March 3 & 4, 2022. Semiperipherality Symposium (co-organized with Sérgio B. Martins). Freie Universität Berlin. Semiperipherality flyer

February 11, 2022. Environmentalities workshop with Lucia Allais, Weihong Bao, On Barak, André Rottmann, and Luke Skrebowski. Center for Comparative Media, Columbia University.

November 12-13, 2021. Berlin Graduate Symposium for Modern and Contemporary Art. Free University and Humboldt University, Berlin.

The annual symposium aims to bring advanced graduate students (MA and PhD) into an open exchange about their current research projects within the fields of art history and visual culture from the nineteenth century to the present. For each conference another central theme helps to focus the shared discussions. The organizers of the symposium wish to provide a platform for a diverse group of young scholars to engage in a free and critical dialogue among each other and with invited experts. Furthermore, participants of past symposia will be invited to lead discussions in the interest of further expanding a community of young scholars within Germany and abroad.

This year’s graduate symposium, “Transcultural Perspectives in Art (History),” addresses the impact of the complex processes of globalization on the formation of art-historical knowledge, its theories and methods of research, as well as the practices of art criticism and curating since the nineteenth century. In art-historical research, the paradigm of transculturality can serve as a counter-model to approaches and perspectives that are restricted to a national or territorial understanding of culture. Submitting the conventional methods and concepts of the discipline to scrutiny, a transcultural approach foregrounds the complexity of geo-political relations, cultural processes of exchange, and the polyvalence of reception models. This change in perspective resulted in a reconsideration and, frequently, re-evaluation of nineteenth-century media such as photography and film, postcards and slide projections and their specific function and use, while the locally and geographically diverse structures of archives and their holdings have also received renewed attention.

From a transcultural vantage point, the critical study of modern art in Europe and North America likewise has undergone substantial change: In its various aesthetic currents and avant-garde manifestations, Euro-American art claimed to be universal even if many of its ideas and procedures were based on the appropriation of visual cultures of the Global South whose contemporaneity by this very same gesture was denied, situating them as ‘exotic’ or otherwise ‘other’ within a colonial order of knowledge. By the same token, art history implemented a hierarchical division between the supposed centers and peripheries of the avant-garde, which ignored the multiple entanglements and negotiations between cultural practices on a transnational scale. It also blocked a recognition of such historical phenomena as a global modernism, transmodernity or “alternative modernities.” Up to the moment of 1960s’ conceptualism, artistic practices were deemed advanced only if they adhered to a program of formal and strategic innovation, which, implicitly or explicitly, encouraged processes of cultural dispossession or, alternatively, repressed cosmopolitan, migrant or diasporic narratives as incompatible with national constructs of cultural heritage and remembrance.

Even more recent conceptions such as the “expanded field of art” or the cross-disciplinary nature of postmodern art, tend to remain enclosed within a framework of euro-centric thought. Likewise, contemporary art practices which engage with diasporic or migratory experiences may still be relegated to ‘contact zones’ which are structured in a dynamic, yet hierarchical manner. There is no doubt that the recent formation of a ‘globalized’ art world, with its ever-expanding, transnational exhibition system and market economy, has given visibility to a more diverse set of modern and contemporary artistic practices than ever before, but this development of a so-called ‘global art history’ should not be mistaken for some new form of universalism. Rather, this process of globalization has caused different force lines, alternate hierarchies and new forms of elitism to emerge which we, as art historians, must learn to detect and trace.

