Master’s Program in Aesthetics and Politics
Aesthetics and Politics Lecture Series
Hosted by Martín Plot, the Spring 2013 Aesthetics and Politics Lecture Series will focus on three major themes: the aesthetics and politics of literature and film, the critique of political theologies, and a reading and discussion of the two twentieth-century authors (Hannah Arendt and Claude Lefort) that have most comprehensively developed an “aesthetic” notion of the political.
Political Fictions: Literature and the Political
A panel with Peter Gadol (Otis College of Art and Design) and Martin Plot (CalArts)
Wednesday, January 30th 8:00-9:30pm at the West Hollywood Library
Peter Gadol graduated from Harvard College in 1986. He is the author of six books: Coyote, published by Crown in 1990, The Mystery Roast (Crown, 1993), Closer to the Sun, published by Picador USA in 1996,The Long Rain (Picador USA, 1997), Light at Dusk (Picador USA, 2000), Silver Lake (Tyrus Books, 2009). He has taught at UCLA and CalArts and is now a Full Professor in the Graduate Writing Program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Currently Gadol is writing an epic novel about twentieth-century design titled American Modern.
Martín Plot teaches at the Aesthetics & Politics Program and the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. He is the author of Indivisible (2011), La Carne de lo Social (2008), and El Kitsch Político (2003). He has also edited and co-edited several books and published in Continental Philosophy Review, Constellations, Theory and Event, Umbrales, International Journal of Communication, Le monde diplomatique, Punto de vista, among other journals and reviews.
A documentary essay film (55 minutes). Written and directed by Mady Schutzman (CalArts)
Wednesday, February 27th 8:00-9:00pm, West Hollywood Library
Dear Comrade documents the story of Llano del Rio (1914-18), the most important non-religious communitarian experiment in western American history. Llano is offered as a site to explore the struggles, courage, frustrations, fantasies, and Sisyphean efforts of innumerable idealists who have assumed comparable struggles in spite of tremendous odds. The story is told through archival footage, surreal re-enactments, interviews with ex-colonists, local residents and historians, and the meanderings of a silent nomad through the ruins of the Llano colony in the Mojave Desert. Through the intersection of stories, a seemingly traditional documentary morphs into a montage of parallel universes, political commentary, clownery, and a palpable desire – failings and disappointments notwithstanding – to give idealism and cooperation another try.
Mady Schutzman (MA Anthropology; Ph.D. Performance Studies) is a writer, editor, and theatre artist. She is a renowned practitioner and scholar of the techniques of social activist and theatre director Augusto Boal, and co-edited two books that critically investigate his work (Routledge 1994 and 2006). She has published essays and performance texts in several journals (including The Drama Review, Women and Performance, Theatre Topics, and the American Communication Journal ) as well as in many critical anthologies. Her book The Real Thing: Performance, Hysteria, and Advertising (Wesleyan, 1999) is a feminist analysis of the iconography of the female body in popular advertising. Mady teaches at California Institute of the Arts, USC and Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her current research focuses on forms of political resistance that employ the ambiguous and paradoxical tactics of humor, clownery, and jokes.
Q/A with Mady Schutzman (CalArts) and Martín Plot (CalArts.)
A documentary written and directed by Ken Ehrlich (CalArts and UC Riverside)
Friday, March 15 th, 8:00-9:30pm the screening, West Hollywood Library.
La Huelga is an experimental documentary video that examines a student strike at the largest public University in Mexico (UNAM) in 1999–2000, by juxtaposing participant interviews with a lyrical portrait of the campus architecture.
Ken Ehrlich is an artist and writer whose work focuses on the material, social, and formal dimensions of the built environment. He has exhibited internationally in a variety of media, including video, sculpture, and photography. He is the editor of Art, Architecture, Pedagogy: Experiments in Learning (viralnet.net, 2010), and coeditor (with Brandon LaBelle) of Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (2003); Surface Tension: Supplement, No. 1 (2006); and What Remains Of A Building Divided Into Equal Parts And Distributed for Reconfiguration: Surface Tension, No. 2 (2009), published by Errant Bodies Press. He currently teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts and in the Department of Art at the University of California, Riverside.
James Wiltgen earned his PhD from the University of California Los Angeles, where he wrote his dissertation on the development of television in Brazil. He has written on, among other things, Latin American film, sado-monetarism, Deleuze, and the inhuman. He teaches in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where he is working on a project linking post-structuralism to the Cold War, and beyond.
Q/A with Ken Ehrlich (CalArts and UC Riverside) and James Wiltgen (CalArts.)
Permanence of the Theologico-Political?
A panel with Jean Cohen (Columbia University) and Andrew Arato (New School for Social Research)
Introduction by Martín Plot and comments by Victoria Crespo (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Facultad de Humanidades) and Enrique Peruzzotti (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.) The event will be the LA book release of Enrique Peruzzotti and Martin Plot -eds- Critical Theory and Democracy: Civil Society, Dictatorship, and Constitutionalism in Andrew Arato's Democratic Theory.
Wednesday, March 20th 8:00-10:30pm at REDCAT.
