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White Pictures Thematic Seminar led by Danny Giles

  • 3ECTS
  • DATES:

Wednesday Sept. 27 Oct. 5 Thursday Oct. 5 Wednesday Oct. 11 Monday Oct. 23 Wednesday Nov. 1 Wednesday Nov. 8 Wednesday Nov. 15 Week of Nov. 21> tutorials Wednesday Nov. 29

  • TIME: 1pm - 4pm
  • LOCATION: available in the wiki

This thematic seminar explores how race, colonialism, and whiteness exist relative to art – its production, presentation, and interpretation. Discourses on diversity and decolonization in the arts mostly pay attention to the ways in which marginalized groups have been excluded and erased and how white supremacist power structures dominate historical narratives and institutions. Through this, much useful language and calls for action have developed and transformed art’s institutions and pedagogies. However, whiteness remains undertheorized as a subject position forged through and formative of western visual practices and historical narratives. There is a deeper story to be told about exactly how whiteness and western supremacy became ingrained within mainstream narratives and practices of art and the role those practices play in the structuring of artistic practice and maintenance of whiteness and white supremacy in society. Through a wide reading of texts and artworks, discussion, research workshops, and excursions we will examine the formation of whiteness from the Enlightenment to present day, how whiteness is reflected in the techniques of art, as well as strategies of historical redress, resistance, and refusal practiced by artists of color and artists from colonized parts of the world.

Early in the seminar, we will visit the Black Archives in Amsterdam and De Kunsthal in Rotterdam to view and discuss exhibitions that deal with the legacies of colonization and Black resistance on the 150-year anniversary of the practical abolition of slavery in the Netherlands. From this, quick research workshops will deepen our knowledge and curiosity for collective discussion. We then move on to the role scientific racism played in the development of western beauty ideals, racial and cultural anxieties represented in visual culture, architecture, and museological practices, and the colonial and imperial gaze of the west. We will delve into the writing of scholars including Richard Dyer, Nicholas Mirzoeff, and Nell Irvin Painter to gain historical insights and tools for critical readings of whiteness in art history and visual culture. Reading Gloria Wekker and Edward Said will provide a basic grounding in the European and Dutch context of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. With David Joselit, we’ll zoom out to look at how global artistic traditions relate to the distribution of geopolitical power in the modern world. By grounding our understanding of these issues in art, we may gain vital tools for recognizing and resisting white supremacy as it manifests in visual culture and politics more broadly and gain knowledge to fortify our discernment and critical engagement with art.

Society Eyes its Subjects while living Sounds shake its Grounds Fight over conditions of recognition and Life in the zone of real-time Improvisation

Thematic seminar led by Jan Verwoert

  • 6 ECTS
  • Dates: October till June, 1 session per month
  • Time: 10.00 till 16.00
  • Location: Big project space, Karel Doormanhof

