CAP (Centre for Art and Philosophy) is an interdisciplinary research platform based at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Most of its members have been or are still working at the department as lecturers, researchers or affiliates.

Speculative Art Histories


Speaker’s Biographies


Armen Avanessian studied philosophy and political science in Vienna and Paris. After completing his dissertation in literature, "Phenomenology of the Ironic Spirit: Ethics, Poetics, and Politics of Modernity" (in Bielefeld), he was a freelance journalist and editor in Paris and a publisher in London. In 2007 Avanessian took up his current position at the Peter Szondi Institute for Comparative Literature at the Free University Berlin. In 2011 he was a Visiting Fellow in the German Department at Columbia University and in 2012 at the German Department at Yale University. In 2012 he founded a research platform on Speculative Poetics including a series of events, translations and publications: Avanessian has published Phänomenologie ironischen Geistes. Ethik, Poetik und Politik der Moderne (Fink, 2010) and (together with Anke Hennig) Präsens. Poetik eines Tempus (Diaphanes, 2012). He has also edited several volumes, including (together with Winfried Menninghaus and Jan Völker) Vita aesthetica. Szenarien ästhetischer Lebendigkeit (Diaphanes, 2009), (together with Luke Skrebowski) Aesthetics and Contemporary Art (Sternberg, 2011), and Realismus Jetzt! Spekulative Philosophie und Metaphysik für das 21. Jahrhundert (Merve, 2012)


Erik Bordeleau is postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in Montréal. He has recently published Foucault anonymat (Le Quartanier, 2012). He is currently working on the mode of presence of ghosts, spirits and other specters in Taiwanese cinema. He has published several articles on cinema and contemporary thought, and collaborates with journals and magazines such as Le merle, 24 images, Inflexions, ETC., Hors-champ, ESSE, Scapegoat, Espai en blanc, etc.  He is part of Épopée action group in cinema collective, who realized Insurgence (2012), a movie about Quebec’s recent student strike.


Fleur Courtois-l'Heureux has a PhD in Philosophy from the Université libre de Bruxelles (2009). She was a postdoctoral researcher in anthropology of dance at the University Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand (2009-2010) and is now a Postdoctoral Researcher at the National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS, 2010-2014). She experiments with contemporary philosophical concepts through a prism of arrangements which are specific to the field of dance. She works inside the GECo (Groupe d’Etudes constructivistes), which is part of the PHI- Research Centre in Philosophy at the ULB. Courtois-l’Heureux is also Professor of Philosophy at the INSAS, Brussels’ college for actors and directors in theatre and cinema. She has published Arts de la ruse. Un tango philosophique avec Michel de Certeau (Editions modulaire européennes, Coll. « Divin et sacré », 2010) and various papers, such as ‘Bon pied, bon œil: expériences fétichistes de l’objet à l’épreuve de la danse’, in L’Année Mosaïque (n°1, 2012).

Rick Dolphijn is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University and Assistant Professor at Media and Culture Studies (same institute). He publishes on continental thought and material culture in journals like Angelaki, Collapse, Deleuze studies and (with Iris van der Tuin) Continental Philosophy Review and Women: a Cultural Review. His latest book (with Iris van der Tuin) is called New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies, freely available (PDF) and in paperback at Open Humanities Press.


Adi Efal is a Gerda Henkel research fellow at the Thomas institute of the University of Cologne (2012-2013). Between 2010 and 2012 she was a Fritz Thyssen fellow at the art history institute of the University of Cologne. In 2010 she was a fellow at the IFK Vienna; in 2007-2008 a fellow at the Rosenzweig center for German Jewish Culture in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in 2005-2006 at the ENS Paris. She has been publishing in the fields of art historiography and art theory. She is responsible for the Hebrew translations of Alain Badiou’s L’éthique (2002) and Jacques Ranciere’s Le partage du sensible (2004). Between 1999 and 2009 she taught in various academic institutes in Israel, amongst them the Tel-Aviv University and the Bezalel academy of art and Design in Jerusalem.


Bram Ieven is a writer and researcher. He teaches at Utrecht University, where he is also a fellow at the Centre for the Humanities. He has written essays on modernist aesthetics and politics as well as on aesthetic theory. Currently he is working on a book called The Commonality of Form: De Stijl, Modernism and the Formalization of Sensation.

