Bergen Kunsthall welcomes you to the first Platform event of the autumn with a night of things. The thing, a concept with rich traditions in the philosophy of aesthetics, is gaining renewed interest within contemporary art theory and practice. Under the heading Thing Aesthetics / Thing Theory we will be presenting two lectures both dealing with the concepts of the thing, the artwork and thingness. Art historian Jørgen Lund has recently completed a Ph.D at the University of Bergen, in which he launches the concept of thing aesthetics in contrast to the established idea of the artwork (a word charged with a certain metaphysics according to Lund). Dieter Roelstraete has had a long-standing intellectual engagement with the question of thing theory. Roelstraete will consider the status of the work of art as a thing (as opposed to mere object) and related aspects of a diluted thingness such as its commodity-, fetish-, product-, and relic-character.
Bergen Kunsthall will also be using this occasion to launch the season program for 2009. Director Solveig Øvstebø will be holding a brief presentation of the upcoming exhibitions.
The talks will be in English language.
If “the thing” is gaining attention in the present, this shouldn’t be interpreted as a “(re)turn to the thing”, but rather as a wakening up to what can be called “thingness”. It can be argued that the concept “thing” comes through today with a hint of what I would like to call “thing aesthetics”. The body and physical “matter” plays a key role here, but not in the simple sense as traits “in art” in the postmodern era. Thing aesthetics is connected to nothing less than an aesthetic ontology: The world not longer conceived as a hard fact which can be seen or interpreted in different ways, but as something “shining forth” or – if you will – “thinging” in the very individual act of seeing it. Thing aesthetics can be seen as taking part in a process of freeing ourselves from deep-rooted metaphysical imperatives and preconceived values. Thus, even if related to art in a number of ways, “thingness” is at odds with the cultural location art, that is to say incompatible with the archetypical “valuable location” of modern culture. Hence, thing aesthetic may also have bearing on the somewhat eccentric issue in philosophy, “the death of art”.
“The Origins of the Work of Art: Scattered Thoughts on Thing Theory”
Dieter Roelstraete’s thing theory is the result of a long-standing intellectual engagement with the question of Heideggerian “Dinglichkeit” that posits the work of art itself as the thing par excellence. Roelstraete will consider the status of the work of art as a thing (as opposed to mere object) and related aspects of a diluted thingness such as its commodity-, fetish-, product-, and relic-character. At the heart of his project lies an intuition concerning what Theodor Adorno has termed the “enigmaticalness” of the work of art, an air of mystery and opacity, of resistance to control and instrumentalization, that is closely connected to its material thingness – and it is precisely the enigma of sheer presence (and Lacanian resistance) that constitutes the spiritual claim of the work of art, a claim that is, by its very definition, materially imbedded: whether in wood or stone, sound or paint, as a photographic image or mere digital mirage.
The lecture will lean heavily on Roelstraete’s most recent curatorial project, an exhibition titled “The Thing” that was part of a series of exhibitions organized in the Belgian city of Mechelen this year under the general title “All That Is Solid Melts into Air.”
Jørgen Lund is a freelance researcher with a Ph.D in art history from the University of Bergen. He has been working extensively as an art critic, curator and lecturer. He lives in Bergen.
Dieter Roelstraete works as a curator at the Antwerp museum of contemporary MuHKA in Belgium. He is an editor of Afterall journal and FR David as well as a contributing editor to A Prior Magazine; he also teaches at De Appel curatorial program in Amsterdam and Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Roelstraete has published extensively on contemporary art and related philosophical issues. He lives in Berlin.