At the same time, postcolonial perspectives have significantly challenged and altered the conventional set of art-historical methods and museum practices. Our present is marked by the urgent need for a new politics of representation, which is not satisfied by merely pointing towards the gaps and omissions within the modernist canon of art, but is willing to question the construction of its dominant narratives on a more profound, structural level. A similar challenge that art history faces today is the long overdue reckoning of Western museums with their colonial past, giving rise to a vigorous debate about the restitution of cultural artifacts and, more in general, the decolonization of our institutions of teaching, research, and collecting.
Organizers: Prof. Dr. Eric C. H. de Bruyn, Prof. Dr. Eva Ehninger, Dr. des. Johanna Függer-Vagts, Dr. André Rottmannwith, Hanna Steinert, Johanna Engemann and Frederik Luszeit

Monica Juneja, Heidelberg University, November, 12, 2021
Sudeep Dasgupta, University of Amsterdam, November, 13, 2021

October 12, 2021. Book presentation of Futurity Report (with Sven Lütticken and response by Joseph Vogl). Princeton University Program in Media and Modernity. 5PM ET.

In recent years, the tropes of the “end of history” and “end of the future” have faced stiff competition from various Neofuturisms (Accelerationism, Afrofuturism, Gulf futurism) and a series of themed exhibitions, festivals, and biennials. Despite this return to the future, the temporal horizon of our present moment is perhaps more aptly characterized by the “shrinking future” of just-in-time production, risk management, high-frequency trading, and the futures market, by the promises and threats of artificial intelligence, and by intimations of planetary disaster. Such developments informed the volume Futurity Report, which was conceived before the pandemic, and its co-editors Sven Lütticken and Eric de Bruyn are invited to both introduce and reflect upon this project.

December 6, 2019. “Translation as Operation; or, Towards a Theory of Boundaries.” Invited lecture in symposium Art by Translation. Centre Pompidou, Paris. Art by Translation

November 21, 2019. “Autonomy as Lebensform; or, The Situational Comedy of Art.” Invited lecture in conference The Function of Autonomy. Humboldt University, Berlin.

October 31, 2019. “Canned Laughter: Conceptualism, Language, and Innovation.” Part of lecture series So you think that’s funny? Über das Komische in der nachmodernen Kunst.Organized by  Sebastian Egenhofer at the Art History Institute, University of Vienna.

October 23-25, 2019. Invited lecture at conference Annette Michelson, une américaine.  Centre Pompidou, Paris. Annette Michelson Conference Program

October 15, 2019 – February 2, 2020. Kunst und Umwelt: Räume, Orte, Systeme / Art and Ecology: Spaces, Sites, System. Art and Ecology Program Invited speakers: Luke Skrebowski (University of Manchester), Sven Lütticken (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Lucia Allias (Princeton University), Erich Hörl (Leuphana University), Florian Sprenger (Goethe University, Frankfurt), Felicity Scott (Columbia University), Natascha Sadr Haghighian (artist, Berlin), Simon Baier (University Basel), Kerstin Stakemeier (Academy of Fine Arts, Nürnberg). Lecture series organized by Eric de Bruyn and André Rottmann. Art History Institute, Freie Universität Berlin. Every Tuesday  (18:00-20:00).

As from the 1960s practices in contemporary art increasingly have defined themselves in terms of the prevailing circumstances and dominant conditions of production and reception: From Minimalism and so-called “Land Art” through site specificity and “Institutional Critique” to installation art and “Relational Aesthetics,” the work of art no longer was conceived as an enclosed entity or autonomous object. Rather it was explicitly situated within an expanded field of forces and factors. Aesthetic experience and reflection have been intricately linked to the architectural, scenic, social and economic spheres and surroundings of art ever since. Confronted with this new configuration, art history—in an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue—in turn has developed terms and concepts such as site, context, situation, milieu, environment, field or network—or integrated them into its methodologies.

Against this backdrop, the lectures series departs from the observation that academic engagements with current art—across disciplinary and institutional boundaries—is confronting new challenges. The relationship between art and its “milieus” of production and perception is undergoing a radical transformation: Much noted and debated works by artists such as Pierre Huyghe, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Hans Haacke, Cyprien Gaillard, Rosemarie Trockel/Carsten Höller, Paweł Althamer, Adrián Villar-Rojas, Otolith Group, Kristina Buch, Petrit Halilaj, Hito Steyerl and others venture far beyond the established procedures and possibilities of making the frames of art tangible or visible—by installing or instigating encompassing eco-systems. Aesthetic forms, natural materials or organisms, technological devices and cultural discourses enter into heretofore unknown conjunctions or concatenations. 

