Talk: Caroline A. Jones

Salt Galata

January 24, 2019 19.00

Workshop IV

Exploring the legacy of world fairs, Exhibit continues with a presentation by Caroline A. Jones, Professor in the History, Theory, Criticism Section of the Department of Architecture at MIT.

Exhibitions and their world pictures complicate Western art history’s account of modern art. European Modernism (adopted in North and South America and elsewhere in the 20th century) forged a deep interest in the autonomy of the art object, an ideology supported by “formal analysis,” art history and criticism, and the market’s codification of genius. Yet art is never autonomous, and artists are prompted to be cosmopolitan, to be international, to be global, to be universal.

In her talk, Jones will argue for a history from the present that invokes an anti-autonomous object related to a subject continuously in formation through the agency of art. Such a history unfolds through the mass cultural, somewhat abject subject of the world fairs, the biennials founded in distinction to those grand expositions, and artist’s strategies in response to these “world pictures.” Philosopher Martin Heidegger identified the phrase “World Picture” as a pernicious technological effect only exacerbated by the world’s fairs. By turning to desiring audiences, however, Jones’ historical account will offer a different narrative. Audiences, artists, and organizers have various intentions when engaging the international theater of the world fairs and their inheritors in now-global biennials. The fairs and biennials systematically structured a set of imperatives to which artists adjusted, and in which audiences learned. The talk will articulate the rules of those transformations. By introducing a set of nested concepts such as “blind epistemology,” “the aesthetics of experience,” “predicated internationalism,” and a working through of the strategic differences between globalization and globalism, Jones will seek to convert the reified term “work of art” from thing to process: the working of art. How viewers learned about their own situation, in a politics of the partial view, is outlined in the process.

Caroline A. Jones studies modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on its technological modes of production, distribution, and reception, and on its interface with sciences such as physics and biology. Her recent publications include Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (1996/98), Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (2005/08), and The Global Work of Art (2016). Additionally, she edited Sensorium: embodied experience, technology, and contemporary art (2006) and co-edited Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense (2016). She has also worked as a curator, notably at MIT’s List Visual Art Center. Her current research collaboration with historian of science Peter Galison examines patterns of occlusion and political contestation in seeing and unseeing the Anthropocene.