In "The Invisible Man", published in 1952, Ralph Ellison describes how his unnamed narrator lives through everyday racism in the USA, as he reflects on, fights and finds ever new ways of surviving the split reality such racism violently imposes: being forced to reckon with how the dominant social group portrays and perceives your people, that is forced to see yourselves through their eyes, knowing that the stereotypes projected upon you meanwhile render you invisible. Already in the prologue, however, this cruel reality of social misrecognition and erasure is punctured by a different kind of experience: As the narrator trips out to the tune "Black and Blue" by Louis Armstrong, he psycho-nautically deep-sea dives into the many layers of the music, and the stories it tells, in a New York basement illuminated by 1369 lightbulbs he feeds with electricity nicked from the city's grid. The seminar will seek to delve into both sides of this experience: we will go back and forth between the critical analysis of structural racism in everyday cultural reality ¬¬¬— and the artistic appreciation of practices of improvisation born from powerful ways of refusing, and resetting the terms of recognition in realtime and realspace. In the process of wrapping our heads around these histories and continued urgencies, we will read literature, poetry social theory and philosophy, listen to music, and look at art. Addressing the structural logic of racism in the sphere of social (mis-)recognition, we will have a close look at how, in 1908, pivotal thinker W.E.B. Du Bois characterised the condition Elison (of becoming invisible, in being forced to see yourself as reflected in the dominant gaze) as a state of "double consciousness" in The Souls of Black Folk. In the usage of this concept, Du Bois, during his stay in Berlin in 1892-94 likely drew inspiration from G.W.F. Hegel's characterisation of how dialectics of domination produce double consciousness in the Phenomenology of the Spirit (1807, partially written during the French occupation of Prussia, later also key to Marxism). Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist under colonial conditions, Frantz Fanon gave his analysis of double consciousness in Peau noire, masques blancs / Black Skin, White Masks, published in the same year as The Invisible Man, in 1952. We will take a moment to dig into the philsophical foundations of these revolutionary thoughts, and cross back over from the sphere of analysis into the zone music performance with Hortense Spiller's 1987 landmark essay: Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book, in which she unpicks racist overdetermination and the power to build family, from a feminist perspective, and Interstices: A small Drama of Words (1984), in which she points to the depths of reality opened up in the performance of "America's black female vocalist". Addressing the link between everyday techniques and artistic ways of refusing, and resetting the terms of recognition in realtime and realspace, we will walk different paths: In his incredible essay Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives, George E. Lewis gives a groundbreaking account on how the space and time opened up by, and around embodied improvisation — the space-time continuum Ellison dives into — fundamentally transformed art as the European canon knew it, across all fields, including painting and performance (Jackson Pollock painted listening to Charlie "Bird" Parker's Bebop, John Cage embracing chance, yet sidelining Jazz). Lewis makes a powerful case for the need to radically rethink what happened to art since the 1920s, when the notion of an autonomous artwork — isolated from the artist, as well as the spacio-temporal conditions of its making — was blown to bits by the radical practices of creating work in the here and now in intimate artistic conversation between players. We will try to enter this space, listening to the players, from Parker to the Coltranes, from Billie Holliday to Ella Fitzgerald, bring in poetry by Langston Hughes and paintings by Beauford Delaney. In contrast to highly expressive forms of artistic voicing we will also address potent techniques of refusing expression, studied by Tina Post in her recent book Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression (2022), where she shows how deadpan — erasing all emotion from your facial expressions — became a prominent attitude for comedians (music performers, and artists alike, think Buster Keaton) to adopt, but was born as a technique in Black culture to counter the violence of the dominant gaze turning people into things that get read, by rendering the face unreadable and mimicking the impenetrable presence of objects. As a form, the seminar seeks to make space and time for close reading and listening, as well as improvisations in thinking together. We will seek to understand and appreciate the connections between the politics of social justice and poetics of layered realtime (in)expression, realised by the writers and artists we study. At the same time, the seminar offers a moment to stretch the mind, and relax into a flow of conversation in which, carried by the attention of the group, you can try out where your voice may take you when thinking out aloud.


Moving into performance

  • Geo Wyeth and Danny Giles
  • 3 credits
  • Fall 2022

When is performance happening? Moving into Performance is a performance studio and seminar troubling the binaries of presence and absence. Students will think through haunting, yearning, and the speculative as tactics for negotiating narrative and non-narrative live time-based formats. Positioning threshold as a locus for the possible, and responding directly to the prospects of the unknown, we will approach performance as an ongoing and cumulative practice. No performance experience is necessary -- only a willingness to explore time as an active space, an interest in movement and writing, and a curiosity to learn through experimentation with theatrical, choreographic, and poetic performance forms. Readings, discussions, and writing exercises will complement and broaden our consideration of performance by offering a range of interdisciplinary perspectives. Weekly performance workshops will support students in the development of an original performance to be presented at the end of the 5-week period.

