MA-Symposium Automne 2015

Theater, Garden, Bestiary: A Materialist History of Exhibitions

Fine Arts Master Symposium at ECAL

A proposition by Tristan Garcia and Vincent Normand.
With Dorothea von Hantelmann and Celeste Olalquiaga. Films by Pierre Huyghe.

10 am-5 pmWednesday, November 25
IKEA auditorium, ECAL

  • 10 am: Introduction by Tristan Garcia and Vincent Normand
  • 10:30 am - 12 pm: Conference by Dorothea von Hantelmann
  • 12 pm - 2 pm: Lunch break 
  • 2 pm: Virtual conference by Celeste Olalquiaga 
  • 3:30 pm: Pierre Huyghe films screening
  • 4:30 pm: Panel conversation



This one-day conference and film screening is organized in the framework of the HES-SO / ECAL research project “Theater, Garden, Bestiary: A Materialist History of Exhibitions” run by Tristan Garcia and Vincent Normand, and will introduce some of its theoretical perspectives.

This research project undertakes a history of exhibitions sourced from a wide corpus reaching beyond the framework of artistic institutions, by including scientific, anthropological, and philosophical models. It aims at considering anew the genre of the exhibition, by grounding it both in the history of modernism and in modernity as a whole, that is, in what one may call the “anthropological matrix” of modernity: its ontological separations, its epistemic divisions, its political economy, its sense of the negative.

This symposium questions the role of exhibitions within the wider field of an intellectual, aesthetic, technological, and political history of modernity. It is devised as an introduction to the research project’s main focus: to describe the historical construction of a body of epistemological scripts within the currently very open concept of exhibition, in order to grasp its implicit contracts as well as its formal, conceptual, and political operations.

More information about the research project on


“Transforming exhibition formats in transforming societies”
Conference by Dorothea von Hantelmann

Tate Modern's Turbine Hall tells us as much about the state of Western society in 2015 as the Crystal Palace reflected mid-19th century productivism, or as early modern curiosity cabinets connect to the rise of consumer culture. Art institutions are mirrors of the socio-economic order of their time, whose basic parameters they practice and enact. We can retrace the entire history of individualisation by following the increase of wall space between paintings in 19th and 20th century galleries. We can comprehend the transition of early market societies into consumer societies alongside the transformation of 19th century museums into white cubes. And we can analyse the contemporary experience society on the basis of the way it transforms the white cube into time-based experiential spaces. Art institutions are deeply linked to the values and categories that constitute a given time, which is why they have to keep transforming in order to adjust and to remain what they always have been: a contemporary ritual. Looking at art spaces from the 16th century to the present day as a series of decisive moments of transformation, we may find that the transformations of our epoch are asking for a new kind of ritual, after that of the exhibition.


“Look but don't Touch: The Role of Tactility in an Era of Visual Excess”
Conference by Celeste Olalquiaga

Western culture's obsession with images began over a thousand years ago, when sacred icons displaced the relics of saints as a medium of access to the divine. Until that moment, touch prevailed as a direct experience, with the ocular acting as an extension of the tactile. This can be appreciated in the popular medieval display of relics, which gradually shifted from the immediacy of touch to the "ocular caress" via the mediation of glass. Like the Benjaminian aura, whose value is enhanced by its inaccessibility, glass conveys meaning through proximity and promotes value through the transparency and brightness of light. The transition from the tactile to the ocular was greatly accelerated in the 19th century, when industrialization and mechanical reproduction rendered nature secondary, covering, displaying and suffocating it under glass. In our technological era, glass has become the new skin, the great intermediary between human beings. The digital has replaced the tactile, and the ocular reigns supreme over a world of images.


Pierre Huyghe films screening

This film program gathers Pierre Huyghe’s most recent films: A Way in Untilled (2012, 14 min), Human Mask (2014, 19 min), and De-Extinction (2014, 13 min). Navigating between the cinematographic form and the scientific documentary genre, these three films mobilize frames and figures situated at the hinge of several conceptual divides (the human and the non-human, the organic and the inert, the animal and the vegetal, the natural and the artefactual), in an exploration of the exhibition of nature and the nature of exhibitions.



Dorothea von Hantelmann is documenta Professor at the Art Academy/University of Kassel where she lectures on the history and meaning of documenta and is involved in the constitution of a documenta research institute. Her main fields of research are contemporary art and theory as well as the history and theory of exhibitions. She is currently working on a book that explores art exhibitions as ritual spaces in which fundamental values and categories of modern, liberal and market based societies historically have been, and continue to be practised and reflected. She is author of How to Do Things with Art, a book on performativity within contemporary art.

