Poe after Smithson after Rainer

Monday, March 22, 2010 - 6:00pm

David Joselit, Simon Leung, Yvonne Rainer

The two-day event begins on Monday, March 22, from 6:00-8:00pm with a lecture by Simon Leung entitled "The (anterior) spectator who later becomes the posterity: a lecture on Étant donnés," with David Joselit as respondent, followed by public conversation. It continues on Tuesday, March 23, from 6:00-8:00pm with a screening of Simon Leung's POE (2007, 65 minutes), followed by a conversation with Yvonne Rainer.

The (anterior) spectator who later becomes the posterity: a lecture on Étant donnés
Monday, March 22, 6:00-8:00pm, Simon Leung, with David Joselit as respondent

In 1969, one year after the death of Marcel Duchamp, Étant donnés was revealed to the public at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Duchamp's final major creation, which he worked on over the course of twenty years (1946-1966) was made during the period when the artist was said to have given up making art in favor of chess. Since its unveiling, Étant donnés overturned, to the astonishment of many, the conventional view of Duchamp as the inventor of the readymade, the master of negation. In the forty years since, artists have paid homage with interpretations and recreations, scholars have and debated over its import and role in the canon, and Duchamp scholars and aficionados have conjectured hermaneutic paths and located secret links toward its meaning.

Simon Leung ventures a reading of Étant donnés that is neither Duchamp archeology nor art history. Rather, by tracing the mechanics of the secret; the apparatus of the work's permanent installation in the museum; and the temporal and spatial unfolding of Étant donnés, which include aspects that fall outside of the author function ("para-intentional," but, as Leung would argue, "Duchampian" qualities that art history cannot digest), Leung began, in the 1990s, to rethink the very category of "the Duchampian" via passages through Étant donnés. Building on his work on the glory hole, Leung looks at Étant donnés askance, with gazes borrowed from, among others, Emmanual Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy, and engages with several strong past readings of Étant donnés by Jean-François Lyotard, Rosalind Krauss and Kaja Silverman. In doing so, he submits that Étant donnés recasts the received views of terms we inherited from Duchamp (the readymade, chance, the infra-thin), and proposes the Duchampian oeuvre as an ethical project; and Étant donnés as a work of art that teaches philosophy.

Poe after Smithson after Rainer
Tuesday, March 23, 6:00-8:00pm Film screening, followed by conversation with Simon Leung and Yvonne Rainer

In 2007 Simon Leung completed POE, an extended video meditation on the figure of Edgar Allan Poe and its relevance to contemporary art and political life.  Initially prompted by the position Edgar Allan Poe occupies in literary and theoretical discourses (e.g. Baudelaire, Lacan, Derrida), and in the writings of Robert Smithson, who contended that "Poe's Narrative of A. Gordon Pym seemed to (him) to be excellent art criticism and prototype of rigorous 'non-site' investigations,"  Leung undertook a three-part diegetic essay on Poe in the form of a single channel 65 minute video installation.

In the video, Leung submits aspects of the writer and his work to a digressional rethinking of the meaning of "Poe": tracing Poe through two former residences he occupied in New York (the Poe Cottage and the simulacral facade of the Poe House) by eliciting the help of choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer (whom Robert Smithson cites in the text where he theorizes the non-site through Pym) to perform as the writer in situ at both sites; sending Poe to Poland (Poe-land, the land of Poe) to further explore Po-e-tic artifice and cliches via forging a composite narrative culled from the setting and tone several of his gothic tales (with the help of writer Warren Niesluchowski); visiting with Gregory Poe, a distant relative, shortly before his death; and working with his students to retell the adventure tale of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym as a story of the current American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, facilitated by a collapse of two modalities of special effects--the "green zone" in Bagdad and the green screen in video production.  Bordering on theory and fiction, criticism and performance, POE takes up Robert Smithson's challenge for a rigorous investigation of the "site/non-site" dialectic, and in doing so, makes an intervention in much of contemporary art's referential or art-historically thematic receptions of site-specificity.

This program is made possible through the generous support of University of Pennsylvania Cinema Studies Program, English Department, History of Art Department, Office of the Provost (Art in the City Program), and the Society of Friends of the Slought Foundation.

Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782