WORLDS MADE, BROKEN, OR CONNECTED: On engaging totality, confronting totalitarianism, and channeling multidimensional cosmologies

  • Jan Verwoert
  • 6 credits
  • October 2022 till June 2023, once a month

World building is a powerful force in artistic practice: weaving relations, within an ever expanding, yet somehow cohesive horizon, is what a rich imagination can do when it spins tales or relates visions of worlds, universes, realities in which all creatures, things, elements, and energies relate to each other in particular ways, under specific signs, voicing characteristic spirits. World building is a special mode of truth seeking, it doesn't isolate insights, but seeks to project a many-layered picture of the world, in which what counts is how everything relates to everything. World building, however, has also been heavily abused by modern totalitarian leaders who claim the absolute supreme power of destroying the past and birthing the future world. Ideology is the toxic sibling of generative cosmology that modernity bred. How to tell them apart? We must figure out the vital difference between the wisdom of generative cosmology, as a form of dynamic relational thinking on one hand, and the systemic universalism on the other hand, which ideologies of supremacy (from imperialist colonialism to fascism, Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism) propagate, and parade as mythic truth. It is in the wake of the planetary destruction that total regimes of power have caused that the spiritual, political, artistic and environmental challenge arises today: how to readdress what makes and breaks worlds in the key of difference, diversity and living relationality. The seminar will address three different aspects of world-building, in three thematic spheres: 1. We will touch on the dynamic interplay of totality and relationality, via the writing of philosopher and poet Édouard Glissant. 2. We will seek to grasp how modern totalitarianism and universialism hijacked and turned cosmological knowledge of world making into ideologies of supreme power and world domination, and read Boris Groys, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Edward Said, Hannah Arendt, and Horkheimer/Adorno. 3. We will engage in dialogue with a recent history of writers freeing up the powers of cosmological thought, and multi-layered relational world-making, Alex Sparkly Kat, Gloria Anzaldúa, Amira El-Zein and Octavia Butler. Sphere 1: Relations within Totality — The Poetic Philosophy of Édouard Glissant A question recurring in many studio conversations over the years has been the following: How can an art practice that thrives on building its own world avoid the danger of closing itself off from its audience? In other words: how can holistic art give people access to the web of relations it offers? How can the totality of internal relations (all relating to all inside the world) allow for specific external relations (particular viewers entering the world by relating to particular pieces)? How to work with the hermeticism that invariably comes into play when a world built from internal relations unfolds its own mysteries? With such questions in mind we will try to engage the writing of Édouard Glissant. Living in Martinique, Glissant characterizes his thinking as a Caribbean Poetics of Relation which doesn't shy away from speaking under the sign of cosmic totality yet relays it via a multiplicity (and 'archipelago') of specific lived relations, embracing 'opacity' as the very key in which worlds may meet. Sphere 2: Facing up to Totalitarianism — Universalism mimicking myth As Boris Groys reconstructs dictators like Stalin used the role model modernist avant-gardist artists had carved out for themselves: Prophet and Creator of a new, Destroyer of the old world, a millennial phantasy of the 19th century turned bloody reality. What happened? A thirst for a new myth of supremacy for the alienated and existentially lost people of a desolate modernity? Hannah Arendt and Horkheimer/Adorno investigate totalitarianism in this light. Imperialist colonialism had its own reasoning for justifying world domination, an ideology of scientific rationality, according to which to know the world is to own the world, and those in the possession of science and technology (of government, material extraction, and military domination) are destined to make all other people and lands the objects of their study, rule, and exploitation. Edward Said and Denise Ferreira da Silva analyse and dismantle the ideology of universal reason as the backbone of the ideologies of white racist supremacism and imperialist world domination. 1. Sphere 3: channeling cosmic relations today — in the key of difference Patriarchy has shrouded its architectures of power in myths from day one, from antiquity onwards many cosmologies are therefore steeped in the sexisms dictated by the status quo (regarding what it means to act under the sign of Mars or Venus, etc.), just as oracular apocalyptic prophetic/messianic rhetorics are a staple for modern dictators. As suggested by Gabi Dao, in studio conversation, Alex Sparkly Kat works towards a new take on astrology that exorcises these remnants of power codes from the knowledge of the stars. Amira El-Zein shows how the notion of world making in traditions of Persian and Arab poetry has always promised an understanding of the world as a multiverse, in which, guided by Jinns, poetry talks across multiple dimensions of alternative possible realities. Gloria Anzaldúa shows how poetic speech across dimensions may indeed testify to the way how, in the history of domination, a colonial culture may have imposed itself, yet never fully erased indigenous cultures, which survive as a parallel worlds, undercover and in translation, yet accessible to someone who, artistically, politically, and spiritually traverses the borders between them everyday. What if world making in writing, reflects on how the world has already ended, has been made to end for all exposed to violent domination, apocalypse is not tied to grand speeches of coming supremacy (and rebirth of a great nation), but a real experience, making survival the imminent horizon? This is the departure point for Octavia Butler's amazing writing, and where this seminar may lead and end. This is the thematic arc of the seminar. It's an outline to begin with. If, however, as our discussion unfolds, it turns out that people suggest further voices to be brought into the conversation, we will change course, and bring them in.