Pierre Huyghe is a French artist born in 1962. He lives and works in Santiago, Chile. His most recent solo exhibitions have taken place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), LACMA Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles), Ludwig Museum (Cologne), The Artist’s Institute (New York), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), et Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City).

Celeste Olalquiaga is a cultural historian interested in the contradictions of modernity and the residual aspects of modern culture. Her books include Megalopolis:Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities .(1992) and The Artificial Kingdom:.A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience.(1998). An independent scholar, Celeste publishes, lectures and does artistic collaborations worldwide. She is the founder and director of PROYECTO HELICOIDE, a non-profit cultural association dedicated to rescuing the memory of El Helicoide, a modern ruin in Caracas, Venezuela.


The Digital Condition and the Transvaluation of the Aesthetic

HEAD Geneva – Master-symposium

The digital realm offers experiences, procedures, machines, perceptions, and temporalities that have been made available as a kind of raw material from which artists can create new aesthetic tropes relevant to contemporary life. This is obviously true for new strategies for image processing and digital animation, but also for the artistic use of the rhizomatic, for instance. 

Through lectures, discussions, and screenings, this one-day symposium devised by Lars Bang Larsen and Charlotte Laubard from Work.Master, (with the collaboration of Microsillons), will engage our digital condition as a historical and conceptual negotiation, and explore how it changes and transforms traditional aesthetic concepts, with Marsha BradfieldElise LammerToke Lykkeberg, among others.


Date: 27/11/2015

Hours: 10-17h

Location : 

Maison de la Paix
(Graduate Institute / Institut des hautes études internationales et du développement)
Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2, 1202 Genève
(5 minutes walk from Gare Cornarin)


English – some interventions may be in French


Marsha Bradfield is an artist, curator, writer, educator and researcher. Across these practices, she is developing a praxis of dialogic art. She co-authors events, projects, exhibitions, publications, etc., that use dialogue to explore authorship as fundamentally collaborative. Her interdisciplinary approach foregrounds the interaction of people, objects, systems, and technologies.

After receiving her PhD from Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London) in 2013, Marsha is currently researching through art at the intersection of economy and ecology in collaboration with Critical Practice Research Cluster. Marsha also works with ArtLeaks, Precarious Workers Brigade, Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre and Contemporary Marxism Group.


Elise Lammer was trained as a artist in Barcelona and holds an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths College, London. She is associate curator of SALTS in Basel, the host and founder of Kunsthalle Roveredo, an artists residency program and exhibition space located in Graubünden, Switzerland, and the curator of Post Digital Cultures, a yearly symposium exploring the relationship between art and new media, commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture and Les Urbaines Festival, Lausanne, Switzerland. Since 2014 she is a researcher at APRA, the Adrian Piper Research Archive in Berlin.


Toke Lykkeberg is a curator and art critic based in Copenhagen. He has curated some fifty exhibitions in Denmark, USA, France, Holland, and Vietnam. His recent projects include the group exhibition Co-workers : Le réseau comme artiste, à l’ARC/MAMVP (Paris, 2015), L’embarras at Toves (Copenhagen, 2014), Branding as Branding: The Making of Superflex at Kunsthal Charlottenborg (Copenhagen, 2013) and the group exhibition Rematerialized at New Galerie (Paris/New York, 2013).



Containers, stolen knowledge and other anecdotes

Orientation Master MAPS – Art in Public Sphere, Sierre, Ecole Cantonale d'Art du Valais

Thursday November 26 - Schedule

  • 10h00 – 10h30 Introduction to the workshops (Movimax, Sierre – see plan on last page) 
  • 10h30 – 11h00 Signing up for the workshops 
  • 11h00 – 17h30 Workshops

Four sessions around narratives, narrative truth, narrative architecture, informal knowledge, appropriating knowledge, books, writing, found poems and participative observation.

Workshop 1) writingnotwriting / Barnaby Drabble

A workshop on text and language as part of the artist’s oeuvre.
The session will begin with a short introductory lecture, which aims to open up the question of what happens when “writing as doing displaces writing as meaning” and explores alternatives to an academic writing approach within the specific space of the art academy. The lecture will be followed by questions and discussion. Participants will then meet with the workshop-leader and together compile a list of interesting examples of art works that incorporate text or language as an essential part, or features it as a motif or attribute. This might include historical or contemporary artworks and examples of their own work. These will be viewed, introduced and discussed. In smaller teams, participants will select from the compiled works and undertake further research into these, discussing within their team the role text or language play in the works and referring these to ideas introduced in the opening lecture. To close the day the smaller groups will meet each other to present and discuss their findings and consider what
these reveal about the question of how text and language can function as part of the artists’ oeuvre.