  This “ecological turn” is not so much concerned then with issues of environmentalism or sustainability than with creating (seemingly) auto-poietic entanglements of human and inhuman, biotic and abiotic agencies or actors. Building surroundings comprised of both artificial and “organic”, media-technological and biological elements, these contemporary art practices not the least throw the question into vibrant relief in how far purportedly “natural” or immediate modes of experience and interaction by now are inseparably “wired” with a rationality based in the applied calculus of algorithms.

Art not only creates and addresses contexts, but entire environments. From the perspective of media theory and science studies, it is precisely such environments—in which natural and technological elements continuously interact—that shape contemporary existence at large. Yet instead of simply illustrating or reproducing ideas of such a “general ecology,” thus our contention, artistic practice confronts, maybe even counters them by way of a specific sense of materiality, objecthood, procedure and process.

Focusing on art and aesthetics, the lecture series aims at bringing together various historical and theoretical perspectives from different disciplines and fields of knowledge in order to shed some light on the pressing question of how to navigate and understand the high-technological Umwelten of our present.

July 13, 2019. “Life Underground: Subterranean Environments in Post-War Art.” Invited lecture at conference Counterhistory: Latent and Underground Currents in American Art. Organized by Afonso Dias Ramos and Andrew Witt at the Art History Institute, Humboldt University, Berlin.

March 17, 2019. Handlungsfilme: Rainer – Serra – White.” Invited lecture during program Ian White – Cinema as a Live Art / Becoming Object. Organized by Anne Breimaier at Silent Green Kulturquartier, Berlin.

June 2, 2018. Invited lecture at conference Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts. Schaulager, Basle.

January 11, 2018. “Magnetic Spaces: The Filmic Topologies of Lygia Pape.” Invited lecture at conference Projecting/Displaying. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Remediation. Organized by Labex CAP, Iuav – Dipartimento di Culture del Progetto, Ehess, and Centre Pompidou at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice.

November 5, 2017. “Au delà de cette limite: Methods of Transfer in the Cinema of Marcel Broodthaers.” Invited lecture at conference Pour une histoire de l’art projetée. Centre Pompidou and L’école des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris.

September 17, 2017. “Gerry Schum.” Public lecture at Herbert Foundation, Gent.

June 1, 2017. “Marcel Broodthaers: On Automatons and Bad Faith.” Public lecture. K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf. (June 1)

May 20, 2017. Future Caucus, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Conveners: Eric de Bruyn and Sven Lütticken
Speakers: McKenzie Wark, Maurizio Lazzarato, Diedrich Diederichsen, Kerstin Stakemeier, Marina Vishmidt, Doreen Mende.

Future Caucus

Not too long ago, Fredric Jameson’s phrase that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” was widely quoted and taken as proof of a decline—or indeed collapse—of the utopian imagination, which Jameson himself has analysed so compellingly in its literary (science-fiction) manifestations. Today, there is an abundance of neofuturisms, futurologies, speculative philosophies and accelerationist scenarios. What seems at stake here is a fundamental split between a “capitalist realism” that encapsulates the future in an ever-expanding process of accumulation, and a tendency that in the face of a looming planetary catastrophe attempts to imagine another future, which can be conceptualized as the liberation of human potential or, alternatively as the proliferation of posthuman alterities.

