New Book: Cultural Revolution

5 Apr


Critical Studies coordinator/tutor Sven Lütticken has a new book out with Sternberg Press, Cultural Revolution: Aesthetic Practice after Autonomy.

In this collection of essays, art historian and critic Sven Lütticken focuses on aesthetic practice in a rapidly expanding cultural sphere. He analyzes its transformation by the capitalist cultural revolution, whose reshaping of art’s autonomy has wrought a field of afters and posts. In a present moment teeming with erosions—where even history and the human are called into question—Cultural Revolution: Aesthetic Practice after Autonomy reconsiders these changing values, for relegating such notions safely to the past betrays their possibilities for potential today.

Lütticken discusses practices that range from Black Mask to Subversive Aktion, from Krautonomy to Occupy, from the Wet Dream Film Festival in the early 1970s to Jonas Staal’s recently established New World Academy. Within these pages Scarlett Johansson meets Paul Chan, Walid Raad, and Hito Steyerl, and Dr. Zira from Planet of the Apes mingles with the likes of Paul Lafargue and Alexandre Kojève.

Judith Butler Conference

30 Mar

From April 5 to April 7, the VU will host the conference Critical Theory in the Humanities: Resonances of the Work of Judith Butler. Butler herself will participate and give one of the keynotes. Among the focal points of this event is permativity and performance (art), and on Wednesday we will attend Amelia Jones’s lecture “Intimate Relations: Queer Performativity and the Theatricalization of Filiation” with the Critical Studies students. Our art history professor Katja Kwastek will be moderating this section of the day.

Imagining the Image, Talking Back to the Media

23 Feb


The 2017 iteration of our core module Imagining the Image, which started this month, focuses on one particular case: the 1985 manifestation Talking Back to the Media, which took place in Amsterdam encompassed an exhibition, a publication, public events and cable TV programmes, among other components. Based on a concept by David Garcia And Raúl Marroquín, with a collaborative institutional network that included Aorta, De Appel, Kriterion, Shaffy Theater, Time Based Arts and VPRO radio, TBTTM brought together contributions by artists ranging from General Idea and Hans Haacke to Louise Lawler and Ulises Carríon.

The project’s title, with its focus on “talking back” to “the media,” suggests a focus on speech acts and on linguistic interpellation. However, the project occurred at a historical moment marked by debate over the triumph of (audio)visual media, especially television, and by debates about postmodernism, which Fredric Jameson considered to be marked by  “the logic of the simulacrum, with its transformation of older realities into television images.” Jameson’s use of the term “simulacrum” is itself clearly indebted to Baudrillard, whose fame was near its apogee in 1985. In a further twist, for Baudrillard and others in the realm of smiluation, the iconic or indexical aspects of images appeared to have become less relevant than their language-like codedness —the signifiers’ play of difference in the service of equivalence. In this course we will analyse TBTTM both within this mid-1980s context and within genealogies spanning back to the 1960s and 1970s (in media theory, appropriation art, institutional critique) and forward into the 1990s and beyond.


For this course we are collaborating with LIMA, which is Time Based Art’s institutional successor and which has kindly provided us with access to the digitized archive of TBTTM and to its video catalogue.

Conference Frenzy

23 Feb


February has been a month of conferences and colloquia. On February 2, our department at the VU hosted a “young researchers’ colloquium” titled Artistic Subversions: Setting the Conditions of Display. On the day before (and connected to) the Stedelijk Museum’s symposium Lose Yourself!, on “labyrinthine exhibitions,” this colloquium brought together an impressive array of international young(ish) researchers, many of whom are PhD candidates, in a total of four panels and a keynote lecture. Angela Bartholomew, an alumnus of VAMA (now CSAC) who is doing PhD research at the VU, introduced the colloquium. Another AVAM alumnus and current VU PhD candidate, Steyn Bergs,  gave a presentation on “The Attention Economy as a Condition of Display” in the fourth panel, on Authenticity and the Production of Value.

From February 15-18, the College Art Association’s Annual Conference took place in New York City. It proved to be a veritable alumni reunion of VAMA/CSAC alumni. Angela Bartholomew, who as a PhD candidate in our department is still closely affiliated with CSAC, gave a talk on “Television’s Feedback LoopArtists Talking Back to the Media (1985) and the Stedelijk Museum on Television” as part of the European Eighties panel. On another panel, On Conformism and Subversion: Aesthetic Strategies and the Problem of the Political in Contemporary Art, Boris Čučković Berger delivered a paper titled “A Window to Capital: Yuri Pattison’s Outsourced Views, Visual Economies and the Aesthetic Conditions of Critique. Boris is now doing his PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art. As part of the intriguingly named Architecture and Comedy section, Stefaan Vervoort (now in Ghent) gave a presentation titled “’Trendsetter and/or Town Fool’: Luc Deleu and the Proposals and Advices (1972–80)”, together with our former professor of art history, Wouter Davidts. And finally: Karin de Wild, who graduated not from VAMA but from our museum curating MA, presented on “Agent Ruby (1998–present): A Case Study for Historicizing the Life of an Internet Artwork” as part of the panel on Accelerated Art History. \

We don’t care if this sounds paternalistic: we’re proud of all of them!

Guest Seminars in November

7 Nov


On November 21, we welcome VAMA alumnus Jane Boddy (University of Vienna) for a presentation and discussion. This is the first installment in a loose series of seminars in which VAMA alumni discuss their current PhD research.

Jane Boddy is a PhD candidate at the Lab for Cognitive Research in Art History (CReA), University of Vienna. CReA uses cognitive methods ranging from questionnaires to physiological  measurements (especially eye-tracking) to determine how the qualities of the work (form and content), of the observer (individually and  culturally), and of the context affect the beholding of aesthetic objects. At this seminar, Jane will present her ongoing PhD research project, “Soon the meaning of lines will be revealed to us.” An experimental approach for studying the expressive contribution of lines in painting. In a particular, we will look into Kandinsky’s account of the function of the line in art.

On November 30 our faculty’s Graduate School and Critical Studies/VAMA cohost  a workshop with the art historian Terry Smith together with (and at) the Stedelijk Museum.

Terry Smith is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He is author of acclaimed publications such as What is Contemporary Art? in 2009 and Thinking  Contemporary Curating in 2012. In this seminar, convened by Katja Kwastek and Sven Lütticken with the Stedelijk’s Jelle Bouwhuis, a few recent texts by Smith will function as the starting point for an open discussion about the curating of contemporary art in the era of globalization.


Image: Kandinsky, pen and ink drawing, 1925.    

VAMA Becomes Critical Studies in Art and Culture

4 Nov

For some time, there has been dissatisfaction with the name Visual Arts, Media and Architecture. It’s an enumeration rather than a real name, and to it some suggests that they’re dealing with “practical” or studio programmes; the acronym VAMA rolls of the tongue rather nicely but doesn’t say anything about the content.

However, changing the name of an officially accredited academic programme isn’t easy. Now we’re using a restructuring at our faculty to turn the subtitle we’re already been using on this website into the programme’s official name. The listing of the interlinked fields that we cover moves to the subtitle, so the complete package is:

Critical Studies in Art and Culture
Visual Art / Architecture / Design / Media

The programme remains essentially the same (hey, if it ain’t broke…). On the organizational level, Critical Studies will be a track within the faculty’s humanities research master, but with its own distinctive curriculum. For more information, including deadlines and procedures for applications, see this page.