Posts from December 2009

Public Lecture: Toby Miller

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Wednesday January 13th 2010, 5.00pm
Cayley Room (room 152), University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street

Professor Toby Miller (University of California, Riverside)
“Cultural Policy Redux”

Toby Miller is editor of the journal Television & New Media, and author of many books including Spyscreen (Oxford University Press), Television (Routledge), Television Studies (BFI), Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Sage), Technologies of Truth (University of Minnesota Press), The Avengers (BFI), and The Well Tempered Citizen (The Johns Hopkins University Press).

Seasonal Greetings

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An Encounter with Charles Taylor

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Friday 15 January 2010, 10am-4.30pm with public lecture at 5pm
Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street

Our next door neighbours in the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) are hosting their annual CSD Encounter on Friday 15th January 2010. Following recent encounters with Julia Kristeva and Stuart Hall, this year’s one-day event will be focused on the work of Charles Taylor, with two workshop sessions followed by a public lecture by Professor Taylor himself on ‘Secularism and Multiculturalism’. Workshop speakers include Grace Davie, Steven Lukes, Tariq Modood, Chantal Mouffe and Stephen Mulhall.

For further information and to RSVP email:

The Future Papers, Part Three: Stephen Melville

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The third and final part in a short selection of transcriptions of talks from the recent series on ‘The Future’ at the David Roberts Art Foundation. Here’s Stephen Melville’s paper, which constituted a fitting finale to the series. Is the future now?

4. The Future is Now, Now is the Future
Stephen Melville

The two earlier discussions in this series that I was able to attend both seemed to turn quite strongly on a contrast between modern and postmodern representations of the future, more or less as they appear to line up with the contrast between so-called Golden Age and New Wave science fiction. It’s been hard for me, at least, not to hear bits of Beckett stammering in the background, so I was happy to hear Krapp’s Last Tape surface briefly on Saturday. The overall contrast seemed, roughly, one between a future fully distinct from the present and underwritten by a certain faith in science, and a future underwritten by technology and threatened with imminent collapse into the present (or, as one speaker put it, having the shape of an endless intensification of the present) – thus tending also toward a contrast between the utopian and the simulacral, as well as between progress and repetition, and – at least I’ve tried to suggest this – between a certain assumption of shared human being or community and a skepticism about other minds registered, among other places, in a shift in the understanding of the material basis or medium specificity of film from a photographic practice to a form of animation. This last maybe permits an expansion of the postmodern/New Wave text to take account of our apparent current interest in various forms of the undead, and most notably the emergence of the postmodern speed zombie. Neither of these representations seems satisfactory: the Golden Age is, as it were, too much future and in that sense doomed to fail, while the New Wave seems finally not a future at all. Both politics and religion have remained for the most part discreetly in the background, especially religion – which is odd to the extent that one of our continuing interests in the future is, I think, broadly redemptive (certainly notions of apocalypse and the post-apocalyptic, of things more or less shaped like the end of history or the end of the world have put in appearances). It’s perhaps worth opening the contrast a little further off its native ground by taking note of the evident difference between a modern stock market in which one invests for a future that must be awaited, and a postmodern stock market in which futures themselves become a primary commodity and one dreams – sometimes of course in real money – of a present profit made by strip-mining the contingency of the future. Our moment seems to be one that wants to read the phrase ‘the future is now’ – a phrase that I think goes back to the 1950s as a way of naming the new marvels of the present – as ‘now is the future,’ thus as a promise of no more marvels.

Continue reading The Future Papers, Part Three: Stephen Melville

The Future Papers, Part Two: Garin Dowd

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The second part in a short selection of transcriptions of talks from the recent series on ‘The Future’ at the David Roberts Art Foundation. Here’s Garin Dowd’s paper from the final night, seamlessly drifiting from Beckett to Ballard, Deleuze to Daney.