The tropes of “the end of history” and  “the end of the future” are now replaced on the one hand by crisis-laden motif of the “end of the earth” or the  “end of labour”, and on the other hand by a return to the future through a series of recent, themed exhibitions, festivals and biennials as well as a resurgence of artificial intelligence and automation in the popular imagination. Despite this return to the future, the temporal horizon of our present moment is perhaps more aptly characterized by the “shrinking future” of just-in-time production, risk management, high-frequency trading, and the futures market. “Speculative” artistic and intellectual practices seem little inclined to problematize their implication in a speculative market whose movement is marked precisely by a perpetual extension of the present and a colonization of the future. The ‘future caucus’ is convened to address the following questions: Could it be that the total privileging of a radically different future (itself a modernist move) over various pasts and presents not itself a dangerous impoverishment? What can be learned from historical futurities and potentialities? Do we need to distinguish between a return to the futurity of utopian thought and revivals of a specifically modernist, utopian imagination? Is there a repressed content of utopian thought to be discovered that might speak to our current predicament?

May 16, 2017. “Disappearing Acts: Moments in the History of De/Materialization.” Lecture at conference Dematerialization in Art and Art-Historical Discourse in the 20th Century. Uniwersytet Jagiellonski w Karakowie, Krakow.

April 4, 2017. “Vanishing Acts.” Lecture at colloquium The Musealization of Experimental Film: Historiographical Questions. Film Department. University of Lausanne.

February 3, 2017. “Rat Mazes and Dynamic Labyrinths.” Lecture at Lose Yourself! Conference on Labyrinthine Exhibitions as Curatorial Model. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

January 28, 2017. “On Rat Mazes, Dynamic Labyrinths, and Network Diagrams.” Lecture at These are Situationist Times: A Symposium on Topology, Culture and Politics. University of Oslo and Kunsthall Oslo.

March 28, 2016. “Three Exchanges, or The Abbreviated Movement of Capital.” University Faculty Seminar. Art History Dept., Columbia University.

January 21, 2016. “A Network is a Mode of Being”: Towards a Political Geometry of Contemporary Art,”  Lecture at conference Gerade Gebogen – Herrschaft der Geometrie über die Linie?, IFK, Vienna.

December 3, 2015. Book launch of Zachary Formwalt, Three Exchanges. Sans Seriffe, Amsterdam.

December 1, 2015. LENS series: Screening of Zachary Formwalt’s ‘An Unknown Quantity’ followed by a conversation between the artist and Eric de Bruyn. University of Leiden.

October 14, 2015. Screening/discussion with Sven Lutticken on the recent work of Stan Douglas. Wiels, Brussels.

September 25, 2015. “The Séance: The Screening as Performative Event,” Presentation at Video Matters conference, Ludwig Forum, Aachen.

June 17, 2015. “Time Lapse, or the Abbreviated Movement of Capital.” Lecture in Temps et politique de l’image session (with Pasi Väliaho) of Ecrans exposés series organized by Riccardo Venturi. Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris.

June 13, 2015. Sigmar Polke Filmsymposium. Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

May 26, 2015. Media Activism. Presentation at LIMA, Amsterdam.

April 16, 2015. “Three Exchanges.” Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH.

November 14, 2014. Conversation with Melanie Gilligan and The Otolith Group at CASCO, Utrecht.

The Leiden University Nexus of Art, Media, and Politics (LENS) announces a lecture series that will take place during the Fall of 2014. A number of prominent scholars and curators have been invited to weigh in on current topics in the interdisciplinary terrain of art, photography, video, and film. The lecture series will contribute to framing the field of criticism, debate, and research that LENS intends to support. The purpose of LENS is to foster a community at the University of Leiden of like-minded scholars and students who are engaged in the study of photography, video, and film. All lectures will be held in English. Entrance is free.

For more information, please contact:
Eric de Bruyn:
The LENS lecture series is sponsored by the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

November 4, 2014
On November 4, the Leiden University Centre of Art, Media, and Politics (LENS) and VU University’s VAMA: Critical Studies in Art and Culture research master’s programme will jointly present an evening of lectures and discussion on art, media and ecology. T.J. Demos of University College London and VU University’s Sven Lütticken will each give a presentation, and Eric de Bruyn of Leiden University will chair the concluding Q&A session.
Please note that this event, which is public, will take place in room 228 of Leiden University’s Lipsius building. Time: 18.00-20.00 hrs.

