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February 2015: Seminar, Guest Lectures

26 Jan

February is almost upon us, which means that the second semester is about to start in earnest! Sven lütticken will be teaching the VAMA core module Imagining the Image, which this year is subtitled “Post-Visual Culture?” In addition to VAMA students, research master’s students and PhD candidates from universities across Holland will be taking part, analysing theoretical writings and research and/or artistic projects by everyone from Vilém Flusser to Alexander Galloway, from Lev Manovich to Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann, from Jonathan Crary to Eyal Weizman.

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In late February we welcome two distinguished guests to VU university. On February 24, at 11 AM in room 12A37, prof. dr. Raffaele Pozzi (Roma III University) will give a lecture titled “Intermediality in video art: Robert Cahen and Pierre Boulez.” Ivo Blom has organized this talk in the context of the master’s programme Comparative Arts and Media Studies (CAMS), but it is open to students from all MA programmes.

Two days later, on Thursday, February 26, VAMA welcomes Noam Elcott of Columbia University for a talk titled “Bodies in the Dark: Cinemas, Spectatorship, Discipline, Residue.

Cinematic darkness engenders the suspension of bodies in a null space. This much is familiar – if not from everyday experience than certainly from 1970s film theory. But already early in the twentieth century, these emergent spectatorial conditions were recognized and contested by filmmakers and theorists, cinema operators and lighting designers, critics and artists. This talk returns to the cinematic dispositif and its interwar contestation. But rather than rehearse models of negation and subversion, familiar from post-WWII avant-gardes, we will turn to Dada-Surrealists who marshaled the residues of this disciplinary dispositif toward alternate aesthetic ends.  

Noam Elcott’s lecture will start at 5.30 PM in 6A10 (VU main building, 6th floor). The talk is co-organized by VAMA and the Leiden University Nexus of Art, Media and Politics (LENS); it is open to all VU University and Leiden University MA students.

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September 30: Pablo Martínez

15 Sep

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.57.00This semester we welcome Pablo Martínez as guest researcher at the VU. Affiliated with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Pablo is currently in the process of completing his PhD on images of masses and the potential political agency of these images. On September 30 at 6 PM, Pablo will present part of his research and discuss it with VAMA students, staff members, and guests.

Bodies and Images in the Production of the Event, Part I: The Mass Tribute to Buenaventura Durruti.

As opposed to the choreography of a mass ordered by power, there is a libertarian mass that is shaken by the bodies’ movement in the event. This anarchic mass functions as a molecular and aesthetic machine that is able to awake and activate the sensorium into a shared space and time: that of the occupied square. Image, body and technology have been closely related in the production of political subjectivity – from the technical reproducibility of the image in cinema and illustrated magazines, to television, or, more recently, to social networks and the internet.

This presentation will focus on one case study: The Mass Tribute to Buenaventura Durruti. The film shows the burial of Buenaventura Durruti, the anarchist killed in 1936 in the Spanish Civil War. Its production was arranged by the CNT – FAI and exhibited in Barcelona’s cinemas only two days after the funeral. This film will not only be analyzed as an ideological device of the modern era but also will serve us to think about the power of images and technology to amplify the experience of bodies in the event.

The 2014/15 Academic Year

20 Aug

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The Dutch weather has decided that it’s autumn, which can only mean one thing: another academic year is about to be commence!

For this occasion we’ve moved the VAMA blog to this new address, and we have also provided VAMA (which, as everybody knows, is the acronym of Visual Arts, Media and Architecture) with a new subtitle: Critical Studies in Art and Culture. We feel that this covers what we’re doing better than the old full name, which bears too much of a family resemblance to many “practical” programmes (studio art etc.).

On Thursday, August 28 we welcome the new students, and welcome back some senior students, to our brave new flexi workspace world!

Image: Still from Harun Farocki, A New Product (2012).

Debate on the University

31 May

IMG_1122VAMA students Roel Griffioen and Jesse van Winden have found yet another brilliant and entirely justifiable reason to prolong the writing of their theses a bit more: they have co-authored a manifesto on the state of Dutch universities. The long version will be published in a book edited by two VU philosophers, Ad Verbrugge and Jelle van Baardewijk, Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde – Wat is er mis en hoe kan het beter?, which will be presented at a “Night of the University” in the News in Amsterdam on June 6. Today, the short version of Roel and Jesse’s text has been published in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, and on this occasion Roel is the paper’s cover boy. The online version is here.