Vlad Ionescu studied philosophy and art theory at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven. In 2012 he defended his PhD thesis on the aesthetics and epistemological grounds of the modern science of art as it appears in the work of Aloïs Riegl, Heinrich Wölfflin and Wilhelm Worringer. Besides publishing on Deleuze's interpretation of these authors (in Deleuze Studies) he has published on the aesthetics of Jean-François Lyotard (Esthetica, Cultural Politics). Finally he has co-translated and co-edited the writings of Lyotard on contemporary art and artists in a series of volumes published by Leuven University Press (2009-2013). He is currently Lecturer in the history of architecture and theory at the Sint Lucas School of Architecture (Gent/ Brussels) and researcher of the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven.


Sarah Kolb, art theorist and curator, is university assistant at the Institute of Art History and Art Theory at the University of Art and Design in Linz and doing a doctorate on Henri Bergson and Marcel Duchamp at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. After studying philosophy, physics, history of arts, et al. at the University of Vienna she was IFK Junior Fellow at the International Research Centre for Cultural Studies in Vienna (2005-2006), IFK Abroad Fellow at the collaborative research centre Media and Cultural Communication“ in Cologne (2006-2007), curator at the Wiener Secession, Association of Visual Artists (2007-2008) and scholarship holder at the Duchamp Research Centre at the Schwerin State Museum (2011-2012). After numerous publications in the fields of philosophy and art theory she is currently co-editing an anthology on The Logic of the Imaginary. Diagonal Science after Roger Caillois.


Charlotte de Mille, PhD, is Lecturer at the University of Sussex and Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her current research concerns the intersection of music, painting and philosophy. Editor of the volume Music and Modernism (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), and recently published in Art History, she is co-editor with John Mullarkey of Bergson and the Art of Immanence: Painting, Photography, Film, Performance (Edinburgh University Press, 2013), and has contributions forthcoming in: James H. Rubin and Olivia Mattis (eds.), Rival Sisters: Art and Music at the Birth of Modernism (Ashgate, 2012); Satish Padiyar (ed.), Modernist Games: Cézanne and The Card Players (Courtauld Institute 2012); and A. Leonard and T. Shepherd (eds.), Music and Visual Culture: A Research Guide (Routledge, 2013). She is curator of music for the Courtauld Gallery and Chair of the Royal Musical Association's Music and Visual Arts Group. See also 


Reza Negarestani is a philosopher and novelist. His works have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies such as Collapse, Angelaki, Identity, The Speculative Turn and Realismus Jetzt. He is the author of Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Melbourne: 2008) and the co-editor of Collapse Journal of Philosophical Research, volume vii.

Henk Oosterling is Professor of Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Among his many books are Door schijn bewogen. Naar een hyperkritiek van de xenofobe rede (Kok Agora, 1996), Chaos ex machina: Het ecosofisch werk van Félix Guattari op de kaart gezet (CFKj1, 1998), Radicale middelmatigheid (Boom, 2000), and Intermedialities: Philosophy, Arts, Politics (Lexington Books, 2011). His latest books, Woorden als daden (JapSam Books, 2009) and Doendenken (JapSam Books, 2013), describe the projects and philosophy of ‘Rotterdam Skillcity’, a bottom up research model for urban revitalisation and renovation focused on the social-cultural and socio-economic situation of Rotterdam. Oosterling is also strategic advisor for the Integrality Renovation Project ‘Pact op Zuid’. In 2008, he received the ‘Laurenspenning’ for his important role in, and contribution to, social and cultural life in Rotterdam.

Bertrand Prévost, art historian and philosopher, is Maître de conférences at the University of Bordeaux. He has worked mainly on Renaissance Italian art and theory (La peinture en actes. Gestes et manières dans l'Italie de la Renaissance, Actes Sud, 2007; Botticelli. Le manège allégorique, Ed. 1:1,2011; L'humaniste, le peintre et le philosophe. Théorie de l'art autour de Leon Battista Alberti, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2013). His research focuses on an aesthetic theory of expression, based on an expanded notion of cosmetics.


Andrej Radman is a licensed architect who has won a number of awards from national competitions in partnership with architect Igor Vrbanek, including the Croatian Association of Architects annual award for housing architecture in Croatia in 2002. Radman has been teaching design studios and theory courses at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture in The Netherlands since 2004. In 2008 he joined the teaching and research staff of the Delft School of Design (DSD) as Assistant Professor of Architecture. A graduate of the Zagreb School of Architecture in Croatia, he received a Master's Degree with Honours and a Doctoral Degree from the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. His current research focuses on radical empiricism in general and J.J. Gibson's ecological approach to perception in particular.