3. ‘Replay: conducts of time x 4 (interstitial pedagogies)’
Garin Dowd

I borrow the idea of conducts of time from Eric Alliez. Conducts would refer to behaviours – and suggest an ethology – but also to channels. Conducts of time are also ‘gaits’ of time, postures of time in movement; equally they might inhere in the pas au-delà, the step which is also a pas – a not, in Jacques Derrida’s formulation (via Blanchot). Conducts of time may give rise to systole or diastole, to condensations and saturations, as in running on the spot, and to disseminations. It may produce reifications and consolidations, or it may liberate blocs of becoming.

The action of Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape is famously set, according to the stage directions, on ‘a late evening in the future’. While it is anecdotally recorded that the motivation behind this direction was Beckett’s concern that, without such a prompt, what would be required of the audience is the performance of the retrospective science fiction to permit tape recorders to exist prior to their invention (the aged Krapp listens to a recording of himself aged 39, while the play was first staged in 1958), there seems to be much more at play than simply a peculiar concession to verisimilitude. Nonetheless the precession, at once announced and elided by Krapp’s Last Tape, of this particular archival technology, reminds one also that it is the cataloguer of the famous precession of simulacra, Jean Baudrillard, who tells us much, inadvertently, about Beckett’s concerns in this play. In La Gauche Divine we read that ‘le rêve d’une conductibilité absolue [de l’information] ne peut etre qu’excrémentiel’: the dream of an absolute conductibility [of information] can only be excremental. The dream of an absolute conductibility of information is also the predicament or the opportunity of the protagonist in Krapp’s Last Tape. How to phrase; how to gather; how to memorialise ‘eschatologically’ (his last tape) and/or scatalogically (his ‘unattainable laxation’): these issues trouble Krapp, and trouble him in a way which is, in Derrida’s sense, archival. In this respect the play reminds us of what Derrida identifies as the archive’s relationship to the future: ‘the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future’. So on our particular late evening in the future, the future now or round about now, I want to introduce 4 conducts of time.

Continue reading The Future Papers, Part Two: Garin Dowd

Epistemic encounters

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For our Dutch friends: Director of the IMCC, Marq Smith, is contributing to Epistemic Encounters, on the future of the Graduate Art School, at MaHKU (The Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design) this Friday 11 December, as part of an ongoing research project exploring the specificity of artistic knowledge production in the context of exhibition making, art in public space projects, and the significance of research-based practices for the (reformulation of the) curriculum in the current art academy. Why not join him…

Further details here.

The Future Papers, Part One: Cunningham & Noys

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As promised, we present here the first in a short selection of transcriptions of talks from the recent series on ‘The Future’ at the David Roberts Art Foundation. In the following post we have David Cunningham’s introduction to the series along with Ben Noys’s Ballard paper (which can be found up on his own blog). Further papers by Stephen Melville and Garin Dowd will be posted soon. Enjoy.

1. ‘Introduction: The Tomorrow That Never Was

David Cunningham 

I want to begin with a short story by the writer William Gibson, entitled ‘The Gernsback Continuum’ and published in 1981. You can read it here. In the story, Gibson’s narrator (a hack photographer) is engaged to work on an illustrated history of ‘American Streamlined Moderne’, with the working title The Airstream Futuropolis: The Tomorrow That Never Was: ‘“Think of it … as a kind of alternate America: a 1980 that never happened. An architecture of broken dreams”,’ one of the story’s characters tells him. ‘And as I moved among these secret ruins’, the narrator continues, ‘I found myself wondering what the inhabitants of that lost future would think of the world I lived in.’ Thus progressively propelled into a state of half-paranoiac and half-melancholic delirium, accompanied by hallucinations of a ‘dream Tucson thrown up out of the collective yearning of an era’ – a city ‘soaring up through an architect’s perfect clouds to zeppelin docks and mad neon spires’ – the narrator is only finally returned to the sanity of the present by an immersion in the very seediest aspects of a very contemporary reality. 

Continue reading The Future Papers, Part One: Cunningham & Noys

Call for Papers: Temporality and the Archive

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The Hole in Time: German-Jewish Political Philosophy and the Archive.

