Master’s Program in Aesthetics and Politics

Theorist in Residence

This initiative invites theorists focusing on media, urban, or global studies to spend up to two weeks at CalArts to teach workshops, faculty seminars, and give a public lecture.  

Spring 2017

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago. Her national sentimentality trilogy — The Anatomy of National Fantasy (1991), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (1997), and The Female Complaint (2008) — has now morphed into a quartet, with Cruel Optimism (2011) addressing precarious publics and the aesthetics of affective adjustment in the contemporary U.S. and Europe. A co-editor of Critical Inquiry, she is also editor of Intimacy (University of Chicago Press, 2000, Chicago); Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (New York University Press, 2001, New York); Compassion: the Culture and Politics of an Emotion (Routledge, 2004, New York); and On the Case (Critical Inquiry, 2007).  She blogs at Supervalent Thought ( and is also a founding member of the art/activist group Feel Tank Chicago.

Seminar and Lectures from Humorlessness

Public lectures: 

1.  Humorlessness/Politics: REDCAT, 02/01, 8:30pm—tickets available through the REDCAT website

2.  Humorlessness/Comedy: West Hollywood Public Library, City Council Chambers, 02/03, 7:30pm—free and open to the public

Seminar (open to CalArts students only):  

1.  Classic Comedy Theory

2.  Collective Curation on Comedic Art

Fall 2015

The Theorist in Residence for the Fall 2015 semester is Thierry de DuveDe Duve is Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, New York, and was Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, for the fall semester of 2013. His English publications include Pictorial Nominalism (1991), Kant after Duchamp(1996), Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (1996, 2010), Look—100 Years of Contemporary Art (2001), and Sewn In the Sweatshops of Marx: Beuys, Warhol, Klein, Duchamp (2012). In 2013–14, he published six essays in Artforum, which he will gather in a book tentatively titled Duchamp’s Telegram. He is presently finishing a book of essays on aesthetics, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

The ‘Kant after Duchamp’ approach to aesthetics and art theory, which I advocate, rests on two convictions: that Kant understood better than any philosopher before or after him what it means for humans to experience the world aesthetically; and that Duchamp’s readymades have upset all assumptions on the validity of aesthetic theories which, like Kant’s, are theories of taste. But rather than concluding from this contradiction that after Duchamp only anti-aesthetic (and anti-Kantian) theories of art are possible, I claim that the readymades have forced us to update Kant’s findings in the Critique of Judgment, not only in strictly aesthetic matters but also in their consequences, most notably, ethical and political ones.

Why Kant Got it Right

Tuesday November 3, 6:00-9:00 PM — Closed Graduate (MA/MFA) Seminar: Aesthetics, Ethics, Politics—CalArts, D206

In this first session of the seminar, I shall explain Kant’s insight in very simple terms, and then update it for ‘post-Duchamp’ times, by substituting the sentence “This is art,” as it baptizes a readymade, for Kant’s “This is beautiful,” as it pertained primordially to nature. Crucial to that substitution is the fate of Kant’s idea of the sensus communis, which I read as “the faculty of agreeing by dint of feeling.” Can the human community be based on that faculty? Such is the question with which aesthetics opens onto the political. 

“Le sens de la famille”: Aesthetics as the Transcendental Ground of Democracy

Wednesday November 4, 8:00 PM — Public lecture (free and open to the public): When is Art Political?—CalArts, Butler Building (BB4)

In the very first sentence of its preamble, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentions “the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Let’s notice the postulate that was slipped into that first sentence: to be a human being is to be a member of the human family. With the help of Kant’s notion of sensus communis, I shall attempt to show that, whereas in the political realm, the “human family” is a highly problematic concept, in the aesthetic realm of art, it legitimately acts as the transcendental foundation of democracy.

Do Artists Speak on Behalf of All of Us?

Thursday November 5, 6:00-9:00 PM — Closed Graduate (MA/MFA) Seminar: Aesthetics, Ethics, Politics—CalArts, Butler Building (BB4)

In this second session of the seminar, I shall raise the vexed issue of art’s universality, a notion often thought to be the harbinger of a Western (white, male, heterosexual), hegemonic imposition of artistic standards. I shall argue that multiculturalism and identity politics are not the adequate response because they fail to take stock of the difference between mandate and address. And I shall reformulate the big words such as universalism, humanism, or formalism, in the humble, everyday language of deitics. Why does the expression “you and me” sometimes mean “all of us”?

When is Art Political? Suzanne McClelland's Call With Information

Friday November 6, 4:30-6PM — Public lecture (tickets required): REDCAT

Spring 2015

Our Theorist in Residence for the Spring 2015 semester will be Judith Butler. As a Theorist in Residence, Judith will give 4 public lectures and teach a closed, 2-credit block seminar (4 sessions) for MA program students. The title of the seminar will be "Demonstrating Precarity: Vulnerability, Embodiment, and Resistance".  

Here is the schedule for the lectures: 

Lecture 1:  From Performativity to Precarity/Acts of Resistance (West Hollywood Public Library, Council Chambers, Friday, January 23rd, 7pm.)

Lecture 2:  "We, the People": Thoughts on Public Assembly (CalArts campus, LANGLEY, Friday, January 30th, 7pm.)

Lecture 3:  Vulnerability and Resistance (REDCAT, Wednesday, March 4th, 8:30pm.)

Lecture 4:  Interpreting Non-Violence (CalArts campus, LANGLEY, Friday, March 6th, 7pm.)

Spring 2014

Our Theorist in Residence for the Spring 2014 semester will be Fred Moten. This residency will mark Fred's second visit to the program. MA faculty Douglas Kearney is curating this year's residency. Planned events: 

  • tu, march 18th, 12n-1:30pm, calarts CUBE, MA student seminar, "black kant (pronounced cant)"
  • tu, march 18th, 7-9pm, interventions lecture, calarts BB4, "black kant (pronounced cant): an update"
  • th, march 20th, 12n-1:30pm, calarts CUBE, faculty seminar, "black kant (pronounced cant)"
  • th, march 20th, 8:30pm, public lecture, REDCAT, titled "the sustain: blackness and poetry"

Fred Moten is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and a member of the Writing Faculty at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College. He received his A.B. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press), Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works), B. Jenkins (Duke University Press), and co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia). His forthcoming books are The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions) and consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press). In 2009 Moten was Critic-in-Residence at In Transit 09: Resistance of the Object, The Performing Arts Festival at the House of World Cultures, Berlin and was also recognized as one of ten “New American Poets” by the Poetry Society of America; in 2011 he was a Visiting Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at Pratt Institute; in 2012, he was Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University; and in 2013 he was a Guest Faculty Member in the Summer Writers Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa Institute. Moten served the American Studies Association as a member of the Board of Managing Editors of American Quarterly from 2004 to 2007 and has been a member of the Editorial Collectives of Social Text and Callaloo, and of the Editorial Board of South Atlantic Quarterly. He was also a member of the Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine from 2002 to 2004 and a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York from 2001 to 2002. 

Spring 2013

The theorist in residence initiative was launched in the Spring of 2013. 

April 17th-18th: film-philosopher John Mullarkey will be teaching a faculty seminar on Wednesday and a student seminar on Thursday, as well as give a public lecture on Thursday, at 4pm, in LANGLEY on cinema, objects, and animals. 

March 14th: workshop with Brian Massumi and Erin Manning. At LANGLEY, from 4-7pm. Organized in collaboration with our colleagues from the Center for New Performance, who are hosting TEDx CalArts, on "Performance, Body, and Presence." 

Last edited by adeboever on Jan 02, 2017
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