Color and Conquest

  • Addoley Dzegede
  • 3 credits
  • Winter / Spring 2023
  • 8 students maximum

In this thematic project, artist and Fulbright researcher-in-residence, Addoley Dzegede, will introduce students to natural dyeing through an examination of the human quest for color throughout time—from the exploitation of flora and fauna to profiteering journeys across seas. Addoley will share what she has learned so far during her research period in the Netherlands, and demonstrate a variety of methods of dyeing that students may choose to incorporate into their current or future work. As spring arrives, the Piet Zwart garden will be populated with an array of dye producing plants for students to harvest and use with a new eye toward the origins, importance, and cultural significance of color.


Critical Practices Thematic Seminar Led by PZI Master Fine Art Core Tutors October – June 6 ECTS

The Critical Practices thematic seminar introduces students to principal discourses and debates within artistic practice and the critical theories that inspire them. Led by the team of MFA research and practice tutors, the seminar examines how the critiques of our present affect the research methods and material practices of artists and culture-makers. Issues of labor, class, race, gender, sexuality, technology, and economic and social power relations will be explored through the research and practices of the MFA tutors and those of other contemporary artists, writers, and thinkers. Through readings, conversations, screenings, and lectures, we will learn and share reflections and construct vocabularies of critical political and social awareness.

Each tutor will lead one or more thematically focussed sessions addressing intersections of critical social discourse and artistic practice. Drawing from our practices, these sessions will range in structure and content. Students will participate in readings, discussions, and workshops, and participate actively in creating discourse amongst the class.

Tremor of the World Led by Ioanna Gerakidi January - March 2022 6 ECTS

Thinking across multifaceted forms of violence, varying from the violence of the archive that anti-colonial, linguistic and queer theories are trying to unveil, to slow violence, a term coined by Rob Nixon when referring to the 'violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all', the seminars will speak about alternative currents and imaginaries and their possible application in design and other art forms. They will trace that which resists legibility, that which willfully remains incalculable and excessive, in order to find ways to subvert dominant histories.

How can we think across resonances between studies of southness, blackness, discourses on diaspora and indigenous bodies as means to form other sociabilities? How can linguistic systems, idiolects, oral stories, mythologies and visual transcriptions of the yet undistributed, be approached as tangible and intangible parables for legitimising inconsistencies, mental breaks and physical disorders? How can we speak nearby the pain implied in the aforementioned, without exotifying it, but without demonising it either? Alina Popa, in one of her diaries writes that: 'The body is as alien as the world. And we have to embrace its strangeness. Especially when we need reality to be crazy, when we are ill with no chance at survival from the standard perspective. I don’t want my reality normal. I need it off the hook.' The monthly seminars aim towards reaching this non-normal reality, whilst modulating a focus on objection, projection and resistance.

