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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Negation, Possibilization, Emergence and the Reversed Painting

19th January 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Richard Read (University of Western Australia)

Professor Richard Read's recent work has been a book project on the Reversed Painting in Western Art, where the reversed painting is defined as a pictorial motif that depicts another painting or paintings turned against the viewer (think of the huge canvas back that dominates the left-hand side of Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas, 1656, a painting credited by the art historian John Shearman with possessing the ‘longest fuse in the history of art’ where the complex mystery of its meaning is concerned). The core issue of his project involves thinking about the political potentiality of the reversed painting in negative and positive lights. In respect of the motif’s negational role, Dario Gamboni observes that what is remembered of iconoclastic acts ‘is not only the object, but all that has attached itself to it in the course of the fight for and against it and all that this fight has brought to light.’ Mutatis mutandis, the powerful negational significance of the reversed canvas depends on its potential effacement of the entire history of the frontal image it occludes, namely, the complex emergence of the portable easel painting as the central and most meaningful form of Western culture amongst many other competing media. The negation of the world therefore depends on a prior, constituting representation of the world. Seen in a positive light, therefore, the reversed painting can be read as a symbol of collective imagining that might bring into being a new ideal world – aesthetically and politically – by means of its capacity to promote an abstract kind of longing. Professor Read considers some concrete examples of politically emancipatory imagination in the works of particular artists, as well as theoretical justifications for it in the aesthetic and political writings of Frederick Schiller, Giorgio Agamben and Jan Patocka.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.