information to be announced soon.

Date: 10 December 2018
Time: 10:00-12:30 (masterclass) & 14:00-17:00 (keynote lecture and discussion)
Venue: Amsterdam, Bushuis (VOC-zaal) & University Library (Doelenzaal)
Open to: scholars, PhD students, (R)MA students
Credits: 1 ECTS (for PhD and RMa students only)
Coordination: Larissa Schulte Nordholt (Leiden University) and Marleen Reichgelt (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Maximum participants in this event: 20
Registration (before 1 November 2018)

NOTE: separate registration for masterclass and keynote
(A list of required readings and information about the assignment will be sent to the admitted participants in the course of November.)

One day masterclass: The Academy and the Idea of Decolonisation

It has been argued that the academic system of knowledge production—as we have known it since the Age of Imperialism/the Enlightenment—is fundamentally Western, wherein the west assumes the status of the “universal”. Although many former colonies around the world (Asia, Africa and Latin America) received political freedom in the second half of the twentieth century, the dominant mode of knowledge production and critical thinking within the academy was, and still is, largely determined by a western white male perception. Although universities worldwide are able to flourish to some extent, it remains difficult to truly escape from a normative western hegemony on the system of knowledge production and academic research.

The dominance of these thought-patterns originating in the west was never completely unchallenged and gained momentum from the second half of the twentieth century onwards through anticolonial and postcolonial critique, feminist discourse and the emergence of global intellectual history. The new tide of such critical thinking questioned Eurocentric approaches in history, philosophy and anthropology, among others, and argued in favour of a decolonisation of (academic) knowledge production. As a result the humanities have been enriched by crucial debates regarding the place of ‘Europe’ within Academic research as a whole.

To apply the insights from these debates to one’s research, however, can be a challenging feat – both on a theoretical and a practical level. The Huizinga masterclass ‘The Academy and the idea of Decolonisation’ aims to revisit the state of the art on theories of decolonisation of academic research. The plenary keynote lecture  will reflect on the state of the (historical) academy regarding the ‘Idea of Decolonisation’ and raise the question what it means to attempt a ‘Decolonisation of Knowledge’. Is there one Decolonisation or multiple Decolonisations? Is Decolonisation within the academy a monolithic concept or are there multiple layers within this broader academic issue? Most importantly, has knowledge been decolonised at all or is a culture of recolonisation replacing older thought patterns? Through the lecture and the input by local respondents we hope to be able to create an atmosphere in which there will be space for both conceptual in-depth questions and more practical concerns regarding the ‘Idea of Decolonisation’.

The workshop  is dedicated to critically engaging with the above-mentioned questions on a more practical level. Junior researchers will be given the chance to engage with questions concerning mental decolonization as they pertain to their own research projects. The goal is to inform students and researchers of cultural history about ongoing debates on Decolonisation and knowledge production from a global intellectual perspective.

Both the masterclass and the keynote lecture are given by Toyin Falola (1953). Prof. Dr. Falola is a Nigerian historian of Africa who currently holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair Professor in the Humanities and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Falola, who took his PhD-degree at the university of Ile-Ife in Nigeria, is a prolific scholar on African history from the 19th century onwards. He has written both local histories, focusing on Yoruba history in Nigeria, and more globally oriented accounts on the histories of Africa as a whole. Moreover, he has taught and written extensively on African intellectual history and the emergence of the field of African and Black studies, focusing on its pedagogies, methodologies and epistemologies.

About the Ronell/Reitman Case: A Roundtable

Roundtable on Friday, September 28, starting at 15:00 in room F0.21 of the Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis (Kloveniersburgwal 48)

June 10th, Brian Leiter published on his blog a leaked letter in support of Avital Ronell, professor in German and comparative literature at New York University, who was apparently under investigation for sexual harassment and assault of a PhD-student. The letter was signed by Judith Butler, Emily Apter, Jean-Luc Nancy,  Geoffrey Bennington, Slavoj Zizek, Cathy Caruth, Jonathan Culler, Hent de Vries, Joan W. Scott, Sam Weber, Shoshana Felman, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and others. Soon The New York Times reported that, after an eleven-month investigation by NYU, Ronell was found guilty of harassing her ex-student, now identified as Nimrod Reitman, and suspended for the academic year.