Each of the workshops will consist of collective reading and analyses on the proposed material and of a series of exercises varying from writing to other ways of embodying theory (depending on the needs and desires of the students). At the end of each meeting the students will be invited for a session where curated filmic and sound material will be presented, under the theme discussed over the day.The study groups will also include personal meetings with the students. The focus of these meetings will be on discussions around each student's work and practice.

OH SO MUCH MORE THAN HEAVEN ALLOWS Lived Histories of Phenomenal Embodiments in Modern Arts and Cities Led by Jan Verwoert October – June 6 ECTS

OH the people came to see, hear, and feel: the lights, the beat, the heat, the melt-down, the phenomenal, sensational, once-in-a-lifetime performance, or display of what was unseen and unheard of before, so it just got a new name that was fun to say, like what's that Jazz, or how Post the net are we now, like really? OH and backstage we stood, and peaked through the curtain trying to get a read on the room. Is it showtime already? Are we ready to sweat until we can't sweat no more? Who's in the crowd? Lovers and haters? Strangers? Censors? Military? OH and if we made our bodies talk and gave our selves to be seen and heard, would the crowd listen and want to understand? Or did they come to do the opposite: take cruel pleasure in staring at what made the news because no one understood so everyone wanted to have an opinion, and pass judgement, from the distance of the newspaper column, hospital lecture theatre or dimly illuminated cabaret seat? OH and what if we blinded them all with lightning, glitz and the rolling thunder of a spacecraft descending to the sound of more horns and percussions than fit the stage, flicking feathers, projecting abstractions, scrambling words, and making the future happen now, so OH us and them is a thing of the past, since aboard this unknown flying object all is tripping.

The Seminar will move between several thematic islands, in a process of closely reading texts, looking at art, and listening to music:

1. From Harlem to Paris and beyond. The modern metropolis has a new truth, the nervous system is wired to the electric circuits of urban life, and switched to overload. Souls flash up and burn publicly, put on stage for good money, you may still get locked away in the work house or psychiatric ward any time, for pretty much the same reason people got a ticket to see you: because whatever you seem to embody has no place yet in the conventional order of things, and is hence deemed exciting and dangerous to the status quo. Not that the system wouldn't pump its soldiers with amphetamines too, so they can fly bombers all night, teeth grinding. But if you're found dancing on the streets, high on the same army pill supplies, prepare to be imprisoned for acting disorderly. Science wants you, but not having fun.

Before the turn of the 20th century, Blanche Wittman is among the big stars of Paris. People flock to the Salpêtrière hospital to see her, a former nurse now branded "queen of the Hysterics", go into convulsions on cue, in public lectures by neurologist showman Jean-Martin Charcot. Freud sees her perform and founds psychoanalysis. With the body put on display (for the maladies and ecstasies of modern souls to be visualised) gendered female, and recruited from the workforce, sexism, classism, and racism are built into the foundations of a performance culture that splits power unevenly between those summoned to put the bodysoul on show, and those entitled to sit back and watch. Around the same time in the US, black people, leaving the South to seek freedom in the cities of the North, create radical forms of new urban culture while exposed to racial stereotyping, police violence, and random imprisonment for "loitering", the sheer fact of being out and about in the city without assuming a place (as if there was any) the status quo would condone.

Parallel to norms of race/class/gender being imprinted into the living flesh of urban performers, it writes its own stories, of existential experimentation, and improvisation, involving modes of coming together, and falling apart, personally, artistically, politically, sexually, poetically, physically, intellectually. Conventional art histories and philosophies struggle to discern what's going on: they can no longer tell artists apart from the art, or thinkers from ideas, as the medium in which the making and the made melt together, is a form of life, lived experience which may or may not leave lasting traces, beyond the shared sensations a day and night lived in a certain key might yield. Auto(biographical)-fiction writing, and poetry, however, emerge as a means for sharing the art of living life experimenting.

