Notes on the Magritte exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago

Magritte, La Clairvoyance
Yesterday, The Girlfriend and I went to the special exhibit on Magritte at the Art Institute. During our trip to Brussels, we had visited the Magritte Museum there, which unfortunately seemed to be a holding place for second-tier pieces and first drafts that other museums didn’t want. The quality of the exhibit in Chicago was much higher, but what it really brought home to me was the inherent limits to what Magritte is trying to do.

First of all, Magritte is technically proficient but indifferent as a painter. However interesting his pieces are as images, they are rarely interesting as paintings — it’s as though he chose painting as a medium simply for convenience. Once you get what he’s trying to do, which is often to make the very simplistic point that words and images are not the things themselves, there’s very little to hold one’s attention. I’m also not sure that the sheer existence of repeated motifs (such as the bowler cap) automatically makes them interesting or productive.

In the end, the only pieces that wound up really compelling me were the ones that were elaborate meta-commentaries on the act of painting itself. The Human Condition and Attempting the Impossible were two of my favorites, but for me the best was La Clairvoyance (also pictured above). I was already very familiar with this piece, as a former roommate had a print of it, but beyond the initial visual gag, I noticed a detail I had previously overlooked — the colors on the palette don’t match the black-and-white painting of the bird, but the colors of the surrounding painting itself.

The exhibition space itself was often awkward and unwieldy. Sometimes it seemed purposeful, above all in the room filled with displays of Magritte’s advertising and print work or the seemingly endless sequence of paintings hung on isolated partial walls, but often it just made it difficult to navigate and get a good look at the paintings. And to me, some of the literature surrounding it was patronizing and embarrassing — filled with quotes about how awesome it is that there’s “no right answer” when it comes to interpreting a Magritte painting.

If only it were so! But sadly, for a good 80% of the paintings on display, the “right answer” was immediately evident, and if you didn’t get it, it was pedantically repeated in five other canvases in the same room. I know that Magritte is a crowd-pleaser, but he’s also one of the roots of the contemporary “concept-heavy” art that middle-class audiences, bored with needing to read the description cards before responding, instinctively regard with such scorn.

Posted in art, Chicago. 1 Comment »

InterCcECT Summer Reading Group

Totalizing, teleologizing, triadic: standard readings of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit are monotone. In The Hegel Variations, Fredric Jameson re-encounters the rhythm and dynamism of the text, reprising the fluidity of the negative. Come tune your dialectic with InterCcECT at our first reading group of the summer, Wednesday 25 June, 12noon, Bucktown-Wicker Park Public Library Study Room.

What’s on your reading/talking/writing/making list? Email interccect at gmail to propose summer collaborations, or to request the texts.

Posted in blog posts, Chicago, Hegel, Interccect, Jameson. Comments Off

radical alternatives to radical empiricism: an InterCcECT mini seminar with Joshua Kates

From systems theory to object oriented ontology, the post-human to the multitude, empiricism and its latent historicism underlie the most orthodox (and most contentious) questions and methods in the humanities today. In Historicity and Holism,  Joshua Kates plumbs the depths of this radical empiricism, proffering an experimental absolutism as its most resourceful alternative. InterCcECT is delighted to host a mini-seminar with Professor Kates, focusing on “Radical Empiricism Revisited,” an excerpt from that project.

Join us Friday 22 November, 3pm, at our frequent host The Newberry Library, room B-91.

Contact us to request the reading.
Abstract:
“Radical Empiricism Revisited” stages a major invention in contemporary theory, by grouping together work around Deleuze, Latour, Luhmann and others as a form of empiricism inflected by Kant, and contrasting this to a more innovative and experimental relation to the absolute found in Derrida and the early Foucault. My treatment is an outgrowth of possibilities opened up by my current project, Historicity and Holism (parts of which have appeared or about to appear in differences and diacritics), as well as those I explored in my previous two books on Derrida and phenomenology, history of science, and philosophy of language.