Some of our significant political concepts are secularized theological ones. Not all of them. What is crucial is that non-theological concepts like territory and population can also be theologized, as in “sacred homeland” or “the People.” Such is the main effort of political theology, the preservation and imposition of concepts and figures of thought in political theory, inherited from monotheism, however transformed. This can only be countered by the further secularization and disenchantment of political concepts, the preservation or the re-establishment of their secular and rational character. Using the example of Carl Schmitt, this panel will address the fact that positive reliance on political theology not only can have a profoundly authoritarian meaning, but is helpful in disguising and misrepresenting that meaning. But taking this topos seriously does not commit a thinker to a political theological posture. As shown by Claude Lefort, political theology can be thematized in order to go beyond it. Conversely, without uttering the word, a political conception can be deeply theological with similar consequences as self-admitted versions. At a time when one can no longer openly argue for dictatorship as Schmitt still could in the 1920s, disguising the authoritarian disguise itself – namely political theology – can preserve its meaning and function. This point will be developed through a critique of populist politics in the version introduced by Ernesto Laclau (Arato) and the critique of political theocrats and defense of political secularism in dealing with the establishment clause (Cohen).
Jean Cohen is the Nell and Herbert Singer Professor of Contemporary Civilization and Political Theory in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. She has published numerous books and articles, and her works are translated into many languages. Her most recent book,Globalization and Sovereignty: Rethinking Legality, Legitimacy and Constitutionalism was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.
Andrew Arato is the Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor in Political and Social Theory at the New School for Social Research and is the chief editor of Constellations. He served as a consultant for the Hungarian Parliament on constitutional issues between 1996-7 and as a U.S. State Department Democracy Lecturer and Consultant on constitutional issues related to Nepal in 2007. His research interests – politics of civil society, constitutional theory, comparative politics of constitution making, and religion, secularism, and constitutions – are grounded in his broader attention to the history of social and political thought as well as legal and constitutional theory. His most recent book, Constitution Making Under Occupation: The Politics of Imposed Revolution in Iraq, was published in 2009. He is currently working on a new theory of constitutional authority and is preparing a volume on the theory and history of dictatorships.
Hannah Arendt and the Space of Appearances
A panel with Geoffrey Derven (“Arendt's Erasure: Giorgio Agamben and the Disappearance of Political Thought,”) Manuel Shvartzberg (“The technocratization of the space of appearance: an Arendtian critique of contemporary architecture,”) and Ella Street (“Tragedy for Modern Times: The Concept of Process in Arendt’s Thought,”) with Martin Plot introducing and moderating.
Tuesday, April 30th 8:00-9:30pm at the West Hollywood Library
Geoffrey Derven is a writer, researcher, and recent graduate of the MA program in Aesthetics & Politics at California Institute of the Arts. In 2011, he completed his BA studying philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College. As an undergraduate, Geoffrey was co-founder of VANGUARD, an annual publication and colloquium series highlighting students’ interdisciplinary work in the humanities. His most recent projects include a series of essays on contemporary Islamic thought and Participatory Life, an ongoing collaboration with multimedia artist Kameron Christopher. Geoffrey's research interests include religion, political thought, comparative literature, and phenomenology.
Manuel Shvartzberg studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and is a registered architect in the UK. He has worked, among others, for OMA/Rem Koolhaas, and was project architect for David Chipperfield in London, leading the design team for the critically acclaimed Turner Contemporary gallery (2006-2011). In 2008 he founded the RIBA award-winning experimental practice Hunter & Gatherer, and he has lectured in diverse international institutions on questions of art, architecture, and critical theory. In 2012 he completed the MA in Aesthetics and Politics program at CalArts. He is a practicing architect, writer, and teacher currently serving as adjunct faculty at CalArts and Woodbury University.
Ella Street is a doctoral student in political theory at the University of Toronto. She received a B.A. in political theory and philosophy at Colorado College and an M.A. in Government at Georgetown University. She studies the history of political thought; her interests include ancient political philosophy, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French political thought, and continental thought.
Claude Lefort, Thinker of the Political
A panel with Bernard Flynn (New School for Social Research) and Claudia Hilb (Universidad de Buenos Aires)
The event will serve as the launching of Martin Plot (ed.) Claude Lefort. Thinker of the Political.
Wednesday, May 1st 8:00-10:30pm at REDCAT
French philosopher Claude Lefort died on October 3rd, 2010. His œuvre—a term dear to him—developed over a period of six decades and is now, more than ever, an institution: it faces a closure that is also an opening. It is impossible to overstate the way in which Lefort’s notions of “power as an empty place” and “the modern dissolution of the markers of certainty” have influenced political and social theorizing during the past three decades. From Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s early work on hegemonic struggle to Slavoj Zizek’s Lacanian ontology of the political, and from Jacques Rancière’s aesthetic understanding of politics to Andrew Arato and Jean Cohen’s studies of civil society and post-sovereign constitution making, Lefort’s thought has become both radical and liberal democracy’s obligatory reference and unparalleled knot of confluence. This panel will debate his phenomenological style and legacy in contemporary thought as both a political theorist and a literary critique.
