Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for Art and Philosophy (CAP), an interdisciplinary research platform based at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Exploring the field of Speculative Art Histories, a reading group will meet every two weeks at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and discuss key texts by philosophers and art theorists. The aim is to investigate the possibilities of the recent speculative turn in Continental philosophy for art history and art theory.

Program 2012 – 2013

11 June 2012

Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event: Introduction & Speculative pragmatism, 2011

To “ not believe in things ” is to believe that objects are derivatives of process and that their emergence is the passing result of specific modes of abstractive activity. This means that objects’ reality does not exhaust the range of the real. The reality of the world exceeds that of objects, for the simple reason that where objects are, there has also been their becoming. And where becoming has been, there is already more to come.

25 June 2012

Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event: The Thinking-Feeling of What Happens: Putting the Radical Back in Empiricism & The Diagram as Technique of Existence: Ovum of the Universe Segmented, 2011

The unity of the figure strikes the eye immediately, even though it is composed. It is a gestalt. Its figurative unity stands out from the multiplicity of its constituent marks. The edge has taken on a visible thickness. The line has propagated into an outline.

3 and 24 September 2012

John Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934

Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moment in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is.

15 October 2012

Mikel Dufrenne, The World of the Aesthetic Object in Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience, 1953

In short, the expressed world is like the soul of the represented world, which is, as it were, its body. The relationship which unites them renders them inseparable, and it is together that they constitute the world of the aesthetic object – a world through which this object gains depth. And it is due to their conjugal status that we are able to define the world of a work or of a creator in terms of what it contains.

5 November 2012

Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, 1967

The meaning in this context of “the condition of non-art” is what I have been calling objecthood. It is as though objecthood alone can, in the present circumstances, secure something’s identity, if not as non-art, at least as neither painting nor sculpture; or as though a work of art—more accurately, a work of modernist painting or sculpture—were in some essential respect not an object.

26 November 2012

Francois Jullien, The Propensity of Things. Toward a History of Efficacy in China, part 2, chapters IV-VIII, 1999

Through shi the visible configuration evokes the infinite: the world of representation accedes to a spiritual dimension and, at the edge furthest from the visible, gestures toward the invisible.

10 December 2012

Georges Didi-Huberman, The History of Art Within the Limits of Its Simple Practice in Confronting Images. Questioning the end of a certain history of art, 1990

It figures, then, in the sense that in its immediate whiteness it succeeds in becoming a matrix of virtual meaning, a pigmental act of exegesis (and not of translation or of attributing color)—a displacement strange and familiar, a mystery made paint.

7 January 2013

Jeff Wall, Depiction, Object, Event, Hermes lecture, 2006

Contemporary art has bifurcated into two distinct versions. One is based in principle on the suspension of aesthetic criteria, the other is absolutely subject to them. One is likewise utterly subject to the principle of the autonomy of art, the other is possible only in a condition of pseudo-heteronomy. We can’t know yet whether there is to be an end to this interim condition, whether a new authentic heteronomous or post-autonomous art will actually emerge. Judging from the historical record of the past century, it is not likely.

21 January 2013

Alfred Gell, Art and Agency. An Anthropological Theory, chapter 1 and 2, 1998

I have avoided the use of the notion of ‘symbolic meaning’ throughout this work. This refusal to discuss art in terms of symbols and meanings may occasion some surprise, since the domain of ‘art’ and the symbolic are held by many to be more or less coextensive. In place of symbolic communication, I place all the emphasis on agency, intention, causation, result and transformation. I view art as a system of action, intended to change to world rather than encode symbolic propositions about it.

4 February 2013

Quentin Meillassoux, ‘Potentiality and Virtuality’ in: Collapse Vol. II: Speculative Realism, 2007

According to our perspective, time is not the putting-in-movement of possibles, as the throw is the putting-in-movement of the faces of the die: time creates the possible at the very moment it makes it come to pass, it brings forth the possible as it does the real, it inserts itself in the very throw of the die, to bring forth a seventh case, in principle unforeseeable, which breaks with the fixity of potentialities. Time throws the die, but only to shatter it, to multiply its faces, beyond any calculus of possibilities.

18 February 2013

Graham Harman, ‘On Vicarious Causation’ in: Collapse Vol. II: Speculative Realism, 2007

Against philosophies that regard the surface as formal or sterile and grant causal power only to shadowy depths, we must defend the opposite view: discrete, autonomous form lies only in the depths, while dramatic power and interaction float along the surface. All relationships are superficial.

4 March 2013

Reza Negarestani, ‘The Corpse Bride. Thinking with Nigredo’ in: Collapse Vol. IV: Concept Horror, 2012

If the intelligibility of the world must thus imply a ‘face to face’ coupling of the soul with the body qua dead, then intelligibility is the epiphenomenon of a necrophilic intimacy, a problematic collusion with the rotting double which brings about the possibility of intelligibility within an inert cosmos.

18 March 2013

Alois Riegl, Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts, Introductory Remarks, Part One Worldview and Part Two Chapter IV Purpose, 1966

Because it was the liveliness and movement of superhuman forces in nature that so impressed human beings, these could only be conceived as animate and organically mobile…conceptual needs brought organic motifs to art.

8 April 2013

Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy, 1907

Popular usage speaks with striking accuracy of ‘losing oneself’ in the contemplation of a work of art. In this sense, therefore, it cannot appear over-bold to attribute all aesthetic enjoyment –and perhaps even every aspect of the human sensation of happiness– to the impulse of self-alienation as its most profound and ultimate essence.

15 April 2013

Lars Spuybroek, The Sympathy of Things, chapter ‘Abstraction and Sympathy’, 2011

Sympathy is the very stuff relations are made of, but those relations exist between us and things –all designed things– before playing out between people. Sympathy is the power of things at work, working between all things, and between us as things. Humans are nothing but things among other things. There is no need for mediation between a world supposedly on one side and people on the other; we only need a web of things, corresponding, resonating, synchronizing, existing in sympathy.

29 April 2013

Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, chapters 1 and 6: ‘The World of Forms’ and ‘In Praise of Hands’, 1934

(…)we need not be surprised in noting close similarities between Greek archaism and Gothic archaism, between Greek art from of the fifth century B.C. and the sculptures of the first half of the thirteenth century A.D., between the flamboyant, or baroque state of Gothic, and eighteenth-century rococo art. The history of forms cannot be indicated by a single ascending line. One style comes to an end; another comes to life. It is only natural that mankind should revaluate these styles over and over again, and it is in the application to this task that I apprehend the constancy and the identity of the human spirit.

All sessions took place at 7pm at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.

About CAP

CAP has been founded by Henk Oosterling and Awee Prins as the Dutch Centrum voor Filosofie en Kunst (CFK) in 1992. The research platform and its international network of friends organizes and contributes to symposia, seminars and conferences. It also actively supports discursive strategies and problem analyses on policy level.
Over the years CAP has developed several fields of research such as Intermedialities, Dasein as Design, Urban Reflections, Philosophy and Literature, Aesthetics and Culture, Digital Aesthetics and, more recently, Speculative Art Theory.