S E M I N A R was started in 2013 by artists Thompson Harris and Essye Klempner. The group meets monthly to discuss philosophical and aesthetic texts by a wide range of authors such as Aristotle, Ranciere, Agamben, WJT Mitchell. Participants with a diverse set of backgrounds, ranging from artists to scientists, suggest and select the readings for the Group.
SCREENING: FILMS BY NICK MACDONALD
ANARCHIST-VIDEO-ESSAYS FROM THE 1970s
JANUARY 17, 7:30 PM
Nick Macdonald's visionary films from 1970 to 1976 draw attention to political inequities that we continue to face in 2018. His diaristic style and personal tone expose his frustration with the liberal elite of his time. From US global imperialism to Black and Indigenous rights, Macdonald thoroughly and ruthlessly focuses his lens on justice in America, highlighting the politics of representation. His candid and unassuming technique is both pleasant and disarming. The unfiltered sounds of children playing as Macdonald narrates not only show the domestic contexts of his films, but the urgency of his subjects, as he states:
"…a totally subjective and biased view of historical facts"
In the face of tyrannical US imperial power, Macdonald compels us to see what could we have done then and what we still must do now. As we look to recent decentralized or "leaderless" movements, such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, we ask how can we eliminate top-down structures, and build a cooperative society.
Join us with Nick Macdonald on January 17th to view a selection his rarely seen films.
No More Leadershit
1971, 4 min.
1970, 25 min.
The Liberal War
1972, 33 min.
LEAD BY THOMPSON HARRIS
NOVEMBER 27, 7:30 PM
Please join us to discuss some Slimy Fiction as led by SEMINAR's own Thompson Harris. Dredged from the swamps, we'll read Thomas Ligotti's short work Severini and H.P. Lovecraft's The Moon Bog as framed by a selection from Ben Woodard's 2012 book Slime Dynamics. With roots in the doctrine of philosophical vitalism, in which living and non-living are fundamentally differentiated due to a lack of a "vital spark", Woodard offers dark vitalism as a means to regrounded us in our often sticky origins. As Ben Woodard writes in his book:
Despite the fact that humans gradually ascended from these clustered ponds of ooze, slime, as both a general name for a life-generative and semi-solid substance in the physical sense and the disgust of life, the ostensible grossness of organic being in a metaphysical sense, slime remains something to be left behind and forgotten.
Slime, in the end, is the proof of cohesion and the hint of its undoing, the evidence that something disgusting happened, some foul thing called life. Something that will fill space till the cosmos burns too low for anything to again cohere, ending only with an ocean of putrescence spilling over into the boundless void of extinction.
—Ben Woodard, Slime Dynamics
LEAD BY KIRAN CHANDRA
OCTOBER 25, 7:30 PM
Please join us to discuss On Beauty and Being Just, a book by American essayist Elaine Scarry as lead by artist Kiran Chandra. Scarry’s aesthetic discussion reaches to literature for defining the experience of beauty. She explores our relationship with it--our attempts to mimic it, embody it, our errors in recognizing it. In Part Two, she furthers the discussion to talk about justice, ethics and a ‘radical decentering.’ Scarry contextualizes the power of beauty to arrest a moment of experience. Through these moments of aesthetic phenomenon, Scarry argues, radical “decentering” occurs in which ego and preoccupation with “self” disintegrates into something else. Her work revisits the taboo, embedded prejudice, and cultural complexes around beauty in academic discourse and in our daily personal worldviews.
“This willingness continually to revise one's own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education. One submits oneself to other minds (teachers) in order to increase the chance that one will be looking in the right direction when a comet makes its sweep through a certain patch of sky.”
—Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 7:30 PM
The upcoming SEMINAR, lead by art historian Alan Longino, will focus on the work of artist Yutaka Matsuzawa through the writings of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and chemist Ilya Prigogine and media theorist and economist César Hidalgo:
"Vanish the object"
By most accounts, this is the phrase Yutaka Matsuzawa heard in his revelation on June 1, 1964.*
Through the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s, Matsuzawa developed this concept of immateriality—closely following the original thesis set by Henry Flynt in 1961, though no awareness of connection is noted—into what would eventually be Matzuzawa's Quantum Art Manifesto (1985-89).
