Ann Hamilton,  the event of a thread , 2012, Park Avenue Armory, New York

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, 2012, Park Avenue Armory, New York

The Gradual Contemporary: Conversations on Contemporary Art

The spring 2018 RISD Grad Commons lecture series, The Gradual Contemporary, seeks out some of the most daring and forthright voices in the field of contemporary art, inviting them to think aloud, foil expectations, cut through nonsense, and to ponder the ever billowing contours of the gradual contemporary.

The lecture series accompanies a RISD graduate seminar of the same name, so called because it defines contemporary art both as a process—a gradual temporal and geographic process that defies periodization or mapping—and as a form of cognitive processing. Although this processing assumes a multitude of forms—whether through rehearsals of witnessing, documenting, archiving, projecting or appropriating—these seemingly disparate activities all appear to be motivated by a single logic: the impulse to process history. To this end, this course proposes contemporary art as a historical project—a project in which the activities of working through, repeating or remembering take on other, metaphoric guises—such as mining, erasing, rewinding or melting. Through the lens of process, understood as both a material pragmatics and an elastic metaphorics, the class outlines some of the key issues and historical pressures that shape contemporary art.

The seminar and lecture series are organized by Leora Maltz-Leca with the support of the RISD Provost’s Office. It is a collaboration among RISD’s Divisions of Graduate Studies, Liberal Arts, and Fine Arts and is enabled in part by the generous support of the Robert Lehman Foundation, New York.



Lynne Cooke

Lynne Cooke

Thursday, May 9, 2019 // 6:30 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Contesting Borders: Interchanges Between Uncredentialed Artists and American Vanguards

Lynne Cooke

Since the last century, the relationship between vanguard and self-taught artists has been defined by contradiction. The established art world has been quick to make clear distinctions between trained and untrained artists, yet at the same time it has been fascinated by outliers whom it draws selectively and intermittently into its orbits. Curator Lynne Cooke explores shifting conceptualizations of the American outlier across the twentieth century. She reveals how these distinctions have been freighted with a particularly American point of view as she investigates our assumptions about creativity, artistic practice, and the role of the artist in contemporary culture.


Lynne Cooke is the Senior Curator for Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, where she recently curated “Outliers and American Vanguard Art.” Prior to her present position, she was the deputy director and chief curator at the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, and the curator at the Dia Art Foundation. Cooke has taught and lectured regularly at the University College London, Syracuse University, Yale University, Columbia University, and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. She was a co-curator of the Venice Biennale in 1986, the Carnegie International in 1991, and was artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney in 1996.

Dr. Cooke established herself during the mid-80s as a writer on contemporary artists of the period, including British sculptors Anish Kapoor and Bill Woodrow, and American artist Allan McCollum. During her years at Dia, Cooke organized a number of exhibitions of younger American women artists and worked to bring greater recognition to women artists who contributed to the minimalist period; she also organized significant exhibitions aimed at introducing European artists of the 1980s to the American public.

Cooke has curated exhibitions at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol; Whitechapel Art Gallery and Hayward Gallery, London; Third Eye Center, Glasgow; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Tamayo Museum, Mexico; and elsewhere. In 2006, she was the recipient of the Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and in 2007, she co-curated the exhibition “Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has written widely about contemporary art in exhibition catalogues and in Artforum, Artscribe, The Burlington Magazine, and Parkett, among other magazines.

Kader Attia

Kader Attia

Thursday, May 2, 2019 // 5:00 PM // RISD Museum Contemporary Gallery

On Repair

Kader Attia

For many years, Kader Attia has been exploring the perspective that societies have on their history, especially as regards experiences of deprivation and suppression, violence and loss, and how this affects the evolving of nations and individuals — each of them being connected to collective memory.

His socio-cultural research has led Kader Attia to the notion of Repair, a concept he has been developing philosophically in his writings and symbolically in his oeuvre as a visual artist. With the principle of Repair being a constant in nature — thus also in humanity —, any system, social institution or cultural tradition can be considered as an infinite process of Repair, which is closely linked to loss and wounds, to recuperation and re-appropriation. Repair reaches far beyond the subject and connects the individual to gender, philosophy, science, and architecture, and also involves it in evolutionary processes in nature, culture, myth and history.

Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny, France), grew up in Paris and in Algeria. Preceding his studies at the École Supérieure des Arts Appliqués Duperré and the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and at Escola Massana, Centre d’Art i Disseny in Barcelona, he spent several years in Congo and in South America.

The experience with these different cultures, the histories of which over centuries have been characterised by rich trading traditions, colonialism and multi-ethnic societies, has fostered Kader Attia’s intercultural and interdisciplinary approach of research.

In 2016, Kader Attia founded La Colonie, a space in Paris to share ideas and to provide an agora for vivid discussion. Focussing on decolonialisation not only of peoples but also of knowledge, attitudes and practices, it aspires to de-compartmentalise knowledge by a trans-cultural, trans-disciplinary and trans-generational approach. Driven by the urgency of social and cultural reparations, it aims to reunite which has been shattered, or drift apart.