Samuel Saelemakers is Assistant Curator at Witte de With. He holds a M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Antwerp and a M.A. in Art Philosophy and Aesthetics from Université Paris IV-Sorbonne where he graduated with a dissertation on phenomenology, contemporary photography and minimal sculpture. In Paris he was also research assistant to curator Jean-Hubert Martin.


Elisabeth von Samsonow, artist and philosopher, is Professor of Philosophical and Historical Anthropology at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, and Visiting Professor at the Bauhaus University Weimar (2012-2013). She is a member of GEDOK Munich, foreign correspondent for Multitudes and editor of Recherche. She is involved in various international activities both as an artist and curator.  Her teaching and research focus on collective memory, the relationship between art and religion, female identification, sacral and profane androgyny, and the dissolution of the modern self. Her work as an artist is concerned with the systematic and symbolic place of sculpture in the framework of contemporary multimedia. Her publications include: Die Erzeugung des Sichtbaren. Die philosophische Begründung naturwissenschaftlicher Wahrheit bei Johannes Kepler (Fink, 1987), Fenster in Papier: Die imaginäre Kollision der Architektur mit der Schrift oder die Gedächtnisrevolution der Renaissance (Fink, 2001), Was ist anorganischer Sex wirklich? Theorie und kurze Geschichte der hypnogenen Subjekte und Objekte (Walther König, 2005), Anti Elektra. Totemismus und Schizogamie (Diaphanes, 2007), Egon Schiele: Ich bin die Vielen (Passagen Verlag, 2010) and Egon Schiele Sanctus Franciscus Hystericus (forthcoming 2012). Artistic projects include: The Secrets of Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem 2008; Performance/procession en honneur de l’Électre, Innerschildgraben/NÖ. 2009; Ariadne, sculpture pour le chemin de Dionyse, Mistelbach en Autriche 2011; Hippo Hypno Schizo Hoch Zeit, performance dans le Musée Freud Bergstrasse dans le cadre de Vienna Art Week 2011, Elektra Belvedere Vienne, Expo GOLD curateur: Thomas Zaunschirm; Samsonow Transplant Parasonic Orchestra. Von Samsonow is also translator and editor of several German editions of Giordano Bruno. See also and


Lars Spuybroek received international recognition after building the HtwoOexpo in 1997, the first building in the world that incorporates new media and consists of a continuous geometry. With his Rotterdam-based office NOX he built the D-Tower, an interactive structure changing color with the emotions of the inhabitants of a city, and the Son-O-house, a public artwork that generates music by visitors exploring the space. Spuybroek has won several prizes and has exhibited all over the world, among them presentations at the Venice Biennale, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Victoria & Albert in London and the Guggenheim Bilbao. He taught at many different universities such as Columbia University in New York, the Bartlett in London, ESARQ in Barcelona and from 2001 to 2006 he was Professor of Digital Design Techniques in Kassel, Germany. Since 2006 he is Professor of Architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and has held the Ventulett Distinguished Chair until 2011. He published the first fully theoretical account of his work titled The Architecture of Continuity with V2_NAI publishers (2008). He started the Research & Design book series with The Architecture of Variation (Thames and Hudson, 2009) and Textile Tectonics (NAI Publishers, 2011), publications that combine theoretical with methodological research and design. His latest book titled The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design (NAI Publishers, 2011) is a theoretical revisiting of the ideas of John Ruskin within the framework of both historical and contemporary thought.


Kerstin Thomas, art historian and philosopher, is director of the Emmy-Noether research Group: Form und emotion. Affektive Strukturen in der französischen Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts und ihre soziale Geltung at Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz. The aim of this project is to explore how aesthetic forms transfer emotions. Thomas is interested in art history and aesthetic theory and has published several books and articles on the way in which artists like Seurat, Puvis de Chavannes, Gauguin and Cézanne make use of mood to appropriate the world, among which Welt und Stimmung bei Puvis de Chavannes, Seurat und Gauguin (Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2010) and Stimmung. Ästhetische Theorie und künstlerische Praxis (Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2010). Currently, she is preparing a book on "The problem of form in Henri Focillon and Meyer Schapiro"


