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 audience 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.)