In 2016, Kader Attia was awarded with the Marcel Duchamp Prize, followed in 2017 by the Prize of the Miró Foundation, Barcelona, and the Yanghyun Art Prize, Seoul.

Conversation to follow with Kate Irvin and Leora Maltz-Leca.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the RISD Museum, as part of Repair and Design Futures

Ed Schlossberg

Ed Schlossberg

Thursday, April 25, 2019 // 6:30 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Art Design Life

Ed Schlossberg

Ed Schlossberg has been working all his life to engage simultaneously between and among these three ideas – goals, projects and tools. He will continue to explore this odyssey in his talk.


An internationally recognized pioneer in experience design and audience engagement, Ed Schlossberg launched his career in 1978 with the design of one of the world’s first interactive museums, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Since then, he has been at the forefront of design and technological innovation, creating imaginative and unparalleled public experiences that bring audiences together to explore, learn, communicate and collaborate. Under Schlossberg’s leadership, ESI Design has created groundbreaking retail and corporate spaces, museums, and multi-player game environments for an array of corporations, brands and cultural institutions. Before he was known around the world for how he has changed museums, he was an artist and a poet. Over the last 50 years, Schlossberg has used words and images to create visual and poetic worlds in his art, using various and unconventional media. His artwork can be found in private collections and museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art. 
Schlossberg holds a Ph.D. in Science and Literature from Columbia University. In 2004, he won the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and in 2011, was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. Singled out as “a leader in interactive design” by Wired magazine, he has authored 11 books. His artwork has appeared in several solo and group exhibitions and can be found in numerous museums and private collections.

Conversation to follow with Liliane Wong, Markus Berger and Leora Maltz-Leca.

Chrissie Iles

Chrissie Iles

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 // 6:30 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

An Inadequate History of the Projected Image

Chrissie Iles

This lecture proposes new readings of the history of the projected image in American art since the 1960s, foregrounding issues around the black cinematic to propose alternative models to the assumptions of whiteness that have dominated the history of moving image art, and challenging the presumed neutrality of cinematic tropes including the camera, the screen, light, the gaze, opacity, and surveillance.

Chrissie Iles is the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her specialization is the work of emerging artists, moving image art, and art of the 1960s and 1970s. She has co-curated two Whitney Biennials, and numerous exhibitions of the moving image as well as sculpture, including a retrospective of Dan Graham. Her most recent exhibition, ‘Dreamlands’, explored the role of immersive moving image installations in the history of American art from 1905 to the present. She is responsible for building the moving image part of the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection. She is a member of the Graduate Committee of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and a visiting professor in the Art Department at Columbia University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Art History Department at Bristol University, England, in 2015.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the department of Film, Animation and Video.

Ariella Azoulay

Ariella Azoulay

Monday, May 7, 2018 // 5:00 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

The Imperial Origins of Photography

Ariella Azoulay

Imagine that the origin of photography goes back to 1492. What could this mean? In this lecture, Ariella Azoulay will depart from the common theories and histories that present photography as a sui-generis practice and locate its moment of emergence in the midst 19th century around technological development and male inventors. Instead she would rather propose to locate the origins of photography in the “new world,” at the earlier phases of European colonialism and study photographs alongside early accounts of imperial expeditions. Obviously there are no photos from the mass destruction of the late 15th century, but viewing later images of destruction in the context of early expeditions, unravel the premises of what is called documentary and its role in minimizing the scale of the enterprise of destruction. Photography was institutionalized as a visual and communicative practice in a world that had already been colonized and enabled the reproduction of imperial divisions and imperial rights. It nailed down in images what Azoulay conceives as the right to destroy, to accumulate, to appropriate, to differentiate, to record what has been destroyed or appropriated, to study, rescue, salvage, and exhibit it. Interpreting these imperial rights as constitutive of the practice of the documentary, is key in understanding the power accumulated in the hands of image banks and corporations such as Getty or FB.

Ariella Azoulay is Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and author of Aïm Deüelle Lüski and Horizontal Photography (Leuven University Press and Cornell University Press, 2013), From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950 (Pluto Press, 2011), Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (Verso, 2012) and The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books, 2008), co-authored with Adi Ophir, The One State Condition: Occupation and Democracy between the Sea and the River (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Claire Bishop

Claire Bishop

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 //  6:00 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Information Overload:
Research Based Art and the Politics of Attention

Claire Bishop

Claire Bishop’s lecture looks at the rise of research-based art since the early 1990s and its relationship to the changing status of knowledge as a result of digital technology. Claire Bishop is an art historian and critic based at CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of Radical Museology, or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art?Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship and Installation Art: A Critical History).

This event is co-sponsored by RISD Global.
This event is free and open to the public.

Rachel Haidu © University of Rochester

Rachel Haidu
© University of Rochester

Monday, April 23, 2018 // 5:00 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

The Tragicomic Self: Amy Sillman and Philip Guston

Rachel Haidu

Both Amy Sillman and Philip Guston make painting, in their different historical moments (respectively, the present and the 1960s-70s), into a tragicomic enterprise. This talk examines the role that shape plays in that enterprise, when it is seen not as a formal or compositional element but as key to both the tragic aspect of a painting’s historical reflection and its comic operations—its funniness. Tragicomic shape is the means that painting has at its disposal for exploring selfhood, a concept that Haidu develops in relation to not only painting but also video and dance in her new book.