Sjoerd van Tuinen is Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Coordinator of the Centre for Art and Philosophy ( He is editor of several books, including Deleuze and The Fold. A Critical Reader (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and De nieuwe Franse filosofie (Boom, 2011), and has authored Sloterdijk. Binnenstebuiten denken (Klement, 2004). As part of a VENI research project he is developing a new materialist approach to the ethico-political problem of ressentiment. In addition, he is finalizing a book in which he proposes a speculative concept of mannerism entitled Matter, Manner, Idea: Deleuze and Mannerism. See also:


Kamini Vellodi is currently a lecturer on the MA Aesthetics and Art Theory programme at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), Kingston University, London, and in the School of Art and Design History at Kingston University.  She received her PhD, titled Tintoretto’s Difference. Deleuze, Diagrammatics and the Problem of Art History, from Middlesex University in July 2012, under the supervision of Éric Alliez. The thesis was a Deleuzian study of Jacopo Tintoretto, and a critique of art history, steered through Deleuze’s concept of the diagram. She is a practicing artist, and studied at Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. Her research is oriented towards the critical nexus between art history, the visual arts and philosophy, with a particular focus on the thought of the untimely difference of artistic practices beyond their historicity, and notions of temporality that can support it.

2-3-4 May: An international research symposium at CAP and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art


Following the recent ‘speculative turn’ in Continental philosophy, prepared by Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou and elaborated by Quentin Meillassoux, Brian Massumi, Graham Harman, Isabelle Stengers and Reza Negarestani among many others, the aim of this conference is to propose a counter-discourse of speculative approaches to art and, especially, to art history.

How could today’s materialist, realist, pragmatist, vitalist or object-oriented speculations offer alternatives to the mere complementarity of philosophy of art and art history, often based on mutual recognition and critical limitation rather than imaginative crossovers? What new intermedial methodologies for art and art historical writing do they provide? Or vice versa, how can the encounter with art induce new forms of philosophy? How do speculative concepts of time, past and contingency challenge typically modern engagements with art’s ‘history’?

Is there, for example, an unexpected contemporary relevance for pre-modern, e.g. or mannerist or gothic ideas of art? And what is the speculative potential of works of art themselves? Does the speculative open up new ways of extending art into fields of biology, mathematics or the digital? What is the ‘thing’ or ‘object’ of art, whether inanimate or animate? What does it mean to have an ‘idea’? And finally, what remains of ‘beauty’ and ‘expressivity’, after decades of critical mistrust and embarrassed deconstruction?

In the course of the 20th century, art history and philosophy of art have followed diverging trajectories. In order to establish itself as a scientific discipline, art history has inclined towards a positivist and objectivist approach to art, while professionalized philosophy of art, save for some developments in the philosophy of difference, has tended towards historicist hermeneutics and subjectivist phenomenology. Even the recent calls for more interdisciplinarity, heard in art criticism and art theory no less than in academic circles, seem to consolidate this divide more than they overcome it.

The guiding intuition of this conference is that both the modern gap between philosophy and art history and the postmodern call for more interdisciplinarity are inspired by a consensual abhorrence of more speculative approaches to art. That things could be otherwise can be learned from early formalist art historians such as Heinrich Wölfflin and Aloïs Riegl, who combined vitalist philosophy with empirical research in an almost proto-structuralist way and whose tradition was continued well into the 20th century by the likes of Henri Focillon and Henri Maldiney. In turn, philosophers as diverse as Henri Bergson, Étienne Souriau, Susanne Langer, and Walter Benjamin acknowledged the value of art historical research. What brings these approaches together is that they seek access to some speculative absolute (e.g. Will, Life, Experience) in defiance of the Kantian correlationism between the thing in itself (the object) and its enjoyment by us (the subject), and subsequently also in defiance of the bifurcation between artistic production and aesthetic reception, or the duality of aesthetics as theory of sensibility and theory of art.


This conference is organized by the Center for Art and Philosophy (CAP, in collaboration with Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art ( It is the outcome of the CAP reading group on speculative philosophy which runs from 2011 to 2013 at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and at Witte de With. It follows upon the Philosophers’ Rally 2012, which was organized by students of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University Rotterdam in collaboration with CAP and which also had the speculative turn in Continental philosophy as its guiding thread (with Didier Debaise, Elisabeth von Samsonow, and Levy R. Bryant among the speakers).


Language of the event:


Tickets and reservations:

Thursday 2 May 2013: free

Because of the limited number of seats, please register by e-mail with Monique Goense – – if you want to participate.


Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May 2013:

One day ticket: € 15 full rate / € 7.5 reduction (students)

Two day ticket: € 25 full rate / € 12.50 reduction (students)

Book your tickets via or call +31 (0)10 411 0144



Erasmus University Rotterdam

Complex Woudestein T3-17

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50

3062 PA Rotterdam


Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Witte de Withstraat 50

3012 BR Rotterdam



Thursday 2 May 2012


Location: Erasmus University, T3-17

Speculative Philosophy and Art

19h00 Panel

Armen Avanessian (FU Berlin) – Against the Regime of (aesthetical) Correlationism

Erik Bordeleau (ULB Brussels, McGill Montreal) – Tsai Ming-Liang and the Cosmopolitical Slowing Down of the Soul

Andrej Radman (TU Delft) – MESOSCALE, Or How Not to Commit the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness by Conflating Material with Matter


21h30  Reception


Friday 3 May 2013

Location: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Diagrammatics and the Radical Picturesque

10h30 Welcome by Samuel Saelemakers (Witte de With) Introduction by Sjoerd van Tuinen (EUR)

10h50  Keynote lecture by Lars Spuybroek (NOX, Georgia Tech) – Sympathy and Gothic Ontology

            Respondent: Andrej Radman (DSD, TU Delft)

12h15  Coffee break

12h30 Panel

Kamini Vellodi (Kingston Uni) – From the Speculative to the Constructive: Deleuze and Peirce on diagrammatics

Vlad Ionescu (Sint-Lucas Brussels) – The Rigorous and the Vague: On the Concepts of Wölfflin, Riegl and Worringer

Sjoerd van Tuinen (EUR) – Serpentine Life: A Speculative Reading of Mannerist Art Theory

14h00 Lunch

Speculative Conceptions

15h00 Keynote lecture by Reza Negarestani (over Skype) - Predator's Gamble and Philosopher's Daemon (Gestures, Concepts and Games)

           Respondent: Henk Oosterling (EUR, Vakmanstad Rotterdam)

16h30 Coffee break

16h45 Roundtable with conference participants, including Armen Avanessian (FU Berlin), Bram Ieven (UU), Charlotte De Mille (Courtauld Uni., Sussex), Henk Oosterling (EUR), Bertrand Prévost (Uni. of Bordeaux)

17h30 Reception


Saturday 4 May 2013

Location: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Speculative Presences

10h30 Keynote lecture by Elisabeth von Samsonow (Ak. bildenden Künste Wien)  – The Plasticity of the Real

           Respondent: Rick Dolphijn (UU)

12h00 Coffee break

12h15 Panel 3

Adi Efal (Uni. Cologne) – Ravaisson’s ‘Habitude’ and the Past Reality of Things

Fleur Courtois L’Heureux (GECO/ULB) – From Etienne Souriau’s L'ombre de Dieu to Mats Ek’s Shadow of Carmen 

13h45 Lunch break, soup served

Speculative Expressions

14h45 Keynote lecture Kerstin Thomas (Uni. of Mainz) – Expressive Things: Art Theories of Henri Focillon and Meyer Schapiro Reconsidered

Respondent: Adi Efal

16h15 Coffee break

16h30  Keynote lecture Bertrand Prévost (Uni. of Bordeaux)  – What is a Plastic Idea? Light, Problem, Intensity

Respondent: Kamini Vellodi (Kingston Uni.)

18h00 Reception


On Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May, Insurgence (2013) will be on view at Witte de With. This documentary byÉpopée groupe d’action cinema accounts the anonymous event of the Printemps Érable, the 2012 student protests in Montreal.


Armen Avanessian - Against the Regime of (aesthetical) Correlationism

Peter Osborne has recently made the ‘speculative proposition’ that post-conceptual art articulates a post-aesthetic poetics. Contemporary art might no longer be an aesthetic art, or at least, it might no longer be understood within the traditional (philosophical) framework of aesthetics. Just as art is undergoing an ontological change, the new linguistic ontology of contemporary fiction or narration, too, demands a Speculative Poetics. Both the con-temporary (in the arts) and the present tense (in recent novels) are characterized by the co-presence of several present times. This co-presence cannot be experienced as such by a subject, it is only present for speculative thought. This quality of the con-temporary and the asynchronous present displayed in art and literature today provokes the question of the extent to which a speculative art history or speculative theory of literature needs to go beyond aesthetics. The hypothesis to be explored here is that we witness the first signs of a revision of the eighteenth-century inauguration of aesthetics, which had relegated poetics (and rhetoric) to the sidelines. A speculative criticism targets the very correlationism of aesthetics, i.e. its structural implementation of the hermeneutic relation between the object and its subjective observer or reader.