In a press release, Ronell stated that the “inability of Reitman to find a job … is what this case is about”; reportedly, Reitman has blamed his inability to obtain a tenure-track position on Ronell’s pro forma recommendation letters, if not outright sabotage.

In the field of queer studies, meanwhile, the case has thrown existing generational and political fissures into sharp relief. When Jack Halberstam and Lisa Duggan published reflections on the case, in which they sharply criticised the implications and consequences of sexual harassment proceedings, many accused them of minimising or bracketing the abuse of Reitman. Halberstam and Duggan have since left Twitter.

As these, and no doubt many other, interrelated issues (see below for a provisional listing) bear so strongly on our intellectual community, NICA convenes an open-format roundtable on the Ronell/Reitman case on Friday, September 28, starting at 15:00 in room F0.21 of the Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis (Kloveniersburgwal 48), University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Everyone is invited. If you’d like to contribute a brief (5 mins.) position statement, please get in touch with Murat Aydemir through m.aydemir@uva.nl.

Selected issues:

  • Sexual, emotional, professional abuse of PhD students
  • The master/apprentice structure of PhD work
  • Institutional and legal forms of complaint and redress
  • Recommendation letters, academic networks, and jobs
  • Decline and insistence of the academic ‘star’ system
  • Solidarity, collegiality, and closing ranks
  • Contraction and ‘adjunctification’ of Humanities jobs
  • Generational and political divides in gender and queer studies
  • Sexual and emotional discipline and surveillance
  • Didacticism, neoliberalism, and corporate culture
  • Queer styles and vocabularies in the academy
  • Independent scholarship and activism challenging the academy
  • Ethics of theory & deconstruction
  • Twitter scholarship, activism, politics

Selected readings:

Artistic Research: Sharing Methods and Practices

During the first meeting, Anouk Hoogendoorn, who is interested in associations and fabulates with what they propose, will start, and she will be followed by Marcelo de Melo, who concerns himself with the mosaical framework in sculptural and installation art. Below are their biographies.

Anouk Hoogendoorn’s practice is both theoretical/textual and visual, rather a lure to think-feel than a fixed presentation. She plays with her associations and fabulates with what they propose. Her texts, photos, sketches, video- and audioworks are moments of these processes, which are not always understandable, but hearable; not personal, but intimate; and – being active in the emergent collectivity of Senselab – not lonely but together even when alone.

During a sweaty hot summer the ‘o’ key on Anouk Hoogendoorn’s keyboard stopped working and simultaneously started adding o’s to all the other keys on the same row left of it. Suddenly in everything written there were jumping o’s; disappearing when typed, appearing when not.

The practice of writing and reading attuned to the o’s, relaying the o’s that were already jumping. Sometimes careful and subtle, skipping the wrapping of a word. Sometimes unexpected and sudden, spiralling back into the summer’s wetness. When the melting stopped and the freezing started, when all the summer writing had dried up, the wet reading traces were found again. The summer-o’s created an appetite to start sewing with the future-past traces of summer’s jumping o’s. In their producing of shifts, each o tastes, drops, stutters, colours, surges, emerges like never before or never again. The o in its tending-towards makes felt the world alive with potential in its not-yet but already-almost-almost-almost-not-yet, fabulating words and worlds to come.

The fabulatory is necessary for survival in a world where relationality and non-linear temporality are constantly backgrounded. It means to always carry the more-than in what is done, to not close it, to be part of another kind of conversation. To carry the more does not mean there do not still need to be ways of crafting conditions so things can land, have the chance to emerge, can be thought-felt in all possible ways. To start with being certain that writing and making art do not stand or fall with individual senses. Instead, with being certain that words, smells, sounds, colours, tastes already produce variations in the world. By trusting the world to produce variations, it allows a way to feel the shifts of variation. Then language does not become a mediator of those shifts, but instead a practice, a way of doing, an active participator in the encounter of word with world.

