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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

LESLIE BROOKS LECTURE: Professor Boris Groys (New York University) 'A Cold War between the Medium and the Message'

21st June 2018, 17:30, ER201, Elvet Riverside 2, Durham University

With support from the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University

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. One may think here of 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.

About Professor Boris Groys

Boris Groys is a philosopher, media theorist and art curator, whose work spans across a wide range of disciplines. He is a Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, Senior Research Fellow at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, and a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School. The genealogy of Groys’s thought is complex and its preoccupations are truly wide-ranging. Meandering between different, sometimes disparate philosophical traditions, from Russian “cosmism” to post-structuralism, Groys’s intellectual quest has developed in permanent dialogue with diverse artistic practices, from historical avant-garde to Socialist Realism, conceptual art, or, more recently, the art of the digital era. Groys’s bibliography is extensive. His first writings appeared in the 1970s Soviet samizdat and they distinctly express the author’s interest in the intersection between aesthetics and philosophy. Groys’s emigration to Germany in early 1980s paved the way for his reception amongst Western audiences. The appearance in print of his landmark Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin [The Total Art of Stalinism] in Munich in 1988 marked the beginning of its author’s lasting intervention in contemporary philosophy and art theory. Today, Boris Groys’s English-language bibliography includes almost 20 monographs, innumerous articles, curatorial contributions and video essays. The most recent of these are Russian Cosmism (MIT Press, 2018), Particular Cases (Sternberg Press, 2016), On the New (Verso, 2014), History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism (MIT Press, 2013), The Communist Postscript (Verso, 2010), Going Public (Sternberg Press 2010), Art Power (MIT Press, 2008), Thinking in Loop: Three Videos on Iconoclasm, Ritual and Immortality (DVD, 2008).

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