Erik Bordeleau - Tsai Ming-Liang and the Cosmopolitical Slowing Down of the Soul

In your patience you shall possess your souls.

Luke, 21:19

 The un-dramatic slowness that characterizes Tsai Ming-Liang’s cinema radically questions our constituent relationship both with images and with the disappearing spaces of global capitalism. In his movies, the spectator is often taken into a kind of pre-apocalyptic idleness, as if the world had suddenly stopped and remained suspended. This concerted process of slowing down which permeates through all of his work is constitutive of a wider aesthetical, spiritual and political interest in inducing practices of immanent attention.


In the wake of Isabelle Stengers’ cosmopolitical proposal and her concern for the slowing down of practices, I wish to offer a speculative and eco-relational reading of what could broadly be defined as Tsai’s care for his soul – that is, what he deems to be the most vulnerable and valuable dimension of his art practice and that which coincides with what he is most afraid of losing in contact with the globalized neoliberal world as he experiences it.


Simondon once suggested that soul is the present of being. By that he means that the soul’s drama concerns the ways by which it can dwell in a present that can never be taken for granted. To have a soul thus translates into the problem of how to inhabit the present. This soulful tension runs deep in all of Tsai’s work. His films, plays and installations express a constantly renewed attempt to inhabit an ever-changing world in the present tense. In that sense, Tsai’s images are transductive: they matter time. Accordingly, we could say that Tsai exposes his soul by expressing the passage of time, a formulation which, in the last instance, echoes with his deep-felt interest for the buddhist idea of impermanence.


Fleur Courtois L’Heureux – From Etienne Souriau’s L'ombre de Dieu to Mats Ek’s Shadow of Carmen

Classical ballet has often been considered as a counter-model by contemporary dance. The stereotype of classical ballet arranges a regime of “illustration”, with its tutus, its romantic grace, its coordination of the corps de ballet, its standard expressivity derived from classical tragedy and comedy, or its aproblematic correspondence between music and dance at rhythmic and emotional levels. On the other hand, modern and contemporary dance has slowly dismantled that rhetorical regime of the “sursignificant gesture”, leading to a pure, abstract dance which is emancipated of its dependence to music, theatre or narrative. Nevertheless, Mats Ek turns back to classical ballet. He doesn’t do so by an absurd disfiguration or by a (today sacralised) purifying abstraction; he fulfils it until he reaches an antique although timeless excess. In Carmen, first staged in 1992, a game with humoristic levels leads him, in fine, to tackle classical ballet’s codes and aesthetics at face value. This hijacking is not a subversive turnaround. On the contrary, it makes the passionate chorus between music, dance and theatre only stronger. 

On the basis of an extract from Mats Ek’s Carmen, I will determine two contemporary ways to apprehend what a choreographic setting up (instauration) could be. On the one hand, I will show how today’s typical, aesthetical paradigms applied to contemporary dance unwillingly lead to a form of censorship regarding the dramatization of bodies and characters. Admittedly, defining dance as the most abstract art (Michel Guérin) or as an event freed from all kinds of representation (Gilles Deleuze) is quite seductive at first. But in a second time, these definitions clash with bodily material boundaries (Geisha Fontaine) and with situated knowledges (Georges Didi-Huberman) which are required to obtain a specifically choreographic staging. On the other hand, the way Mats Ek revives dramatization process can help us to explore another path to choreographic instauration. While acknowledging the aesthetical paradigm of contemporary dance, how could we play again with a dancing dramatization, without falling in the trap of the classical regime of illustration? How to make strong characters as Carmen dance, how to have them invested by moving powers without condemning them to be the mere supports of a cathartic representation?

French philosopher Etienne Souriau will help us to tackle these issues which are at stake in Mats Ek’s Carmen. In his book L’ombre de Dieu (“The Shadow of God”, 1955), loving beings are set up through Nietzsche’s dramatic formula: “If I love you, does it concern you?” (The Gay Science, §141). Between an always uncertain amorous reciprocity and the wishes we have for it, we have to experience a mediation, which must be shaped beyond the one we love. More than our loved one, it is its capacity to mediate the shadow of love that we must invigorate – while this capacity is always in danger of dying in indifference. How does Mats Ek make dance the indifferent shadow of Carmen?


