Since 2013, the Read-In Series is a collaboration between the Willem de Kooning Academy and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, for the minor Critical Studies. During this yearly program of the WdKA, students are encouraged to sharpen their personal vision on the social relevance of art and culture through confrontations with theories, concepts and analytical methodologies from the philosophical tradition of ‘Critical Theory’. The Read-In Series consists of four close-reading sessions followed by a symposium organized with and by the students of the minor.

The sessions and symposium will take place with the support of Yoeri Meessen (Associate Director Education & Public Affairs, Witte de With), Docus van der Made (Education Assistant, Witte de With), Florian Cramer (lecturers, Creating010) and Esma Moukhtar (Critical Studies, Willem de Kooning Academy). Critical Theory classes will take place in advance and in between Read-In Sessions to prepare for and to frame the texts to be read.

Read-In Series 2016: Other Voices

The central theme for the 2016-2017 academic year is identity politics, with texts of Simone de Beauvoir and Lucy Lippard as points of departure to become familiar with feminist philosophy on the one hand and (post) colonial awareness on the other. The ‘other voices’ in this series include authors whose work focusses on identity from various perspectives. From a queer female philosopher writing about identity and language and ‘gender trouble’ (Judith Butler) to a black man who examines severe everyday racism, and how people seem to internalize white preferences, suppressing their own identity behind a ‘white mask’ (Frantz Fanon), to name just two. The selected authors articulate, each in their own vital style, reflections on identity: first, second and third thoughts that invite us to question our own thoughts, identities, attitudes and actions.

During the close-reading sessions, students will be asked to submit ideas for speakers who represent their vision of the studied texts. Potential speakers will be approached to contribute to a final symposium held in January 2017. The speakers can be as much artists as designers, as well as professionals from other disciplines including literature or science. During the final symposium, four invited speakers will give their views on the subject and go into debate with the students and the audience.

The final symposium is free for students of the Willem de Kooning Academy. Students from other schools and other interested are welcome after registration. For more information please contact educ[email protected].

Read-In #1 – Judith Butler, Gender Trouble; Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990). Chapter: ‘Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions’.

Tuesday 11 October 2016, 3 - 5 pm
Location: Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam.

This text confronts us with troubles around feminist writers like Simone de Beauvoir, referring to ‘the female body’. Butler explores the language and categories we use by defining others and ourselves, and she criticises and questions the (feminist) idea of “women” as a steady concept: is there something essential female about the female body or is this body, any body, its gender and its sex maybe always culturally and politically shaped by sources that are not intrinsic to this body but coming from external sources? Where do genders come from, and what do we mean with ‘real’ and ‘natural’ when we apply this to gender, sex or race? What is cause and what is effect? Via various philosophers she dives deeper into these questions and the consequences of its answers for what we call ‘identity’ or ‘other(ness)’.

Read-In #2 – Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952). Chapter: ‘The lived experience of the black man.’

Tuesday 25 October 2016, 3 - 5 pm
Location: Witte de With, Witte de Withstraat 50, Rotterdam.

What it is to be ‘The Other’ is described in this text from the perspective of the author as a man being called ‘Negro’. Fanon writes about his experiences of being seen as a black body through the colonial white gaze. He calls this experience ‘the image of one’s own body in the third person’. The kind of identity that is derived from that is an internalized version, via the other who identifies you as ‘a black person’ or even ‘a negro’ or ‘nigger’, using these words in front of you. And this somehow leads to an internalized white gaze as well: the mask. About the consequences of all that and much more Fanon tells us here in his personal, literary and moving style.

Read-In #3 – Audre Lorde, ‘Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference’ (1980).

Tuesday 8 November 2016, 3 - 5 pm
Location: Witte de With, Witte de Withstraat 50, Rotterdam.

In this urgent essay the Afro American poet Audre Lorde addresses her fellows to redefine feminism: what women are doing together and to what extent they are actually doing it together? She articulates the troubles within the project of feminism by the many differences that undermine the solidarity that is so much needed. She stresses the white, heterosexual and elitist norms that are dominating the discourse and the field, and the built-in white privilege that many women are not aware of. Because many sisters stay outsiders for reasons of race or class, she calls for a more inclusive kind of feminism.

Read-In #4 – Sara Ahmed, 'Happy Objects’ (2010).

Tuesday 22 November 2016, 3 - 5 pm
Location: Witte de With, Witte de Withstraat 50, Rotterdam.

Ahmed analyzes and redefines what happiness is and does, how it is related to affect (being touched by something) and intention (it is about something) and to judgment even; feelings participate in ‘making things good’ and language plays an important role in this process of affective politics by deliberately articulating good feelings as a starting point after years of having investigated bad feelings. One could say that in this essay the concept of ‘identity’ is replaced for shared affects. Happiness puts us into contact with things and in doing so we come to realize how we shape the world around us.

Symposium – ‘Untitled’

Saturday 21 January 2017

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