Authenticity and Terror – David Joselit

Friday, March 31st 2017 – 10:00-11:00

When ISIS destroys cultural monuments, such as the Baal Shaamin Temple of Palmyra, it is a form of terror executed in the name of fundamentalist authenticity. This lecture addresses how current global struggles are inscribed in dueling cultural policies and ideologies: spectacular iconoclasm, on the one hand, and the universalist museum of the West on the other, whose values of multicultural cohabitation masks its own history of forcibly removing cultural properties from their sites of origin. While iconoclasm is considered regressive and anti-modern, the universal museum is ideologically tied to the very foundations of modernity. This lecture will argue that we must expand our understanding of the modern in order to encompass both of these perspectives. Only then can we begin to develop an adequate cultural response to one of the most consequential conflicts of our time.

David Joselit’s art-historical work has approached the history and theory of image circulation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries from a variety of perspectives, spanning Marcel Duchamp’s strategy of the readymade, in which commodities are reframed as artworks, to the mid-twentieth ecology of television, video art, and media activism, and the current conditions of contemporary art under dual pressures of globalization and digitization.
Working as a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, during the 1980s, Joselit co-organized several exhibitions that helped to define the art of that decade, including Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture (1986). He taught in the Department of Art History and Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies at University of California–Irvine from 1995 to 2003, and at Yale University from 2003 to 2013, where he served as Department Chair from 2006 to 2009.
Joselit’s art criticism has spanned all visual media and recently has engaged extensively with contemporary painting. He is author of Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910–1941 (MIT Press, 1998), American Art Since 1945 (Thames and Hudson, World of Art Series, 2003), Feedback: Television Against Democracy (MIT Press, 2007), and After Art (Princeton University Press, 2012), and he is a contributing author to the second edition of Art Since 1900 (Thames and Hudson, 2011). He is an editor of the journal OCTOBER and a frequent contributor to Artforum.