Renowned art theorist brings message about the medium

Internationally renowned art theorist, critic and educator Thierry de Duve will give a free public talk, titled “When did the Medium Disappear?”, at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) as part of Where is the Medium?, the 2010 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts & Film presented by York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

De Duve posits that within recent years, the field of visual arts has been described as being in the midst of two seemingly incompatible states. On the one hand, critics such as Rosalind Krauss have argued that we are now in a “post-medium” condition. On the other hand, many critics suggest that we are in the midst of an emphatic “return of the medium”. The medium seems to be nowhere and everywhere.

Right: Thierry de Duve. Photo by Candido Quesada.

In his talk on Thursday, May 6, at 7:30pm at MOCCA, 952 Queen St. W. in Toronto, de Duve will argue that the question “Where is the medium?” is nearly impossible to answer. Instead, he says, we must ask, “When did the medium disappear? What were the historical conditions surrounding this so-called disappearance of the medium?”

By looking at the historical context of this conundrum, de Duve, a professor of esthetics and art history at Université de Lille 3 in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France, suggests we might get an inkling of what its significance might be. His research and writing are focused on a reinterpretation of modernism. Marcel Duchamp’s readymades and their implications for esthetics have long been a central focus of his work.

Artist Michel Daigneault, director of York’s Graduate Program in Visual Arts, will moderate a Q-&-A following the lecture.

Belgian-born De Duve was responsible for the Belgian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and curated the exhibition Look, 100 Years of Contemporary Art at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (2000). He authored the companion publication to the exhibition of the same name and was a contributing writer for Held Together with Water: Art from the Sammlung Verbund Collection (2007). His other books include Kant after Duchamp (MIT Press, 1996); Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (Éditions Dis Voir, 1996); and Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade (University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

De Duve has held visiting professorships at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University. He was also the Elliot & Roslyn Jaffe Distinguished Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a Fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and most recently, at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

The talk is presented in association with MOCCA and with the support of the Consulate General of France in Toronto.

About the 2010 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute

The proliferation of digital media and a continuing movement toward the dissolution of the art object call into question the continuing validity and significance of “medium specificity”. At a time when artists increasingly engage the moving image via a range of technologies spanning cinema, Web, television, museum and gallery, the 2010 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts & Film asks, “Where is the Medium?” Invited speakers offer a series of events exploring the boundaries and intersections between the disciplines of the visual arts, art history and film.

The Summer Institute offers York graduate students and the wider community the opportunity to engage with prominent international artists, curators, critics and theorists through seminars, workshops, courses and public lectures. De Duve is the third of four visiting artists and scholars featured in this year’s Summer Institute. Other guests giving public lectures are media arts specialist Christine Ross (May 5) and film theorist Mary Ann Doane (June 7-10). Dance and film artist Yvonne Rainer presented a lecture on April 6.

The Summer Institute is named in recognition of Joan & Martin Goldfarb, longstanding supporters of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, whose generous gift has made this annual residency program possible.