Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear: Contemporary art histories and other news

Federica Martini
Anne-Julie Raccoursier
09 Nov / 13 Nov, 2015
Cittadellarte, Biella
TOPICS/TAGS: New journalism, aesthetic journalism, fictional institutions, art history paradigms, temporality, archives of the present, responsibility
Module outline

Starting from examples of detection, “aesthetic journalism” and fictional institutions, this module will investigate the writing of art histories in contemporary artistic research practices.

The hypothesis is that the contemporary perception of the psychological potential of the past, the present and the future as cultural ideas, shapes our relationship to archives, documents, artworks and oral histories produced by art scenes. Such relationship is affected by the difficulty of holding one’s gaze on topicalities while they unfold, and running the risk of fitting so well to one’s epoch that it becomes impossible to critically observe it. Faced with an ever-expanding array of media and sources with which to interact, the writing of contemporary art history has been confronted in recent years with the transfer of storytelling techniques beyond the borders of the literary sphere. Approaches from new journalism and historical novels are employed in the writing of art history not only as a means to chronicle the past and present of contemporary art, but also as a situation where utopian and dystopic anticipation assists the representation of a plural art scene.

More synchronic and less chronological, the community-based recording of contemporary art enables to infiltrate major narratives with micro-histories and material knowledge. The speed of information has dramatically reduced the gap between the moment when the event takes place and that when it gets recorded. Far from being a mere site for storing information, the archive is interpreted as a situation where knowledge is produced and not only documented.

With the aim of “doing theory” throughout the week, the module will feature lectures, screenings and discussions, supplemented by workshop-based activities. Special attention will be given to the notion of responsibility in the writing of history and collective authorship with reference to art theory, communication studies, literature, cinema and digital cultures.


November 9th
Guided tour to Cittadellarte, including the Pistoletto, Arte Povera collections and temporary exhibitions (curated by Luca Furlan)
Workshop presentation and construction of a common library of references: Every participant will introduce her/himself through bringing a book/document/research object/DVD… which is representative of their position / ideas about the themes discussed. This common library will be open to consultation during the workshop days. Each participant has a 10 min slot for his/ her presentation.
Preliminary questions:
The short (art) century: Statement followed by group discussion
All art has been contemporary (representing present art and museum critique after 1968): Statement followed by group discussion
Screening: L’Arche Russe (Alexander Sokourov)

November 10th
Fictional institutions: presentation of case-studies and discussion.
Workshop session: encyclopaedias of fictional artists.
Screenings: Noor Abuarafeh, On ‘Observational desire on a memory that remains’ and other selected videos.
Discussion and collective writing.

November 11th
The uses of literacy: oral history, history from below, micro-history.
Workshop session: oral history.
Workshop session: oral history.
Screening: The Battle of Orgreave (Jeremy Deller).

November 12th
Archives: research methodologies
Workshop session: document-based research.
New journalism, historical novels and creative non-fiction
Workshop session: fabricating the news.
Screening: It Happened Tomorrow (René Clair); Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson).

November 13th
Workshop session
Final discussion and public presentation of the works/ texts/ documents produced during the workshop sessions.

The mentor will prepare a reader for participants with key texts, some of which will be discussed during the week.

Giorgio Agamben, “What is Contemporary?”, in What is an Apparatus? Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Sergio Atzeni, Il Figlio di Bakunin (Bakunin’s Son), New York: Italica Press, 2008.

Alfredo Cramerotti, Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Bristol & Chicago: Intellect, 2009.

Frank O’Hara, The Day Lady Died (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171368)

William Morris, News from Nowhere, London: Penguin, 2014.

Georges Perec, Les Choses: A Story of the Sixties, trans. Helen Lane, New York: Grove Press, 1967.

Alessandro Portelli, They Say in Harlan County, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Leonardo Sciascia, Il teatro della memoria, Torino: Einaudi, 1981.

Antonio Tabucchi, Sostiene Pereira (Pereira Maintains), Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 1996.

Paul Veyne, Writing History: Essay on Epistemology, trans. by Mina Moore-Rinvolucri, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Wu Ming, New Italian Epic, Torino: Einaudi, 2009.

Video list:

Living Theatre, The Connection

Keren Cytter, Continuity

Yael Bartana, …And Europe will be stunned

Jeremy Deller, The Battle of Orgreave

Excerpt from Radio Days, a movie by Woody Allen

Excerpt from Wag the Dog, a movie by Barry Levinson

Excerpt from Hans Namuth, Pollock Painting



Federica Martini, PhD, is an art historian and curator. She was a member of the Curatorial Departments of the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Musée Jenisch Vevey and Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts/Lausanne. Since 2009, she is head of the Master program MAPS - Arts in Public Spheres at ECAV, Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais, Sierre.

Recent projects include The Museum of Post-digital Cultures (2013 - ongoing); Taking Time (Nida Art Colony, 2012); Vague Terrain - 0° latitude-longitude Gleisdreieck (Complices, Berlin, 2012); Royal Garden 4 - Rivières (Le Crédac - Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry, 2012); Slipping Glimpser (Théatre Arsenic, Lausanne, 2011); Incongruous (Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts/Lausanne, 2011).

Anne-Julie Raccoursier
: after her studies in Geneva, Anne-Julie Raccoursier spent a few years in the US and obtained a Master of Fine Arts in Critical Studies from the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles.
As an artist she is involved in conceptual and discursive interventions using installations and videos. In her works, she focuses closely on contemporary issues such as identity, the culture of entertainment and its rituals as well as the art of displacement. Her video installations have been presented recently in the personal exhibitions “Wireless World“ at the Centre d’édition contemporaine in Geneva, “Non-stop fun“ at the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, “Woodstock“ at St.Gall, “Crazy Horse“ at o.T. Raum für aktuelle Kunst, Luzern, “Loop Line“ at Kunsthaus Langenthal and “Crazy Horse“ at Palais de Tokyo, Paris.
She teaches at the Research-Based Master Programme CCC at the Geneva University of Art and Design and at the Master Arts in Public Spheres, at Ecole cantonale d’art du Valais, in Sierre.

download the full documentation about the module and the mentor in PDF format
Participation fee
570.00 €