Workshop 2) Stealing knowledge / Patricio Gil-Flood

When does shearing become a legal problem? What can we say about intellectual or immaterial property? Is it the legal frame a limit that pushes us to become more consumers than users?
Starting from some press articles we are going to explore examples of cases that show existing tensions between legal rights and cultural diversity. By doing this we will discuss our own notions around appropriation, remake, references, pirating, copy left and many others.
Then we are going to talk about what we do ourselves, in everyday life and in our artistic practice,
confronting the limits of immaterial property and its legal or ethic frames. We will try to test this by doing it in some personal practical form.
By the end of the session, we could have experimented an approach where teaching becomes sharing
and positioning.


Workshop 3) Conflict Container Content / Sofia Kouloukouri

The workshop will be an introduction to writing narrative and especially fiction, both as a process for the writer; writer’s block; research; various methodologies, and as a finished piece focusing on content. The primary focus will be on theme, plot structure and character development, but elements of style, genre, diction, length and focalisation will be also addressed. The course aspires to also provide a historical context as well as references for most of the terms introduced. For the aims of the workshop we will mostly talk about novels and novellas, but also see how the given structure and form applies to screenplays. The objective of the workshop is to get acquainted with the building blocks of writing fiction, to recognize the basic plot structure common to any work of fiction and see how one can integrate that structure into their own writing. In the last third of the workshop participants will be invited to write a scene or short story which they will then present to the group.


The anecdote as a revolution in the street / Sara McLaren

Let’s meet around a table and talk about anecdotes. Anecdotes are well known in the oral world but have difficulty finding their place in the written. They are often put aside, seen as without importance, banal, simple facts. But these individual stories are those that actually build our Hi-story. Anecdotes disorder the hierarchy of History working from the particular to the global, from the oral to the written. Thanks to some example of writings, books, and authors, (if you have some examples you are welcome to bring them along!) we will explore the ideas of anthropological observation, objectivity/subjectivity, documentary writing, the everyday ( le quotidien ), oral history and fiction. We will go explore the streets of Sierre à la dérive, keeping in mind the ideas and positions talked about in the morning, noticing the city in its day to day life. How can an anecdote become a critical reaction? Experiences, conversations, observations, absurd situations of a place can reveal a spontaneous way to start writing. Taking form in an anecdotal way, out of these texts will emerge a social, political, personal statement. We will then meet all again with our written texts and have a reeding session. As a final discussion we will think of what support we could give these texts to be visible/audible in the public sphere.

Petra Koehle / Documentary & Fiction

A selection of texts and videos around overlaps and blurs of fiction and documentary.


Dr. Barnaby Drabble

is a writer and curator who lives and works in Catalunya and Switzerland. He is a faculty member of MAPS, Master of Arts in Public Spheres at the ECAV and Managing Editor of the Journal For Artistic Research. As a critic and writer he is a regular contributor to art-publications, magazines, websites and catalogues.

Patricio Gil Flood

studied Arts in the UNLP in Argentina, and in ECAV, Switzerland. Now he is part of MACACO Press, created with Sabrina Fernandez Casas. Under the form of an association that collaborates with other people, MACACO Press centres its activity in the research and production related to contemporary edition, exploring the extension of the ideas of reediting, translating, infiltrating and pirating. They conceive the action of introducing materials in circulation as a performance that produce not only a specific way of sociability, but its possibility of reformulating it.


Petra Koehle

has studied photography, theory and fine art at the Zurich University of the Arts and at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts, London. She has been collaborating with Nicolas Vermot- Petit-Outhenin since 2003. Koehle/Vermot's latest works and researches are investigating how technologies and more specifically the medium of photography relates to the process of archiving and how its mechanisms of selection imposes certain rules. She is a member of the ECAV faculty.

Sofia Kouloukouri

is a writer and visual artist. Having studied at ECAV after a master in Cinema Studies her work combines narration, sound and installations with autobiographic elements. Since 2009 she has worked as a script-doctor for directors and screenwriters and written short essays. Her diary novel ‘You can’t always get what you want’ is currently at the publication stage.

Sara McLaren

recently received a Master in “Art in public spheres” in Sierre, Switzerland. She first studied anthropology and geography. She gives importance to the smallest details, in conversations, in everyday situations, and tries to be critical about them by using these observations in her art practice and giving them a place in the public sphere. She works with sound, installation, drawings, texts, theatre, dance and hopes to discover always more ways of adapting the work to the context she finds herself in.


How to get to Movimax, route de l’ancien-Sierre 9