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The Twenty-First Horst Gerson Lecture

07 September 2023

The Twenty-First Horst Gerson Lecture

On the 12th of October 2023, Prof. em. Dr. Monika Wagner will deliver the twenty-first Horst Gerson Lecture, in the Aula of the Academy Building of the University of Groningen. The lecture starts at 16:30 and will be followed by a reception in the same building.

On the Afterlife of Things in Artworks: Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios and Other Contact Relics

Everyday things, as they have increasingly led their afterlives in works of art since the 1960s, have a history of previous use attached to them. This made them particularly relevant for new artistic strategies developed in the context of the memorial debates since the 1980s. My lecture is concerned with different forms of violence that is central to cultures of memory and explores how materials and things are made to talk about this in the new context of the artwork. Initially it is about European examples that - as in the case of Christian Boltanski and Sigrid Sigurdsson - revolved around the Holocaust. Methodologically, my focus is on analysing the semantics of the materials, an approach that offers options of connecting to works from other parts of the world for which other incidents and traumata form the frame of reference. In the afterlife of material things and their encounters with forms of violence, artists as diverse as Xu Bing, Romuald Hazoumé and Doris Salcedo, whose eponymous work is at the centre of the lecture, meet.

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Monika Wagner initially studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kassel, before turning  to art history and literature at the universities in Hamburg and London. She was a research assistant at the University of Tübingen, where she qualified as a professor in 1986. From 1987 to 2009 she taught art history at the University of Hamburg and directed the Funkkolleg Moderne Kunst. At the Hamburg Seminar she built up the archive for research into material iconography. Her work focuses on the art of the 18th-20th centuries, the history and theory of perception, the design of public spaces and especially the semantics of artistic materials (Das Material der Kunst, Munich 2001). Fellowships at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles offered the opportunity to extend material analyses to architecture (Marmor und Asphalt, Berlin 2018). As a fellow in the research group “Bildevidenz” at the FU Berlin, she prepared the book Kunstgeschichte in Schwarz-Weiß: Reproduction and Method, which appeared in 2022.

Introductory Programme

An introductory programme will take place in the Groninger Museum, starting at 14:00. Lectures, related to the Horst Gerson Lecture, will be delivered by Prof. Dr. Hanneke Grootenboer and Prof. Dr. Mona Schieren.

The Pensive Hand: On Textiles, Tools and Touch

 This paper explores the intertwining practices of making and thinking, starting from imagery of women doing needlework, a popular topic in Dutch 17th century visual culture. Traditionally, such figures have been interpreted as paragons of virtue. However, I suggest that these silent scenes of total concentration are depictions of female interiority and pensiveness. I will demonstrate that handwork such as lacemaking or sewing not only provided a space and time for reflection, but served as a form of intellectual pursuit in its own right. Following Martin Heidegger’s understanding of thinking as a form of handwork, the focus of this presentation will be on the role of the sewing and embroidering hand in the process of crafting thought.

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Hanneke Grootenboer is Professor of Art History at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Her scholarship focuses on intersections of early modern art, literature and philosophy in a transhistorical perspective, addressing topics such as intimacy, interiority, affect and miniaturization. Her publications include The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Dutch Seventeenth Century Still Life Painting (Chicago UP, 2005), Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth-Century Eye Miniatures (Chicago UP, 2012) the co-authored Conchophilia: Shells, Art, and Curiosity in Early Modern Europe (Princeton UP, 2021) and The Pensive Image: Art as a Form of Thinking (Chicago UP, 2021). She is currently working on a book on art, craft and thought. 

Sculpting the Transitional: Lygia Clark Altering Blinded Sight

This talk explores the concept of “relational objects” that Brazilian artist Lygia Clark developed in the 1970s and applied to participants in one-to-one sessions as part of Structuring of the Self (1976–1988). These objects include items such as plastic bags, seashells, masks, stones, and flowers, all of which can be readily reproduced. Through manipulation of these objects, participants were encouraged to engage in a process of introspection. Their material iconographic value was intended to gain the user’s interest and interaction, serving as transitional objects (Winnicott) that facilitated connections between the individual, others, or other Selves. 
My contribution revises Structuring the Self, shifting away from the idea of it being an ‘abandonment of art’ as proposed in the retrospective at MoMA, New York (2014), to emphasize its role as an artistic technique for reaffirming the viewers’s (unknown) capacity for blinded sight and rediscovers the phantasmagorical aspect of selfhood. This ties into the politics of Structuring the Self, aligning with Félix Guattari's concept of the ‘molecular revolution’ in post military dictatorship Brazil.

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Mona Schieren is Professor of Transcultural Art Histories at the University of the Arts Bremen. Before her studies of art history in Hamburg and Nice, she received a diploma from the University of Economics and Social Science, Hamburg. Topics of her current research on transcultural studies in modern and contemporary art include history and theory of body practices/technologies, history politics and trauma theory, social infrastructure, fiber arts, and Asianisms in the US. She is a board member of Denkort Bunker Valentin and on the editorial board of FKW: Journal of Visual Culture and Gender Studies. Her book Transcultural Translation in the Oeuvre of Agnes Martin was awarded the CAA International Publication Prize.

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Last modified:26 September 2023 11.55 a.m.
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