February 24, 2007

Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp [MuHKA] lectures



MuHKA lectures: KEYWORDS/CULTURE :: THU 03.01 8 PM Paul Gilroy and Steve McQueen :: THU 03.22 8 PM Rudi Laermans and Lieven de Cauter :: THU 04.12 8 PM Adrain Rifkin and Sudeep Dasgupta :: THU 05.10 8 PM Maria Hlavajova and Rosi Braidotti :: A conversation between Martha Rosler and Susan Kelly took place in October 2006.

MuHKA presents a series of dialogues on the term culture as a keyword around which individuals and societies produce, contest and share meaning, bringing together several leading figures working in this field.

In his book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams gives a precise and useful account of the words that are instrumental in shaping our understanding of culture and society. Words, which although familiar, he believed, would benefit from further clarification; not in order to impose a finite meaning on them, but instead to describe their development, adaptation and translation between times and places and their relationship to other words. In his definition of ‘culture’ Williams describes this word as one of the two or three most complicated words and elsewhere as the original difficult word. It can simultaneously refer to: [1] intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development [2] the way of life of a people, time or place and [3] artistic works or the output of aesthetic practices. According to Williams its complexity stems from the fact that the word culture plays an equally important role in a number of different areas of exper ience [art being one, society being another] between which it occupies an awkward place.

By way of elucidation Williams traces the etymology of ‘culture’ back to its roots in plant or animal husbandry [to cultivate or to tend]; how it came to refer to the development of manners and the intellectual faculties, how it was extended to include more generalised social processes and how through its links to civilisation, class and civil values it acquired a contested status. The formulation and maintenance of cultural elites and the culture wars that saw previously excluded groups gate-crashing the citadel. Today the term ‘culture’ is deployed for a combination of progressive, bureaucratic and reactionary causes. As a remedy for social exclusion, for the empowerment of sub and counter cultural groups, as an instrument of government policy, and in the xenophobic ring-fencing of cultural values and norms on ethnic, religious and linguistic grounds.

Williams believed that the awkward position that the word ‘culture’ occupies somewhere in-between social and artistic categories, rather than being a problem, instead produces a range and overlap of meaning that is the source of its significance. Indicating a complex argument about relations between general human development and a particular way of life, and between both and the works and practices of art and intelligence.

This lecture series at MuHKA will take the slippage that finds ‘culture’ sitting in-between, artistic, social and theoretical discourse as its point of departure and consider the following questions:

[1] Rather than divide culture into neat partitions such as art, politics and lifestyle can we approach it as a continuous field with many intersecting points? [2] How can we best challenge cultural norms which are exclusive and prescriptive and aim for a culture that is convivial and cosmopolitan? [3] Rather than accepting culture as commodity or policy objective, is it possible instead to imagine a culture that is always undisciplined, flexible and in motion?



Paul Gilroy [1956] is a Professor of Social Theory at the London School of Economics. He has an extensive interests in literature, art, music and cultural history as well as in the social sciences. He is best known for his work on racism, nationalism and ethnicity and for his original approach to the history of the African Diaspora. His theories of race, racism and culture were influential in shaping the cultural and political movement of black British people during the 1990s. His books include Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack [1993] The Black Atlantic [1993] and After Empire [2004]. Gilroy’s current research projects include a study of the moral economy of blackness in the twentieth century, a volume on the social and technological dynamics of popular music, and a comparative and historical consideration of colonial government.


Steve McQueen [1969] is a film maker and video artist based in Amsterdam. He became interested in film as an art student at Goldsmiths' College, London. On graduating in 1993 he spent a year studying film at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. From his first major film, Bear [1993], exhibited at the Royal College of Art in 1994, McQueen achieved swift success on an international stage with a body of distinctive work. His black-and-white silent films, in which he often appears, are characterized by their visual economy and by the highly controlled environment in which they are projected. This minimalist and anti-narrative approach has been seen as an alienation technique, underlining his exploration of formal film language as well as popular cinematic convention. He was the winner of the 1996 ICA Futures Award and the 1999 Turner Prize.


Rudi Laermans [1957] is a professor of cultural sociology and sociological theory at the Catholic University of Leuven and guest teacher in social and cultural theory at P.A.R.T.S, the Brussels based dance school of A.T. De Keersmaeker. He has published widely within the fields of social and cultural theory, sociology of the arts, cultural policy, and contemporary dance. His projects include a research into art organisations from a sociological perspective, the globalisation of the contemporary art world, culture and research in Flanders and the question of cultural heritage.