Rachel Haidu is Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. She is the author of The Absence of Work: Marcel Broodthaers, 1964-1976 (October Books: MIT Press, 2013).

Detail from  Landscape with the Fall of Icarus  Pieter Bruegel the Elder Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, early 1560s

Detail from Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, early 1560s

Monday, April 9, 2018 //  5:00 PM // CIT 103, 169 Weybosset Street

‘At the Same Time’: Toward an Ethics
and Aesthetics of (In)visibility

Ara H. Merjian

Diderot’s famous Letter on the Blind, for the Use of Those Who See(1749) improbably names moral apathy as the natural inclination of the blind, whose inability to see leads Diderot to “suspect them of being, in general, unfeeling toward their fellow men.” To what extent have twentieth- and twenty-first-century aesthetics elaborated strategies of representing connections to bodies unseen or unacknowledged? What, in artistic terms, might constitute a phenomenology of distance and implication, as it relates to the witnessing of history or micro-history? And how do the visual arts—whose domain is sight itself—potentially shore up such distance, or else render intelligible its effects? This paper ventures some tentative answers in the light of specific efforts by European and American artists, from both before and after the late twentieth-century digital revolution: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Renato Guttuso, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Martha Rosler, Eric Fischl, and Francesco Arena.  It explores the extent to which an ostensibly interconnected globalization might belie an indifference which, as Carlo Ginzburg writes, “already implies a form of complicity.”

Ara H. Merjian is Associate Professor of Italian at New York University and author of Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris (Yale University Press, 2014).

Alexander Alberro

Alexander Alberro

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 // 6:30 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Contemporary Art and the Global Turn

Alexander Alberro

A newly-formed transnational web of individuals and institutions has in the past three decades fundamentally changed the nature of contemporary art. Highlighting artworks and projects that have sought to make visible, analyzable and contestable the new forms of exchange, “Contemporary Art and the Global Turn” probes not only what has led to this complex transformation but also the impact it has had on the current conditions of artistic practice. In what ways is recent art distinct from previous modes of contemporary art? What are the conventions that contemporary artists face today? Where are they shaped? What precipitates them?

Alexander Alberro is Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History at Barnard College. He is the author of Abstraction in Reverse: The Reconfigured Spectator in Mid-Twentieth Century Latin American Art (University of Chicago Press, 2017); Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity (MIT, 2003), and has edited books on contemporary art including Working Conditions: The Writings of Hans Haacke (MIT, 2016), Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists Writings; Art After Conceptual Art (MIT, 2009); Museum Highlights (MIT, 2005), Recording Conceptual Art (University of California, 2001), Two-Way Mirror Power (MIT 1999); and Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (MIT, 1999).

Alberro is also the founding editor of the University of California Press’ book series “Studies on Latin American Art,” which commissions publications of art history and cultural practices emerging from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Latin American diaspora in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Our Literal Speed presents “Our Literal Speed” Dimensions variable, materials: two-person lecture, work of sculpture, milling crowd, Fabricca del Vapore, Milan, 8 November, 2010 (detail) ©

Our Literal Speed presents “Our Literal Speed”
Dimensions variable, materials: two-person lecture, work of sculpture, milling crowd, Fabricca del Vapore, Milan, 8 November, 2010 (detail)

Monday, April 2, 2018 // 5:00 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Our Literal Speed presents Everythingism

Our Literal Speed

It could be argued that the most compelling art is no longer defined by particular media (painting, sculpture, photography, video), or by particular subjects (portraiture, landscape, still life, devotional image), or by particular strategies of representation (Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, Appropriation); instead, the true art of our time might best be described as being distinguished by activities that employ everything to evoke everything by means of everything.

Our Literal Speed is a text and art undertaking located in Selma, Alabama.

For more information on Our Literal Speed please visit their website here: Our Literal Speed

Glenn Adamson Photograph: © Sipke Visser, courtesy Glenn Adamson

Glenn Adamson
Photograph: © Sipke Visser, courtesy Glenn Adamson

Thursday, March 1, 2018 // 1:30 PM // Metcalf Auditorium, Chace Center, RISD Museum

Make or Break: On Artistic Epiphany

Glenn Adamson

It’s one of the oldest stereotypes about art: the flash of insight, the “Eureka” moment, when everything comes together for an artist and the work leaps into new territory. What actually happens in these moments? And what had to happen first, before they arrive? In this talk, Glenn Adamson will journey into the studio and the life of artists, to explore the nature of creative revelation. He will concentrate particularly on two figures from his current and recent research: the ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos and the fiber artist Lenore Tawney. Though working on opposite coasts and in different media, they had simultaneous breakthroughs in the late 1950s which reshaped not only their own careers but their entire disciplines. Through close examination of these two case studies, Adamson will offer a model of what goes into such decisive imaginative leaps.

Glenn Adamson is a curator and historian based in Brooklyn. He is the author of The Craft ReaderThinking Through Craft, and The Invention of Craft.

This event is co-sponsored by the Ceramics Department.