This SEMINAR looks at the Manifesto, graciously and opportunely retrieved by his son-in-law Haruo Matuzawa, through the analyses of César Hidalgo’s writings and readings of Ilya Prigogine. Equally followed and researched by Matsuzawa, Prigogine’s research on dissipative systems and non-linear models of thermodynamics entreated Matsuzawa to further develop the concept of telepathy between objects and persons.
Telepathy and non-linear models of thinking towards art—with an eye to both the spiritual and fictional, while firmly rooted in the personal—will be the end focus of this seminar.
*Tomii, Reiko. Radicalism in the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan. MIT Press, April 2016. 320 pp.
1César Hidalgo, The Eternal Anomaly, Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, Basic Books, 2015.
2Yutaka Matsuzawa and Nobutaka Ueda, Non-Linear Modernism, 2004
3Matsuzawa, Yutaka. Quantum Art Manifesto: A Paradigm shift in art. trans. Yutaka Matsuzawa. September 9, 1988. Okazaki Tamako Gallery, 1-21-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. pp. 51 (English translation by Matsuzawa, begins on p. 28 of the document)
CALIBAN AND THE WITCH
TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 7:30 PM
The upcoming seminar will focus on Silvia Federici's work around the female body, Marxism, and the expropriation of free labor for profit. Silvia Federici co-founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign in 1972 which created a never-before-seen global platform to raise awareness of the sexist exploitation inherent in housework, childcare, and general "carework," fundamental to all forms of capitalist systems. Silvia Federici is an Italian-American feminist scholar, teacher, and activist whose groundbreaking work expands on Marxism to explore the relationship between capitalism and gender--specifically division, alienation, and exploitation of the female body.
The Housework Campaign was the first entity to propose that this carework--emotional, mental, and physical labor, historically demanded of women without pay--actually deserves monetary compensation equal to other forms of labor. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, one of Federici's most well-known books, is the focus of this SEMINAR. By connecting the expropriation of free female labor, both reproductive and otherwise, Federici outlines the historic struggle of land displacement, communalism, and the transitioning of Feudalism into early Capitalism in the 1500s in Western Europe. The chapter cited will continue our discussion of displacement--the expulsion of women, femme spirit from their own body.
1Silvia Federici—Caliban and the Witch—Chapter 2: The Accumulation of Labor and the Degradation of Women
2Marx, vol. I, part VIII, chapters 26–33 of Capital, "Primitive Accumulation”
2Silvia Federici—youtube interview
January 31, 2017
Taking cues from Donna Harraway’s concept of “Companion Species” this upcoming Seminar will continue the arc away from an anthropocentric world view by looking at Eduardo Kohn’s recent book “How Forests Think”, an anthropological look beyond the human. Kohn’s book strides towards communication and thinking with the nonhuman through alternative means such as Charles Peirce inspired semiotics by bringing together humans, plants, physical processes, artifacts, and images with a more embracing semiosis. Set in Ecuador, Kohn’s book focuses on the Runa people a population set in the densely forested foothills of the Andes.
Wednesday, April 20, 7 PM
S E M I N A R will be discussing the work of Alain Badiou, lead by Zach Cummings (download the texts from links below).
"For dialectical materialism, one has to think a Two prior to multiplicity--and the key question is: how are we to think this Two with regard to the Void? Is One simply not yet there in the primordial Void? Or, is this very lack of One a positive fact? Badiou goes for the first option, Lacan for the second." - Slavoj Zizek, p.265, "Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism"
"Alain Badiou is a French philosopher with a background in mathematics. Badiou has written about the concepts of being, truth, event, and the subject in a way that, he claims, is neither postmodern nor simply a repetition of modernity. Badiou has been involved in a number of political organisations, and regularly comments on political events. He argues for resurrecting the idea of communism.