Lieven de Cauter [1959] is Belgian philosopher and the initiator of the The Brussels Tribunal. He works at the Department of Architecture and Urban Design [ASRO] at the University of Leuven and is professor in the philosophy of culture at several art schools and universities including RITS and P.A.R.T.S in Brussels, the University of Antwerp, and the Willem De Kooning-Academy. He is currently guest professor at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. He is author of The Capsular Civilization: on the city in the age of fear [2004] and co-editor of an extensive anthology of key texts on twentieth century architecture.


Adrian Rifkin is Professor of Visual Culture & Media at Middlesex University. He is the author of Street Noises – Parisian Pleasure 1900-1940 [1993] and Ingres Then, and Now [2000]. He has researched and written widely on cultural and art history and on topics ranging from popular music and opera to Kantian aesthetics and gay subjectivities, and is currently preparing a series of extended studies on this latter subject under the title of Hyperventilation, the search for a banal beauty, which will involve a queer lacanianism. He is also working on a series of articles on Richard Wagner including on Wagner’s techno heritage. He was previously Editor of the Journal of the Association of Art Historians.


Dr. Sudeep Dasgupta [1967] is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. His current research and teaching interests include: aesthetics and migrant subjectivity, art history and contemporary visual analysis, and the relevance of postcolonial theory for media studies. His fields of research also include British cultural studies, Frankfurt School critical theory, film and television studies, postcolonial theory, postmodernism, feminist and queer theory. He has published articles on globalization and national identity, queer theory and postcolonial studies, the global dimension of Hindu fascism, cultural politics and film, and is editing a book on transnational culture and the politics of identity. He is editor of Constellations of the Transnational: Modernity, Culture, Critique [2005].


Maria Hlavajova [1971] is a curator, the artistic director of BAK, Basis voor Actuele Kunst in Utrecht, and the program director of Tranzit, an initiative in Bratislava, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. In her work, Hlavajova engages in critical practice that both recognizes the profound connection between art and knowledge, and relates to issues that are urgent in current cultural and political conditions. Her projects often evolve in “parts” or “episodes,” which allow for the concurrent exploration of specific issues from different perspectives and in various forms. Hlavajova’s interests are interdisciplinary, with a focus on exhibitions and examining the contemporary in aesthetic context. Hlavajova was co– curator of Manifesta 3. She is commissioner for the Dutch Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Bienniale.


Rosi Braidotti [1954] is professor of women's studies in the Arts Faculty of Utrecht University and scientific director of the Netherlands Research School of Women's Studies. She has published extensively on feminist philosophy, epistemology, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis. She serves as an advisor to the journals: Signs, Differences and The European Journal of Women's Studies. Rosi Braidotti’s research and writing concerns feminist philosophy and cultural studies/studies of popular culture. She is especially interested in poststructuralism and psychoanalysis, theories of sexual difference and the history of feminist ideas. Her research focuses on the work of Gilles Deleuze and Luce Irigaray. Currently she is working on the politics of feminist postmodernism from a multicultural perspective and on the history of scientific teratology. Her publications include Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics [2006] and Baby Boomers: Vite parallele dagli anni Cinquanta ai cinq uant’ anni [2003].


Martha Rosler is an artist based in New York. She works in various media including photography, video, installation, and performance. Her work in the public sphere concerns everyday life, media, architecture and the built environment issues which are seen from a feminist perspective. She has participated in Documenta, Kassel, the Whitney biennial and exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Dia Center for the Arts, New York; and many other international venues. A retrospective of her work in 2000 was shown at the New Museum and the International Center of Photography in New York and toured to five European cities. Her writing has been published widely in catalogues and magazines and she has published ten books. She lectures extensively nationally and internationally and teaches at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey and the Staatliche Hochshule fur Bildende Kunst – Stade lschule - Frankfurt am Main.


Susan Kelly is an artist, writer, PhD student and lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London. Her work is concerned with the relationship between art, rhetoric and the political and how various live situations and movements investigate and activate these relationships. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the National Centre for Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Prague Biennial; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; Kunstihoone, Tallin; Mercer Union, Toronto; The Lenin Museum and Muu Ry, Finland; Art in General and LMCC, New York; Krasnoyarsk Museum Siberia; pm Gallery Zagreb and Project Arts Centre Dublin. She has also published articles in Public Culture, the Journal of Visual Cultures, Social and Cultural Geography, Chto Delat?, re-public art.net and Kunstforum. She is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Programme New York, and the University of Leeds, UK.

Lecture-series organised by Grant Watson [curator MuHKA] :: Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp [MuHKA], Leuvenstraat 32 2000 Antwerpen :: T +32 [0]3 260 99 99 :: info[at]muhka.be

Posted by jo at February 24, 2007 04:01 PM