As always, write us to propose or announce events, check out our calendar for recommendations like Hegel’s Critique of Kant,  and connect with us on Facebook for frequent links and commentary.

Renegade Aesthetics – an InterCcECT reading group

The aesthetic resistance to theory. Aesthetic indistinction. The aesthetic that theorizes itself. The sensitivities and perceptions that exceed theoretical vision. (Not) knowing it when you see it. Autonomy.

Does the new aesthetic turn adequately grapple with whether there can even be such a thing as aesthetic theory? InterCcECT is excited to host a reading group on Renegade Aesthetics led by special guest Benjamin Morgan. We’ll be tackling selections from very recent works by Steven Connor (“Doing Without Art”), Sianne Ngai (Our Aesthetic Categories), and Jacques Ranciere (Aisthesis).  Contact us (interccect at gmail) for PDFs.

Thanks to the generous partnership of The Scholl Center, we will meet Friday 9 August, 2pm, at The Newberry Library, room B92.

What are you theorizing? InterCcECT happily announces your events and eagerly receives your proposals. And don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook .

Posted in aesthetics, Chicago, Interccect. Comments Off

totality, represented: an InterCcECT reading group on Fredric Jameson

Jameson’s recent Representing Capital encounters Marx’s first volume through foregrounding the reading modes necessary to appreciate Marx’s writing modes, which are themselves not peripheral to the subject matter but essential.

Jameson writes “the central formal problem of Capital Volume I is the problem of representation: namely how to construct a totality out of individual elements, historical processes, and perspectives of all kinds; and indeed how to do justice to a totality which is not only non-empirical as a system of relationships, but which is also in full movement, in expansion, in a movement of totalization which is essential to its very existence and at the heart of its peculiar economic nature.”

Join InterCcECT for a reading of Jameson’s reading.
Friday, 28 June, 2pm
Bucktown / Wicker Park Public Library (Community Room, 2nd Floor).
1701 N Milwaukee, accessible via Blue Line Damen or Milwaukee, North, Damen, Western, and Armitage buses.

As always, we welcome your proposals at interccect @ gmail dot com, and encourage your input at our Facebook page.

Cutrofello’s objective correlatives: of Hegel and Hamlet

InterCcECT is delighted to present a talk by Andrew Cutrofello“Two Contemporary Hegelianisms,” Tuesday 19 March, 4pm, Newberry LibraryRoom B82.

Abstract:
Robert Brandom’s and Slavoj Žižek’s appropriations of Hegel seem radically different. Brandom’s Hegelianism takes the form of a semantic holism that is essentially normative and pragmatic. Žižek’s is a version of dialectical materialism that is avowedly perverse and revolutionary in intention. Curiously, however, there are significant parallels in the two philosophers’ conceptions of Hegelian spirit. These are evidenced in their respective readings of T.S. Eliot’s essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Nevertheless, Brandom’s and Žižek’s Hegels ultimately diverge with respect to the nature of reason and commitment. In my talk I will try to sketch these differences by bringing into play another of Eliot’s essays from The Sacred Wood, namely, “Hamlet and His Problems.” In this essay, Eliot develops his famous conception of the objective correlative, explaining why it goes missing in Shakespeare’s play. Brandom and Žižek, I suggest, have fundamentally different conceptions of Hegel’s “missing” objective correlative.

a few highlights from our calendar, which contains additional details:
8 March Issues in Phenomenology
13 March Gregory Flaxman at U of C
13 March Bill Martin, “Zen Maoism: An improbable Buddhist-Marxist synthesis”
15 March Paola Marrati on Deleuze

Posted in Chicago, Hegel, Interccect, Zizek. Comments Off

Lecture at Shimer College

On Monday, November 12, at 6:30, Shimer College will be hosting a lecture by Peter Temes, who will be discussing his new book The Future of the Jewish People in Five Photographs. More details are available on this poster (PDF), which is handy for e-mailing, printing, and displaying.

Posted in Chicago, Judaism, lectures, Shimer College. Comments Off
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