Adi Efal - Ravaisson’s ‘Habitude’ and the past reality of things

My contribution’s starting point will be Felix Ravaisson’s essay De l’habitude, published in 1838. I will shortly present the decisive importance of this essay both to the history of the concept of habitude and to the history of French philosophy. The contribution will then continue to present the manner in which “habitude” is related to corporeal and incorporated memory and to the conception of past reality. The talk will be concluded by some remarks concerning the relation of the thematics of habitude with fundamental questions of the history of art, a discipline concerned with the retroactive inscription and maintenance of things, produced in the past.

Vlad Ionescu – The Rigorous and the Vague: On the Concepts of Wölfflin, Riegl and Worringer

At the end of the 19th century, the German art history knows a deep reform. Riegl, Wöllfin and Worringer are the initiators of a 'scientific' methodology that had the ambition to separate art history from speculative aesthetics. The positivist research of sources is the fundament for Riegl. However, he introduces in his Grammatik, his essays and especially in his celebrated Spätrömische Kunstindustrie a series of speculative concepts: the famous Kunstwollen or the less famous but intriguing Stimmung. Wölfflin's Grundbegriffe strive towards a clear conceptual systematisation of art history around rigorous concepts like the painterly vs. the linear. An almost classicist clarity underlines his entire approach. However, his Renaissance & Barok  includes a plethora of vague psychological explanations - the visual is explained according to its impact on the mood. The same strategy is at work in Riegl's discussion of the Roman Baroque. Needless to say, the entire project of Worringer that is reduced to the polarity Einfühlung - Abstraktion is another extension of this tension intrinsic to the art historical discourse to be scientific but at the same time rely on largely speculative and affective notions. Simply put: what is the status of art historical concepts? Can art history do without an aesthetics, that is to say, a science of affects? Affects are vague - concepts claim to be rigorous. What happened at the origin of this project of scientific vigilance and where are we more than 100 years later?  

Charlotte de Mille - Immanence and Art’s Histories: towards a Bergsonian methodology

In Matter and Memory, Bergson contended that it is a mistake to ‘attribute to space and time an interest which is speculative rather than vital.’


This paper looks again at Bergson’s statement at the point where the speculative and vital meet: his philosophy of immanence. Bergson’s work tends to pose a challenge to the discipline of art history. He never published a separate treatise on art or aesthetics as he had planned, and instead it is necessary to extract pertinent material from texts on subjects that may in themselves not be far from art history, but that are unfamiliar territory when negotiated as specialist disciplines of their own (time, consciousness, memory, evolutionary biology). I suggest here however, that the challenge is not so much a practical one but a challenge to the methodologies and expectations of art history itself.  To accept the processes of creativity as part of historical activity is to make a definite shift away from the focus on the ‘finished’ art object as it is served up to us by artists, museums and galleries. To think creativity as a site for the productive writing of a history of art that is open to potentiality, process and provisonality as embedded in the art objects we consider is to trace a trajectory of thinking, interpretation and inspiration that comes out of Bergsonian immanence: directly through a reassessment of Bergson’s philosophy of history and through artists and thinkers who turned consciously to Bergson,  and more indirectly through acknowledging the potential of immanence as a method of critical interpretation. Immanent practice suggests the possibility of unmaking in the act of making. It offers a method to ‘turn’ the object, and to ‘turn’ past modes of art historical and art critical writing, to re-make or re-conceive both objects and writing closer together.


Reza Negarestani - Predator's Gamble and Philosopher's Daemon

(gestures, concepts and games)

In this talk, we shall examine the structural skeleton of the concept qua the local site of knowledge. It will be argued that the skeleton of the concept can be identified as a vertical adjunction comprised of two opposite arrows which highlight the gestural organization of the concept in two directions: Real → Concept and Concept → Real. In one direction, there is the evolutionary cognitive constitution of the concept rooted in the predator's gestural cognitive catastrophe conditioned by the 'contingent finality of life' (Thom, Berthoz and Longo). While in the other direction, there is the inferential navigation and controlled unpacking of gestures as complex means of cognitive delegation and hypothesization in environments where neither life nor thought are able to establish footholds.


Andrej Radman - MESOSCALE

Our task is twofold. We have to break the correlationist circle because of its parochial anthropocentrism and at the same time - albeit for the seemingly opposite reason - land on the ecological level of reality. Are they mutually exclusive? The answer is no, because, as one speculative realist recently put it, all things equally exist, yet they do not exist equally.The first part is the main tenet of flat ontology. The second part, "they do not exist equally," requires that we turn our attention to a particular spatio-temporal scale which is relative to animate life.

