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Annual Leslie Brooks Lecture

(1 June 2018)

Professor Boris Groys, New York University, will give this lecture entitled 'A Cold War between the Medium and the Message' on Thursday, 21 June at 5.30pm in ER201, Elvet Riverside. For more information about this event please email enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk.

Modernism presents itself as self-criticism of art that takes seriously the famous Plato’s critique of art. For Plato art produces affects whereas philosophy produces knowledge. The affects are good – or, rather, bad – for the ordinary people. The knowledge is worth of the efforts by the best people. Here the great divide between aesthetically good art and aesthetically bad art is drawn – and at the same time between the Western modern art and the Eastern Socialist Realism. Clement Greenberg famously stated that the production of affects is directly related to the mechanisms of recognition: people are emotionally moved when they are confronted with realistic, naturalistic representations of the world. However, inside the Modernist tradition itself one can find a view that is perfectly opposed to the view professed by Greenberg and the majority of the post-greenbergian authors. Professor Groys means here the theoretical writings by Wassily Kandinsky. According to Kandinsky the representations are neutral, merely factual – they do not transport any moods and do not affect the spectator. On the contrary, it is the “pure painting” that produces and transports affects and feelings. A picture may be figurative or abstract—what matters is that it uses forms and colors that are needed for the visualization and efficient transmission of certain moods and emotions.

Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist and an internationally renowned expert on Soviet-era art and literature, specifically, the Russian avant-garde. He is a Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, a Senior Research Fellow at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, and a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. His work engages radically different traditions from French post structuralism to modern Russian philosophy, yet is firmly situated at the juncture of aesthetics and politics. Theoretically, Boris Groys’s work is influenced by a number of modern and post-modern philosophers and theoreticians, including Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze and Walter Benjamin.

 

In the Anglo-American world, he is best known as the author of The Total Art of Stalinism (1992), and for introducing the western world to Russian postmodernist writers and artists. His contributions stretch across the field of philosophy, politics, history, and art theory and criticism. Within aesthetics, his major works include Vanishing Point Moscow (1994) and The Art of Installation (1996). His philosophical works include A Philosopher’s Diary (1989), The Invention of Russia (1995), and Introduction to Antiphilosophy (2012). More recently, he has also published Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of the Media (2000), Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (2006), and The Communist Postscript (2010). In addition to these works, other significant works in art, history, and philosophy include: History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism (2010), Going Public (2010), Art Power (2008), The Total Enlightenment: Conceptual Art in Moscow 1960-1990 (2008), Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Period (2004), Apotropikon (1991), and Thinking in Loop: Three Videos on Iconoclasm, Ritual and Immortality (DVD, 2008), which is a trilogy of video-text syntheses, wherein Groys reads the composed text superimposed onto a collage of footage fragments taken from movies and film documentations.

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