In part I of "Being and Event," Badiou lays the foundation for his ontology based on multiplicities of infinitely divisible multiplicities whose only substance is the void itself. Although I have attached the entire first part, I think we should focus on the first meditation, pages 23-30. Don't worry about reading the rest of the text if you don't have time. If you are interested in reading more Badiou, but you don't want to get bogged down in the technical details, read meditations 2 and 6 on Plato and Aristotle, respectively. If you want to fully understand the details of his ontology, then you can read the full text, including meditations 3, 4, and 5. These three sections rely heavily on set theory."
1Badiou Being and Event Meditation.1 pg.23-30
1Badiou Being and Event Meditation. 2 & 6
2Badiou Being and Event Meditation. (FULL TEXT)
Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 7 PM
S E M I N A R will be discussing the work of Alfred North Whitehead in relation to Plato (download the texts from links below). Guest Nathan Oglesby will lead the discussion.
"In the 1920's and 30's, in a scientific and philosophical climate characterized by the strangeness and ineffability of the emerging quantum physics, A.N. Whitehead presented a metaphysical system concerned with explicating "the becoming, the being and the relatedness of ‘actual entities’. An example of an actual entity might be an electron or another subatomic particle. An “actual entity” can be synonymously referred to as an “actual occasion” because it exists only insofar as it emerges from its state of relation with other actual occasions. Macrocosmic entities like trees, people, cars and dolphins are “societies” of such occasions, exhibiting proportionally ever more complex matrices of interrelation in their integration of constituent occasions.
The system draws heavily, if surprisingly, from Platonic thought insofar as it requires that the actual occasions themselves be understood as acquiring their definiteness by virtue of their selecting and exhibiting “forms of definiteness” which Whitehead terms “eternal objects,” analogous to the transcendent "Platonic forms." Perhaps even more surprisingly, via Whitehead this and other Platonic notions (mostly from the cosmological account given in the Timaeus) have in recent history made their way into conversations about the philosophical consequences of quantum physics."
1Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, "Science and Philosophy" and "God"
2Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought, "Forms of Process"
Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 7 PM
S E M I N A R will be discussing two texts (linked), followed by a screening of As You See (1986) by Harun Farocki, courtesy of Greene Naftali Gallery.
The discussion will start at 7:00 PM prior to the screening at 8:30 PM. Please join us for either or both.
—Interview with Harun Farocki and Thomas Elsaesser
—Painting Pavement by Volker Siebel
As You See (1986) by Harun Farocki
Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 7 PM
S E M I N A R will be discussing animism through two e-flux journal texts (linked), published in conjunction with the "Animism" exhibition (2012) curated by Anselm Franke. Following the discussion will be a screening of Assemblages (2010 - ), a long-term audiovisual research project on Félix Guattari by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizo Lazzarato.
—Anselm Franke Animism: Notes on an Exhibition
—"Diedrich Diederichsen Animation, De-reification, and the New Charm of the Inanimate"
Assemblages (2010-) by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizo Lazzarato
The film is a 60-minute jaunt through Gilles Deleuze's and Félix Guattari's writings with particular interest paid to the revolutionary psychiatric practice of Félix Guattari, his political activism, his ideas on ecosophy, and his interest in animism.
Thursday June 4th, 2015, 7 PM
S E M I N A R will focus on will focus on Set Theory. We are thankful to have Rachel Levanger, artist and PhD candidate in Mathematics at Rutgers University, who has generously offered to lead the introduction.
—Intro to Set Theory, presentation by Rachel Levanger
—Evening ends with a game of Set
1David Hilbert's "On the Infinite," which more or less begins where the formalistic approach to mathematical set theory starts taking off.
2George Boolos' "The Iterative Conception of Set," which picks up after Russell and Gödel and touches on the current state of affairs with the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms we use today.
Note: It is not important to completely understand the mathematical symbolism of the logic in the texts. Read what you can/would like, and the discussion will situate the selected readings against the backdrop of the history and development of set theory.