Lars Spuybroek - The Politics of Beauty

Lars Spuybroek will develop a theory that views beauty as a gift by relating it to ancient gift cultures. Marcel Mauss already distinguished three stages of exchange, namely giving, receiving and returning, which are known in a different context as the Three Graces or Charites. The first of the Three Charites was the most important, Aglaia, which means radiance. In philosophy the gift is related to excess, a notion that opposes both the empiricist bundle of properties as well as dark, withdrawn essences. Beauty as excess or radiance goes back to the ancient Greeks who developed beauty from charis (grace). While charis evolved from gift cultures, it slowly became independent of actual gift exchanges and turned into a distinct quality. Though beauty was still related to the gift as an act, it was freed from an actual hand that gave. Spuybroek relates the transition of charis into beauty to a parallel transition of tribal culture into the polis, and explains why the Greeks were more than any other culture so obsessed with beauty. He will trace the notion of beauty from charis to Plato’s ekphanestaton and early medieval claritas that had such an influence on the Gothic, all the way to Hartshorne’s Diagram of Aesthetic Values.


Kerstin Thomas - Expressive Things – art theories of Henri Focillon and Meyer Schapiro reconsidered

The talk will analyse the art theories of Henri Focillon and Meyer Schapiro. As both art historians knew but disliked each other, their theories of art had been treated separately in the past. But if one concentrates on their respective notions of form, resemblances are striking. Both of them consider the artwork primarily as an object, which holds multifaceted relations to artist and beholders. The artistic act is not seen as a creation ex nihilo, but as a to and fro between artist and material. For both thinkers, form is the result of manifold intrinsic and external reciprocal relations between material reality of the artwork, artist, and tool. Inertia, density, resistance and gravity are seen as important factors in the working process as well as in the perceptive process of art.

This materialistic and relational notion of art creation and reception is associated with a dynamic concept of form, which fosters the understanding of the artwork as a self-contained object. It is in this respect, that Henri Focillon’s emphasis on the importance of the hand for artistic procedures could be understood – not to accomplish a gesture of artistic expressiveness, but one of mutual contact. And Meyer Schapiro, in his theoretical approach, accentuates the aesthetic-constructive components of the work apart from denoted meanings. Focillon and Schapiro emphasise, that the form of the artwork is not to be seen as a container for content but as a matrix, bearing meaning in itself.

It will be suggested, that the approaches of the two thinkers could foster a new understanding of form and expression of art works as a result of dynamic processes between things.


Kamini Vellodi - From the Speculative to the Constructive: Deleuze and Peirce on diagrammatics

This paper will consider the philosophical stakes of Deleuze’s transformation of Peirce’s concept of the diagram - including a move it entails from the speculative to the constructive - and explore its consequences for the thought of the work of art.

For both Peirce and Deleuze the diagram assumes a crucial function as a “map” of the future. For Peirce, it is an “icon of relations”, a spatial construct through which the relations of a given hypothesis are re-presented, and “new” relations are experimentally discovered. Diagrammatics is thus also a “speculative rhetoric”, whose task is to ascertain the conditions of a sign’s effects. In its “forceful” and “strategic design”, diagrammatics acts as this “conditioning”, a conditioning grounded by a speculative (insofar as it is conceivable but not actual) “finality”. Deleuze, however, strips the diagram of iconicity, reclassifying it as the groundless modulator/synthesizer of relations of (asignifying) forces. Diagrammatics functions as the agent of the differential and transcendental construction of the new, free from the law of similitude that grounds Peirce’s diagram.

This distinction between Peirce’s speculative diagram and Deleuze’s constructive diagram will be used to consider the two forms of temporality that they imply. The historicity of Peirce’s diagram, where the possible, speculative future is grounded in past actuality (and as such in thrall to the empirical) will be contrasted with Deleuze’s diagrammatic constructivism (which is temporalizing) whose transcendental determination gives rise to the qualitatively new.

Insofar as for Deleuze the work of art enacts this diagrammatic function (which exceeds the regime of the pictorial to which Peirce’s diagram remains in principle connected), such an articulation bears consequences for the thought and history of art. Deleuze’s diagrammatics permits a conception of art’s role as the condition of a transcendental empiricism whose violence to thought disrupts our possession of history, forcing the genesis of the new.

[1] Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1896), trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (1913), Mineola, New York: Dover, 2004,  p.281.