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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.

Holidays and Beyond

18 Dec


With the semester winding down and Holland shrouded in rainy and windy darkness, we look forward to some much-deserved Yuletide rest. Beyond that, we also look forward to the second semester—which will then ensure that we will need some much-deserved rest during the summer. ‘Tis the cycle of academic life.

On Monday, January 19, media theorist Jay David Bolter will give a master class at VU University, attended both by VAMA students and by participants of other master’s programmes at our faculty. Bolter, whose work we have been using in our course “Reading Concepts of Intermediality” for some years, will give a lecture at the Stedelijk Museum on January 18.

On Thursday, January 29, we will have one of our research brunches, at which students discuss their research agendas and thesis plans/thesis writing while enjoying food and drinks.

The regular courses will start in the first week of February. These include our “core module” Imagining the Image, which this year is subtitled Post-Visual Culture? VAMA students will be joined by their peers from other Dutch research master’s programmes in discussing both historical (Marxist) critiques of the visual and its fetishistic illusions, as well as contemporary theorizations of an algorithmic culture in which increasing invisibility and new methods of data visualization seems to be engaged in an arms race.

Image: VAMA student Steyn Bergs eyes a work by Anthony McCall.

Art, Media and Ecology

15 Oct

uhm_lr_fl_07_05-1On November 4, the Leiden Center of Media, Art and Politics (MAP) and VU University’s VAMA: Critical Studies in Art and Culture research master’s programme will jointly present an evening of lectures and discussion on art, media and ecology. T.J. Demos of University College London and VU University’s Sven Lütticken will each give a presentation, and Eric de Bruyn of Leiden University will chair the concluding Q&A session.

Please note that this event, which is public, will take place in room 228 of Leiden University’s Lipsius building. Time: 18.00-20.00 hrs.

T.J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Making the World Matter

This presentation will look at the collective artistic platform, “World of Matter,” and examine the group’s diverse productions that concern pressing issues of political ecology today. Their investigations offer a platform to consider a number of theoretical and political developments bearing on the intersection of art and ecology, including: the need for a new “natural contract” (as advanced by Michel Serres); the imperative for open access media ecologies; the political necessity of social ecology, even while granting attention to the non-human world, particularly in relation to both post-anthropocentric speculative realist philosophy and the emerging legal revolution regarding the rights of nature—all of which will be discussed.

Sven Lütticken, Abstract Habitats

This is the presentation of an article (yet to be published) dealing with art installations that abstract animals and other organisms from their usual natural environment or from regular forms of domestication. These works—by artists including Hans Haacke, Carsten Höller and Rosemarie Trockel, and Bik Van der Pol—function as artificial, aesthetic habitats for the animals as well as for the human viewers/participants. Genetic technology and synthetic biology are altering life on earth, but the works in question are not examples of “bio art” that employs advanced genetic technology. Rather, they alter or readjust the relations between organisms so as to foreground the historical nature of all forms of life, and the speeding-up of (post-)natural history in the anthropocene.

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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.


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.

April 8: Steven Jacobs

3 Apr


On Tuesday April 8 at 1.30 PM, we welcome Steven Jacobs from the University of Ghent for a guest lecture. Jacobs is an expert on cinematic representations of architecture and cities. In his lecture he will focus on the genre of city symphonies, films from the 1920s which include such films as René Clair’s Paris qui dort and Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin, Die Sinfonie der Großstadt. This lecture takes place in the context of the seminar The Art of Comparison: The Cinematic City by Ivo Blom, Koos Bosma and our endowed professor Bert Hogenkamp. Subsequently, Bert Hogenkamp will lecture on the image of Amsterdam in Dutch documentaries (Ivens, Van der Elsken, Van der Keuken).

Images: stills from Menschen am Sonntag (Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder, 1930, and A Photographer Films Amsterdam (Ed van der Elsken, 1982).

Tom Holert: Design and Shine

24 Mar


In the context of the current seminar Imagining the Image, which this year focuses on the image as object or thing endowed with agency, VAMA welcomes the art historian, critic and artist Tom Holert for a reading seminar and presentation on April 16. This event is organized in collaboration with (and at) Casco, office for art, design and theory in Utrecht. We will focus on two of Holert’s projects as theorist and video maker: the essay Distributed Agency, Design’s Potentiality (2011) and the video installation The Labours of Shine (2012). The essay will be discussed in a VAMA reading seminar during the afternoon, whereas the video installation will be presented and discussed by Holert during a public Casco “open seminar” in the evening.


The day begins with the closed VAMA reading seminar focusing on Distributed Agency, Design’s Potentiality. In this text, Holert acknowledges that the ubiquity of design in contemporary life “has long been bemoaned by cultural critics as the utmost symptom of the postmodernist loss of substance to surface,” but that this general presence of design marks a position of great potential. Analysing what he identifies as the “distributed agency” of design, Holert argues that “design can only be understood as an activity situated in an arena where ‘participation’, if at all, is happening under the condition of competition and conflict. Instead of glossing over social, cultural and economic inequalities, design, in its microprocessual capacity to engage with the local and the particular, is bent to acknowledge difference—not as distinction, but as struggle.”

Holert’s recent video installation The Labours of Shine, installed at Casco for the occasion,   answers the complains of the “loss of substance to surface” by investigating the substance of surface itself—more specifically the shine of various objects and the labour invested in its production. Holert zaps from everyday objects to high art and explores Hollywood’s representation and repression of political and racial struggles. In a surprising juxtaposition of the shoeshiner in classic movies with Brancusi’s polished metal sculptures, he examines how the labour of shine, of producing shining surfaces, generates its own contradictions and conflicts. The Labours of Shine will be screened and discussed by Holert with auIMG_0033IMG_0049dience members.

Tom Holert (* 1962) is an art historian, critic, curator and artist. A former editor of Texte zur Kunst and Spex, he currently lives and works in Berlin. Holert is honorary professor of art theory and cultural studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna where he, from 2008 to 2011, held the chair of Epistemology and Methodology of Art Production and co-coordinated the Center for Art/Knowledge (CAK) and the PhD in Practice. He also (with Johanna Schaffer) headed the WWTF funded research project „Troubling Research. Performing Knowledge in the Arts“ (2010-2011). Alongside his writings on contemporary art, Holert has (co-)authored books on visual culture, politics, war, mobility, glamour, and the governmentality of the present. Currently his research focusses on questions of art and knowledge (developing ideas first elaborated in his 1997 Künstlerwissen. Studien zur Semantik künstlerischer Kompetenz im Frankreich des 18. und frühen 19. Jahrhunderts); he is also working on a book on the visual culture of experimental psychology (The Diagnostic Modern). As an artist Holert recently participated in the 8th Gwangju Biennale 2010, Forum Expanded 2011 (Berlin Film Festival), Transmediale (Berlin, 2012) and Animismus (House of World Cultures, Berlin, 2012).

Updated with photos of the event. (Yes, good food is an essential ingredient of VAMA activities.)