Marcelo de Melo (1972) is a Brazilian artist and researcher based in Amsterdam. He has recently completed a PhD in Art Practice developed at the University for the Creative Arts and awarded by the University of Brighton, England. His interest in material and visual culture is eclectic, ranging from classical archaeology to contemporary art and digital aesthetics. He has published and exhibited in several countries. Awards in France (2016), Turkey (2013) and USA (2003). Collections: Museu Nogueira da Silva, Braga, Portugal; Maison de la Mosaïque Contemporaine, Paray-le-Monial, France; Museu Guido Viaro, Curitiba and Galeria de Arte UFF, Niterói, Brazil; Museo de la Cerámica Contemporánea, Dominican Republic; and ESP-Ravennarte, Italy.


Artistic Research Group

The Artistic Research Research Group focuses on Artistic Research as a new approach to tackling research questions and it aims at promoting the exchange of ideas between artists and scholars from a wide range of fields and disciplines. As a discipline itself, Artistic Research develops a discursive form of communicating research results in parallel with a non-discursive, artistic practice. This enables researchers/makers coming from fine arts, design, dance, film, performance art, theatre and music to share and compare processes of production, methodologies and results with the scientific community, while working as practicing autonomous artists. It allows autonomous artists to delve deeper into scientific disciplines their work is already concerned with. Furthermore, Artistic Research contributes to existing scientific disciplines by its double character of discursive/non-discursive processes and outputs, while at the same time presenting work within the context of existing art institutions. The outcomes of artistic research actively contribute to bridging the gap between science and art, and strive to make its body of knowledge visible in a societal context. By bringing academia and the art world together, artistic forms of research change the social status of both and introduce a potential array of practice-oriented methodologies that challenge institutionalized forms of knowledge production.

A series of five seminars will be organized to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences among artistic researchers and others interested in the field, and during which members of the group will present their research and receive feedback from their peers. One or two artistic researchers who have recently completed their PhD’s will be invited to share their process with the participants of the seminars. The participants include PhD Candidates but also those who have already completed their PhD’s but would like to keep discussing their artistic research within a community of like-minded artists/scholars. Those interested in maybe pursuing such an academic study are also welcome to join as well as Research Master students who wish to attain first-hand knowledge about the discipline.

ARRG works in collaboration with ARIAS (Amsterdam Research Institute for Arts and Sciences in order to bring together all education institutes involved in further developing and supporting artistic researchers projects and degrees.

The meetings will take place on Friday afternoons from 14:00 to 16:30 at VOX-POP Creative Space of the Humanities in the city centre of Amsterdam.  The presentations can take the form the researchers find most suitable and productive: a film screening, a performance or a standard keynote or any other.

Complete information will be timely sent to those interested in participating in the seminars (presenting is not mandatory). If you would like to attend our sessions, please contact the student assistant Emilija Angelovska – angelovskaart@gmail.com; and the coordinator of the Research Group Dr Paula Albuquerque: P.Albuquerque@uva.nl. If you’re a Research Master student, please contact NICA directly at nica-fgw@uva.nl. At the end of the year, Research Master students can receive 2 credits for their successful participation.

The preliminary program of artistic research presentations is as follows:


  • October 11th – Anouk Hoogendoorn (MA) Amsterdam University; Marcelo de Melo (PhD) University of Brighton
  • December 6th – Session organized in collaboration with the Platform BK Reading Group ON PAINTING (to be confirmed)


  • February 14th, 13:00 – 15:30 – Theorietrap, Gerrit Rietveld Academie/Sandberg Institute, Fred. Roeskestraat 96, Amsterdam – Session organized in collaboration with ARIAS with guest-speakers presenting on Artificial Intelligence in the Arts, coordinated by Jeroen Boomgaard, Nienke Scholts and Katie Clarke
  • April 3rd – Sara-Lot van Uum (MA) Amsterdam University (to be confirmed); David Maroto (PhD) Edinburgh College of Art
  • June 12th – Nieuw Dakota Art Gallery, Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 41B, Amsterdam. Abram Stern (PhD) University of California Santa Cruz (to be confirmed);  Raquel Schefer (PhD) University of Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III