Publication year:   Author:
Sianne Ngai: Theory of the Gimmick

The 2016 FORART lecture was given by Sianne Ngai (Stanford University) who presented Theory of the Gimmick - her book on the gimmicky artwork as a capitalist aesthetic category.

This talk explored the gimmick as a capitalist aesthetic category: a perceptual form linked in a relatively consistent way to an affective judgment or speech act. When we say that a made object is gimmicky we mean we “see through it”; that there is an undesired transparency about how an aspect of it has been produced and why. The contrived or gimmicky artwork thus confronts us with an object that would seem to undermine its own aesthetic power simply by calling attention to the process by which its effects have been devised. Sianne Ngai explored the mix of attraction and repulsion, of contempt and admiration that the gimmick elicits, exploring its implications in forms specific to capitalist culture spanning from the nineteenth century to the present.

Sianne Ngai is Professor at Stanford University and specializes in American literature, literary and cultural theory, and feminist studies. Her books are Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Harvard University Press, 2012), winner of the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize and the PCA/ACA Ray and Pat Browne award for Best Reference or Best Primary Source Work; and Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2005). Sections of both books have been translated into Swedish, Italian, German, Slovenian, Portugese, and (forthcoming) Japanese. Her new book in process, Theory of the Gimmick, explores the “gimmick” as encoding a relation to labor (the gimmicky artwork irritates us because it seems to be working too hard to get our attention, but also not working hard enough), and as the inverted image of the modernist “device” celebrated by Victor Shklovsky.

Ngai was a recipient of a 2007-08 Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and in 2014-15 was a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, Germany. In 2015 she was awarded an honorary D. Phil in Humanities from the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Tom Eccles - Everything Will Be Alright

The 2015 FORART Lecture was held by Tom Eccles, who discussed his evolving practice from public spaces in New York to experimental exhibitions, artistic production and monumental installations.

Tom Eccles is the Executive Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS) at Bard College in New York, where he has been since 2005. Eccles built CSS Bard’s Hessel Museum of Art in 2006 and organised the inaugural exhibition of the Marieluise Hessel Collection (Wrestle, 2006). He has since curated a number of exhibitions at the museum with artists including Martin Creed (2007); Keith Edmier (2008); Rachel Harrison (2009); Josiah McElheny and Lynne Cook (2011); Liam Gillick (2012); Haim Steinbach (2013); and Amy Sillman with Cheney Thompson (2014). The exhibition Haim Steinbach: once again the world is flat opened at Bard in 2013 and travelled to the Serpentine Galleries, London, and Kunsthalle Zürich (both in 2014). Eccles commis- sioned the permanent installation The Parliament of Reality (2009) by Olafur Eliasson on the grounds of Bard.

From 2006 to 2010, Eccles was the curatorial advisor to Park Avenue Armory, which included work on the master plan for the artistic programme of the fair. He also curated Ernest Neto’s anthropodino at the Armory in 2009 and Christian Boltanski’s No Man’s Land in 2010, and was consulting curator for Paul McCarthy’s WS in 2013 and Philippe Parreno’s Hypnosis in 2015. He curated the sculpture park for New York Frieze Art Fair in 2012 and 2013, commissioning new works such as Paul McCarthy’s Balloon Dog. He has organised the talks programme at Frieze New York since 2014. Eccles is currently consulting curator for Governors Island in New York, where he has recently commissioned new works by Susan Philipsz, Mark Handforth and Rachel Whit- eread. Since 2006, he has worked with the LUMA Foundation and philanthropist Maja Hoffmann as a member of the “Core Group” of advisors for the development of a major cultural centre in Arles. Other group members include Liam Gillick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno and Beatrix Ruf. Eccles is also on the board of the Keith Haring Foundation. He is a frequent contributor to ArtReview.

Eccles was Director of the Public Art Fund in New York City from 1996-2005, where he curated more than 100 exhibitions and projects with artists including Louise Bourgeois, Janet Cardiff, Mark Dion, Dan Graham, Barbara Kruger, Pierre Huyghe, Ilya Kabakov, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Pipilotti Rist, Lawrence Weiner, Rachel Whiteread, and Andrea Zittel. He has organised a number of outdoor projects at institutions in New York, including Museum of Modern Art (Tony Smith og Francis Alys), The Whitney Museum of American Art (the Whitney Biennials in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006) and The New Museum (Paul McCarthy).

Eccles graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1989 with an MA in Philosophy and Italian. He studied philosophy, aesthetics and semiotics at the University of Bologna from 1985-87. 

Watch Tom Eccles' lecture on Vimeo

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