T.J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Making the World Matter
This presentation will look at the collective artistic platform, “World of Matter,” and examine the group’s diverse productions that concern pressing issues of political ecology today. Their investigations offer a platform to consider a number of theoretical and political developments bearing on the intersection of art and ecology, including: the need for a new “natural contract” (as advanced by Michel Serres); the imperative for open access media ecologies; the political necessity of social ecology, even while granting attention to the non-human world, particularly in relation to both post-anthropocentric speculative realist philosophy and the emerging legal revolution regarding the rights of nature—all of which will be discussed.

Sven Lütticken, Abstract Habitats
This is the presentation of an article (yet to be published) dealing with art installations that abstract animals and other organisms from their usual natural environment or from regular forms of domestication. These works—by artists including Hans Haacke, Carsten Höller and Rosemarie Trockel, and Bik Van der Pol—function as artificial, aesthetic habitats for the animals as well as for the human viewers/participants. Genetic technology and synthetic biology are altering life on earth, but the works in question are not examples of “bio art” that employs advanced genetic technology. Rather, they alter or readjust the relations between organisms so as to foreground the historical nature of all forms of life, and the speeding-up of (post-)natural history in the anthropocene.

November 27, 2014. How might we think the history of film without cinema?
Time: 17:15-18:30
Location: Lipsius 147, Leiden University

Philippe-Alain Michaud, “Transfer/Appearance: Film without Cinema”
Cinema was born at the end of the 1910’s, two decades after its technical invention, as an application of a principle of theatricality to the conditions of reproducibility. However, the tradition of avant-garde and experimental film continued to demonstrate during the 20th century that the experience of the film was not reducible to that of the cinema. Film is not thinkable as such from the limited point of view of the history of cinema. Not only are the origins of film more ancient than cinema, but properties of film are not fixed, its consituent elements can be combined in different ways which prompts us to reconsider the economy of the modern system of the arts.
The lecture will be followed by a Q & A session moderated by Eric de Bruyn

December 3, 2014. Re-performing the history of cinema
Time: 17:15-18:30
Location: Lipsius 227, Leiden University

Ursula Frohne, “Cinema Mise en Abyme: Towards a Performative History of Film and Video”
It has often been argued that contemporary film installations present a new take on the history of cinema as it was conceived during the previous century. This presentation will address the much-debated return of film within the institutional context of the visual arts and, more generally, the extended public sphere. My focus will be on the reflexive nature of film installations by artists like Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon or Harun Farocki which place the cinematographic
dispositif on display in a variety of analytical framings. At stake, here, is the oblique, off-center vision perspective on cinema as presented by these filmmakers.
The lecture will be followed by a Q & A session moderated by Eric de Bruyn

September 29, 2014. Seminar with Anthony McCall, Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam.

May 19-23, 2014. Allegory. DFG conference, Villa Vigoni, Lake Como. I presented the paper Bateau/Tableau/Drapeau in which I discussed, among other things, Eran Schaerf and Eva Meyer’s video Pro Testing (2010).

October 17-19, 2013. Kunstgeschichtlichkeit: Historicity and Anachronism in Contemporary Art. University of Applied Arts, Vienna. Kunstgeschichtlichkeit

September 30, 2013. Public conversation with Stan Douglas. Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels. Stan Douglas @ Wiels

May 18, 2013. “Real Images, or the Expanded Empire of Cinema.” Historical Displacements and Vital Narratives after the American Century,  Courtauld Institute, London

June 27-28, 2013. “Real Images: A Genealogy of Expanded Cinema.” Regards sur l’Expanded Cinema: Art, film et video, INHA, Paris

June 12, 2013. Seminar. Entanglements: Urban Trajectories. CASCO, Utrecht.

April 4-5, 2013. Séances: The Cinematic Event. Columbia University, N.Y.