We’re proud that Roel and Jesse participate in the necessary debate on the contemporary university, which has been financialized and turned into a faltering pseudo-business, riddled with perverse incentives. One example of this, discussed by Roel and Jesse, is the pressure to “churn out” diplomas if you want to secure your funding and your income. As protesting students at the VU put it some months ago, the university appears to be run like a “cookie factory” — and to gain access to this factory, students must make debts or have wealthy parents. Neo-liberal internationalization in the wake of “Bologna,” with the world becoming a market of potential students that are needed to ensure growth, is another problematic development. But this process, in which we are of course entangled, also creates some elementary preconditions for genuine international exchange—however compromised and imperfect.

In his article in today’s NRC, which was also written for Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde, Ad Verbrugge attacks the top-down imposition of English, or the mutated version thereof that Hito Steyerl has dubbed International Disco Latin. Clearly, Verbrugge has a point when he attacks the fetishization of rankings and of “top research” published in peer-reviewed international journals, which can act as a disincentive for academics and students to think and act locally; and this project is certainly an impressive example of a critical intervention of (what remains of) the local public sphere.

However, it would be disastrous if the problem were ultimately to be framed in terms of good/local/Dutch versus bad/international/English. No doubt this is not the intention, but there are some worrying signs suggesting that the necessary analysis of the economic and ideological contradictions that both produce and undermine today’s university is swapped all too easily for conservative Kulturkritik that fetishizes the pre-1968 university; whereas Roel and Jesse, by contrast, praise the relative accessibility and openness of post-’68 academia. During the Night of the University (pardon my French: the Nacht van de Universiteit), one of the protagonists of today’s Edmund Burke-worshiping neoconservatives will lecture on the “the cultural role of the university” —  Theodore Dalrymple, who has published a book with the Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, and does not appear to be overly interested in distancing himself from his admirer’s political agenda.

In a Europe in which the neo-liberal internationalism of the EU breeds various nationalisms, populisms and xenophobic movements (from Lucke and De Wever to Farage, Wilders and Le Pen), what is the way to deal with the dialectic of the local, the national and the global, and with conflicting incentives and imperatives? One thing is for sure: for VAMA, returning to Dutch would be considerably less attractive than reverting to actual Latin. If we are to go back in time, then let’s do it properly! Fortunately, being enrolled in an international MA programme does not prevent VAMA students from engaging with the world their live in and the conditions they labour under.

Activities in June

20 May

A few lectures and seminars for June:

On June 18, Katja Kwastek will give her inaugural lecture as professor of art history at VU University: Post-Digital Art History. This is a public lecture in the aula in the main building of VU University, starting at 3.45 PM.

On June 19, we will meet artist Andrea Fraser for a seminar. We will watch her two-channel video Projection and discuss this piece, her practice in general and her essays “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique,” “There’s No Place Like Home” and “Autonomy and Its Contradictions.” This is part of a loose series of sessions on and with artists associated with institutional critique.

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And on June 23, we welcome Eric Gordon (Emerson College/Harvard). Eric Gordon will give a masterclass in the morning, and a public lecture titled “Play, Games and Power” at 3.30 in the main building, room 1E24.

“Games can be powerful tools for motivating civic participation. They have demonstrated effectiveness in learning outcomes, charitable giving, and even public participation. Governments and NGOs are eager to adopt games and game-based processes to aid in this work, but to what end? This talk provides a critical analysis of how governments and NGOs are thinking about the “use” of games and the design of play in cultivating citizen engagement. Too often, the focus on gamification and efficiency dominate the discourse around tech-enabled citizen participation, where democracy is presented as an instrumental process, rather than a constructive one. There is need to understand the relationship between what institutions want from games and what they want from democracy, and to scrutinize the (dis)connections.”

Image (update): the seminar with Andrea Fraser at Casco.

Student News: Seeing Red

12 May

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VAMA student Boris Čučković has an article out in the new Leonardo Almanac, which is titled Red Art: New Utopias in Data Capitalism. Boris’s text, “Grounds for the Political Aesthetics of Cultural Commons in the Post-Medium Condition: The Open Source Cultural Object,” is an outcome of the research Boris has been pursuing in his two years as VAMA student, culminating in his thesis – which he is currently writing. In the autumn, he will continue his research as a PhD student at the Courtauld Institute. Oh yes, and the entire publication is available online here. That’s digital commoning for you!

On a related note: Roel Griffioen (VAMA student) and Stefaan Vervoort (VAMA alumnus) have reviewed the exhibition The Good Cause: Towards an Architecture of Peace for Open!