A call for papers for a workshop organised by the Centre for German Jewish Studies at Sussex and the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at Westminster
23rd – 24th June 2010

Abstracts by the end of January 2010 to:

Left discussions of politics and history owe much to German-Jewish theories of temporality that emerged in response to the political crises of twentieth-century Europe; yet, other than in the attention paid to issues of technological memory in Benjamin, there has been relatively little discussion of the archival ramifications of, for example, Adorno, Bloch, Celan, Rosenzweig, and Simmel, as well as other canonical Marxist thinkers. While Benjamin’s thought has often been mobilised to think the revolutionary potential of the archive, less has been done to think through the archival attitudes and implications of the work of such other thinkers, or the extent to which such attitudes are specifically predicated upon German and Jewish philosophical and political tradition. Continue reading Call for Papers: Temporality and the Archive

Journal of Visual Culture launches new satellite site…

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Journal of Visual Culture has launched its new WordPress site. Please go to for details of recent/forthcoming issues such as its current ‘Questionnaire on Barack Obama’, free content, and information on related projects, conferences, and events. Join jvc on Facebook, etc.

Outside the Material World, Tate Modern

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Thomson and Craighead will be talking about recent work at Tate Modern on December 12th as part of this event – do come along if you are able:

+ Outside the Material World. Saturday 12 December 2009,
11.00–17.00 Starr Auditorium, Level 2, Tate Modern

To coincide with the exhibition Pop Life: Art in the Material World, this symposium explores artists’ relationships to the market from the 1970s to the present by focusing on mail and ephemeral art outside the market, and in collections and exhibitions today. Given the present financial crisis, strategies of insertion and the circulation of art are reassessed by artists, curators, archivists and academics.

Speakers: Felipe Ehrenberg, Professor Dawn Ades, Thomson and Craighead, Michael Asbury, Adrian Glew, Cristina Freire and, co-curators of Pop Life: Art in a Material World, Alison Gingeras & Catherine Wood.

See: for booking information and details of the full programme

Pound at the Poly: A Chronology

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A very successful one-day colloquium at 309 Regent Street celebrating the centenary of Ezra Pound’s lectures at the Regent Street Polytechnic on Friday 4th, with presentations from Massimo Bacigalupo, Walter Baumann, Becky Beasley, Helen Carr, Nick Selby and biographer David Moody, in front of an audience also including Ian Bell and Peter Brooker, among many others.

As an addendum to the day’s events, here’s a chronology of Pound’s involvement with the old Polytechnic: Continue reading Pound at the Poly: A Chronology

Why middlebrow matters

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Wednesday 9th December, 1.15-2.30pm
Room 106, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, W1T 3UW

Mary Grover (Sheffield Hallam University)
‘Why Middlebrow Matters’

Free to all.

Book launch

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Michael Nath & Anne Witchard Book Launch
Monday 14 December 2009
The Boardroom, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, 6pm onwards

Two members of the Institute are launching their new books at Westminster on the 14th December. Michael Nath will be reading from his first novel, La Rochelle, published by Route, while Anne Witchard will be introducing her marvellous monograph Thomas Burke’s Dark Chinoiserie: Limehouse Nights and the Queer Spell of Chinatown.

Whitechapel Salon: Peter Osborne

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The Whitechapel Salon: “Hope” with Professor Peter Osborne
Thursday 7th January, 7pm
Study Studio, Whitechapel Gallery, London E1 7QX

Following on from discussions with Gayatri Spivak, Chantal Mouffe and Richard Sennett, in the final session of the current series of Whitechapel Salon events on the theme of ‘hope’ Peter Osborne, author of The Politics of Time (1995), Philosophy in Cultural Theory (2000) and Conceptual Art (2002), and Director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, will be in discussion with his fellow editor at Radical Philosophy, and Deputy Director of the Institute, David Cunningham.

Book now to avoid disappointment! You can do so here.

Tickets: £7/£5