The Curatorial Reading Group is a monthly reading session, a platform for contextualizing curatorial approaches and discourse through a continuous series of readings and discussions. Under the theme of ‘Curating, the Curatorial, and the Notion of Time,’ each session of the first season focuses on a selected text from theory to artistic practice.
This upcoming second session we will read the essay Time and Matter by Jean-François Lyotard, which was part of his input into his philosophical seminar following his landmark exhibition at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1985, Les Immatériaux, and reflects on the philosophical ideas behind that exhibition. The exhibition inspired an entire generation of relational aesthetics, both curators and artists, from Nicolas Bourriaud to Jens Hoffmann, from Philippe Parreno to Pierre Huyghe, as well as the post-digital discourse and new media art context, with theoreticians and curators like Andreas Boeckmann and Yuk Hui.
You can download the text from here. If you are interested in joining our reading session, it is recommended that you to read it before.
As additional reading further contextualizing Lyotard's text, we recommend the short essay by John Rajchman, Les Immatériaux or How to Construct the History of Exhibitions, Tate Papers No.12 (Landmark Exhibitions Issue)
From John Rajchman's text:
“Les Immatériaux was a ‘presentation of ideas’ in the specific sense of ‘presentation’ and ‘idea’ which Lyotard was trying to articulate at the time. It thus linked to another striking aspect of Lyotard’s curatorial experiment – the role and nature of accompanying research, or the role of ‘ideas’ and their ‘address’ in the style of philosophical teaching then current in Paris. With Les Immatériaux, the philosophical seminar would enter into the context of museum research, creating new relations which Lyotard would later evoke in his account of the experience. In the ‘open’ seminar, he would present ideas put forward in a suggestive philosophical text called Time and Matter, later published in a collection of essays entitled The Inhuman. The essay makes interesting reading today, in light of the current interest in exhibitions: in it, Lyotard sets out the larger philosophical ‘idea’ he hoped to ‘present’ through Les Immatériaux. What becomes clear is that Lyotard’s title concept of ‘immateriality’ was different from that of the ‘dematerialisation of art’ associated with the presentation of ideas in what came to be called ‘conceptual art’, and, in particular, ‘institutional critique’. The question thus arises of how this idea and this exhibition are related to that earlier ‘conceptual’ moment in the ‘dramatisation of information’, when the whole idea of the exhibition (or ‘presentation’) was rethought in a manner often opposed to a certain kind of Kantian aestheticism.”
An interview with the philosopher by Bernard Blistène published in Flash Art on the occasion of the exhibition in 1985 provides further background to the thinking behind the exhibition.
And Yuk Hui talks about the updated context of Les immatériaux in the post-digital discourse:
For the March session we propose to collectively select a text, possibly from the book 30 years after Les Immatériaux by Yuk Hui and Andreas Broeckmann.
This book features a previously unpublished report by Jean-François Lyotard on the conception of Les Immatériaux and its relation to postmodernity. Reviewing the historical significance of the exhibition, his text is accompanied by twelve contemporary meditations. The philosophers, art historians, and artists analyse this important moment in the history of media and theory, and reflect on the new material conditions brought about by digital technologies in the last 30 years.
Texts by Daniel Birnbaum, Jean-Louis Boissier, Andreas Broeckmann, Thierry Dufrêne, Francesca Gallo, Charlie Gere, Antony Hudek, Yuk Hui, Jean-François Lyotard, Robin Mackay, Anne Elisabeth Sejten, Bernard Stiegler, and Sven-Olov Wallenstein.