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The Reading Room #10 – Failure in Art: Cruel Optimism, Irony, Potentiality (part 1)

June 4, 2016 @ 14:00 - 16:00

4th of June 2016
Location: Stroom Den Haag
Guest Reader: Thijs Witty

“….art is defined as much by what it is, as by what it is not; by what it does, or can do, as by what it does not, or cannot do; it is defined even by what it fails to achieve.” – Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

About the event:
For this reading room we will think about the kinship between failure and art. Samuel Beckett once said that ‘to be an artist is to fail as no others dare to fail’, which not only points to the necessary risks that accompany the creation of art works, but also to some intrinsic worth of artistic negativity. If we can imagine that failure in art could make audiences reconsider their preconceived notions about the social purpose of art, and if we can agree that failure in art takes everyone involved beyond the general assumptions of success and accomplishment, then we can also think of failure as the incalculable element that defines the social nature of art as such. Lauren Berlant, Soren Kierkegaard and Giorgio Agamben have all gone to great lengths to develop this kinship between failure and art into social and aesthetic theories of potentiality, attachment, and feeling. We will discuss their respective ideas in close relation with a series of art works and artists. During the sessions there will be room for sharing personal accounts of failure and art, both within a precarious work environment and in personal practices!

Please reserve a spot by sending an email to platformtm@gmail.com. We will also provide you with a copy of the texts.

This reading room topic is part of a two-part cluster, followed by: The Reading Room #11

For the two sessions we will read three texts:
Lauren Berlant: Slow Death
Soren Kierkegaard: The Concept of Irony
Giorgio Agamben: Bartleby, or on contingency

Special Guest:

Thijs Witty is a PhD fellow at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam. The object and problem of his research is the genre of the essay: a highly protean form that has been supporting the craft of writing ever since Sumerians first carved small notches in clay. Now that the essay form has regained traction in various post-medium conditioned turns towards provisional writing experiments, several questions become very interesting: how does the essay navigate between scepticism and speculation? What does it have to offer to the third person singular, if anything? And in what ways can its free-floating wander add precision to the new struggles with calculation in times of volatile sense perception?
Thijs has previously taught at the Amsterdam School for New Dance Development, the Master in Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, and at the Media Studies department of the University of Amsterdam.

The Reading Room is a series of reading groups revolving around short texts provided by invited guests – contemporary researchers, cultural theorists, philosophers and artists – who join us to provide insight and context to the topics at hand. The Reading Room is a joint cooperation between the artist-initiatives Platform for Thought in Motion and iii.


June 4, 2016
14:00 - 16:00




Stroom Den Haag
Hogewal 1-9
The Hague, 2514 HA Netherlands