Bernard Flynn is an adjunct faculty at the Graduate and the Undergraduate New School For Research. He has published on contemporary thought, notably Political Philosophy at the Closure of Metaphysics (London: Humanities Press, 1992), The Philosophy of Claude Lefort (Evanston: Northwestern, 2006) and co-edited Merleau-Ponty and the Possibilities of Philosophy (Albany: SUNY Press, 2009) Also he has published many articles on contemporary continental philosophy and on the history of philosophy. Currently he is writing a book entitled The Adventures of the Event.
Claudia Hilb is a Professor in Political Theory at the University of Buenos Aires, and a researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (Conicet) in Argentina. She has obtained her B.A., Master and DEA in Sociology and political studies at the Universities of Paris VIII and Paris III, where she attended during several years Claude Lefort´s seminar at the EHESS, and her PhD in Social Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires. Her research is centered on modern political theory, and on theoretical-political problems concerning recent argentinian political history. She has recently published the books Leo Strauss. El arte de leer (2005), Gloria, miedo y vanidad: el rostro plural del hombre hobbesiano (en colab., 2007), El político y el científico. Ensayos en homenaje a Juan Carlos Portantiero (comp., 2009), Silencio, Cuba. La izquierda democrática frente al régimen de la Revolución Cubana (2010), and edited a reader on Leo Strauss, Leo Strauss. El filósofo en la ciudad (2011).
Hosted by Douglas Kearney, the Fall 2011 lecture series will focus on the thorny concepts of “post-blackness” and “post-race” that (during Obama's presidency in particular) have come to circulate not just in the artworld but also in public discourse at large. But what do these concepts mean? What is the appetite to be “after blackness” all about, and who is actually hungry for it? Beyond that area of focus, the speakers will address notions of post-gender, post-humanity, and even the posthumous.
All lectures are open to the public. For further information, please contact the lecture series organizer.
Ernest Hardy, "Post Post-Blackness/Queerness in the Visionary 90s"
Tuesday, October 4th at CalArts (LANGLEY), 7:30-9pm.
Ernest Hardy writes about film and music from his home base of Los Angeles. His criticism has appeared in the LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Vibe, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Source, Millennium Film Journal, Flaunt, Request, Minneapolis City Pages, and the reference books 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide, among others. He’s written liner notes for Chuck D Presents: Louder Than a Bomb, the box-set Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America, Curtis Mayfield: Gospel; the box-set Superstars of Seventies Soul; and the Luther Vandross box-set, Love, Luther; he is the winner of the 2006 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence, honoring his liner notes for the Chet Baker CD, Career 1952-1988. A Sundance Fellow and a member of LAFCA (Los Angeles Film Critics Association), he’s sat as a juror for the Sundance Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival and Los Angeles Outfest. He’s also co-programmed the FUSION Film Festival in Los Angeles. Blood Beats: Vol. 1, Hardy’s first collection of film and music criticism, won a 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. Blood Beats: Vol. 2, published February 2008, is his second volume of film and music criticism.
Darby English, “Emmett Till in the Present Tense”
Thursday, November 3rd at REDCAT, 8:30-10pm.
Darby English is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago, where he has taught modern and contemporary art and cultural studies since 2003. He is also affiliated faculty in the Department of Visual Arts; the Center for Gender Studies; and, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. English is the author of How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT Press, 2007) and co‐editor of Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress (MIT Press, 2003; republished Rizzoli, 2007). He has received grants and awards from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Creative Capital Foundation, the College Art Association, the Getty Research Institute, the National Humanities Center, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. In 2010 he was a recipient of the University of Chicago’s Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest award of this kind. In 2010‐2011, English was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He just submitted to press a book manuscript, titled The Public Life of Color: Social Experiments with Modernism, which tracks some of late modernist art’s uncharted affinities with radical politics.
Kyla Wazana Tompkins, "Eating The Other and the Other, Eating: Race, Commodity Citizenship and Chromolithographic Trade Cards in the Nineteenth Century"
Tuesday, November 15th at CalArts (LANGLEY), 7:30-9pm.
Kyla Wazana Tompkins is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at Pomona College. A former journalist and food critic, her first book, entitled Racial Indigestion: Eating bodies in the Nineteenth Century, is due out this spring from NYU Press.
Sianne Ngai, "The Zany Science: Gender and Post-Fordist Performance"
Tuesday, December 6th at CalArts (LANGLEY), 7:30-9pm.
Sianne Ngai is Professor of English at Stanford University and the author of Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2005). Her second book, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, and Interesting, is also forthcoming from Harvard in 2012. A new essay on Juliana Spahr’s The Transformation will be appearing in the essay collection American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions, forthcoming this year from Columbia University Press. Titles of other essays published include “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde” (in Critical Inquiry), “Black Venus, Blonde Venus” (in the Duke anthology, Bad Modernisms); and “‘A Foul Lump Started Making Promises in My Voice’: Race, Affect, and the Animated Subject” (in American Literature). Ngai is a member of the advisory boards of Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory; Postmodern Culture; and Studies in American Fiction. Her next project will be on the forms of late twentieth-century and contemporary female homosociality.