We'll open the inquiry by reading in Saidiya Hartman's Wayward Lives Beautiful Experiments, the hallmark reconstruction of the interwoven lives and struggles of young black women forging biographies and urban culture in New York and Philadelphia, at the turn of the 20th century. We will read writing by Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Djuna Barnes, and the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven. We'll study feminist deconstructions of the making of the modern "hysteric", and Paul Preciado's engagement with the making of modern bodies via the industrial production of gender and drugs.

1. With Spring approaching we will take a conceptual break to consider a question disruping the conventions of the Eurocentric canon: How do you grasp the value and meaning of art when it has become existentially impossible to isolate an artifact (awaiting aesthetic judgment and commercial sale) by separating: artist from art, process from product, worker from work, inspiration from outcome, performer from audience, symptom from analysis, cure from poison, pleasure from pain? What to do when the bodily presence of performers can't be subtracted from the art in the mode of real-time performance? What irreducible surplus does the body constitute? Recent black theory offers powerful concepts for recognising the fundamental change in the conditions for the production and appreciation of art — from the isolation of artefacts to the engagement in live processes.

George Lewis, Fred Moten, and Arthur Jafa, for example, give a clear account of how the practice philosophy of improvisation advanced by Jazz and Bebop effectively reset the terms of 20th century art — with a white canon coopting the impulse (Pollock et al.) while denying its source, values and philosophy. Taking the lead from these thinkers, we'll see if the thoughts opened up around the extra bodily presence in realtime improvisation might not also help to recast a pressure in a different light that many feminist art practices (particularly but not solely in the field of performance, particularly but not solely from the 1960s onwards) were confronted with: How to bring the body into play, and voice intensities, traumata and joys, socially and publically, without being cornered as "hysterical" (too personal emotional subjective etc.)? How to fully authorise the act of making yourself visible if patriarchal conventions de-authorise heteronormatively female coded bodies as "models", "muses", or "hysterics" when they give themselves to be seen? We'll study the art of Senga Nengudi, Pauline Boty, and Alina Szapocznikow.

1. With Summer in view, we will try to take matters to the edge by getting a sense of how existential physical presence enters into play with a an exuberant use of symbolism, artifice, and both new and ancient technologies of make-up, special effects, and surreal presence. We will consult Philip Core on "Camp: The Lie that Tells the Truth", and watch All That Heaven Allows back to back with Fear Eats the Soul. We'll look into and listen to the psychedelic revolts that Brasilian artists and musicians like Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Os Mutantes realised under, and against dictatorial rule. We will try to initiate ourselves into the Black futurist philosophies born by the holistic musical visions of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. We hopefully arrive at a different sense of how false oppositions of the "artificial vs authentic", "folkloristic vs futuristic" can be debunked, in the course of performances, and modes of living art and life that reset the codes for how bodies signify. Along this thematic arc, we may move from a historical, via a conceptual, to a more speculative discussion of the questions at hand.

The Seminar will be split into morning, and afternoon session. As a host, I consider it my task to provide the frame, put text on the table, and moderate the debate. The primary objective of the Seminar, however, is to create a group that exercises the art of collective thought. To this end, no prior knowledge is required, nobody needs to impress anybody. On the contrary, the challenge lies in forming a resonanting body through listening, reading, and looking that can amplify thoughts in the process of their making (and unmaking), and permit participants to think out aloud together, so we weave a fabric of concepts that can hold weight, or tears, so we have to start over again. Taking the risk of speaking up, and experimenting with the coining of concepts for what is perhaps not yet sayable is welcome. Yet, so is the investment of attention that concentrated listening and attuned responses to other participants' interventions require. It's like switching between playing solo or rhythm in musical improvisation. Can't have one without the other. Things don't move without either. As a host, my job lies in keeping the basic rhythm in the pocket, and the overall thematic arc in view. Yet, I would very much appreciate it though if participants co-hosted sessions, put their spin on the morning or afternoon, and guide us into material, based on their experiences, and inquiries. I hope we can make this one move.