The Manifesto: From Surrealism to the Present by Natalya Lusty

This talk explores how the manifesto became a defining genre of the artistic avant-garde and other political movements across the 20th century, from Futurism and Surrealism to radical feminist manifestos by Valerie Solanas and the Riot Grrrls.

It coincides with Julian Rosefeldt’s moving image 2014-2015 artwork, ‘Manifesto’,which brings to life the enduring provocation of the historical art manifesto.

Natalya Lusty is an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (2007), Dreams and Modernity: A Cultural History (2013), with Helen Groth and the edited collection, Modernism and Masculinity (2014), which was shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association book prize. She has spent the last decade writing and talking about manifestos in numerous academic contexts and public forums and is currently completing a book on feminist manifestos.

Presented by Sydney Ideas and the University of Sydney in conjunction with the Sydney Intellectual History Network on 9 June 2016

Indeterminate States: John Di Stefano, Gabriella and Silvana Mangano and Coen Young

At William Wright Artist Projects May-June 2016.

Indeterminate States is a focused inquiry into the idea of fixed or static absolutes of knowledge. The project is designed to consider what it means to develop a rational understating of our experience and create an expression of that process that develops both complex meaning and powerful agency through communication with audiences.

Rather than pursuing concrete evidence or collecting supporting data, Indeterminate States conceives of knowledge as an imprecise or approximate description of the real world. In a sense, this project suggests that knowledge itself is a form of theory, a projection and consistent prediction of our understanding of the world and our experience of and within it. The project emphasizes the imaginative states required to develop conceptual frameworks that enable us to no only negotiate daily life, but also to understand and operate coherently in a universe that is almost completely unknown and unexplained by current systems of observation and interpretation.

Like other forms of description - say, writing, coding, depicting, or modelling - art is a flexible, inventive vehicle for such an inquiry. Using historically constructed conceptual and theoretical models of knowledge, direct and indirect observational strategies, tangible physical materials, and technical practices to generate forms and images that are driven by imagination, in concert with compelling or arresting psychological and visceral effects.

The artists included in this project, John di Stefano, Gabriella & Silvana Mangano, and Coen Young, use different forms and materials in their work, while producing somewhat similarly evocative and sometimes ethereal forms of imagery that conjure a sense of an unfixed, near intangible frame of reference. Yet this dream-like quality or the imprecise, diffused nature of the imagery is no more mysterious or no less concrete than more recognisable or more referential forms of representation and image making. In fact the oblique references to the real in this body of works may be an equally accurate description of a state of existence that is in flux and cannot be ever be entirely accurately measured, described, or represented. But rather the inferred, the implied, and the assumed construct our relationship to reality–a reality, a sense of knowing that is perpetually transitional and invisibly, unconsciously, constantly recalibrating our position.

Curator: Gary Sangster, and Associate Curators: Alia DiPaolo, Emma Fowler, and Bridget Miniatel

Photography and Place: Seeing and Not Seeing Germany After 1945

Donna West Brett (Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Culture, 2016)

As a recording device, photography plays a unique role in how we remember places and events that happened there. This includes recording events as they happen, or recording places where something occurred before the photograph was taken, commonly referred to as aftermath photography. This book presents a theoretical and historical analysis of German photography of place after 1945. It analyses how major historical ruptures in twentieth-century Germany and associated places of trauma, memory and history affected the visual field and the circumstances of looking. These ruptures are used to generate a new reading of postwar German photography of place. The analysis includes original research on world-renowned German photographers such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, Michael Schmidt, Boris Becker and Thomas Ruff as well as photographers largely unknown in the Anglophone world.


Donna West BrettComment
Enlightening Encounters: Photography in Italian Literature

Edited by Giorgia Alù and Nancy Pedri (Toronto Italian Studies University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2015)

Enlightening Encounters traces the impact of photography on Italian literature from the medium’s invention in 1839 to the present day. Investigating the ways in which Italian literature has responded to photographic practice and aesthetics, the contributors use a wide range of theoretical perspectives to examine a variety of canonical and non-canonical authors and a broad selection of literary genres, including fiction, autobiography, photo-texts, and migration literature. The first collection in English to focus on photography’s reciprocal relationship to Italian literature, Enlightening Encounters represents an important resource for a number of fields, including Italian studies, literary studies, visual studies, and cultural studies.

Donna West BrettComment
Dada, Surrealism, and Colonialism

Co-edited by Martine Antle and Katharine Conley. South Central Review (published by John Hopkins Press) Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 2015

Fourteen years later in 1960, Breton, Leiris, and other surrealists signed the “Manifesto of the 121” in support of the people of Algeria who had taken up arms against the French government in their desire to free themselves from colonization. While these political positions were undoubtedly sincere and even inspiring to those outside of France such as Aimé Césaire in Martinique and Rémy Bélance in Haïti, with whom Breton met in the 1940s, in many ways they were contradicted by of the surrealists’ enthusiasm for ceremonial objects that French colonialism and a new market for non-Western objects in the Americas made available to them, which they collected and admired as art from a perspective that could be understood today as intellectually colonializing.

Even if surrealism did not situate colonialism at the center of its assertions in the first two “Manifestoes of Surrealism,” the numerous pamphlets they circulated throughout most of the twentieth century provide the best testimony of their anti-colonial positions and remain today the most enduring testimony of this anti-colonialist mindset. Overall, the surrealists remained caught between their Marxist affiliations and the construction of a mythic Africa, the Caribbean, Oceania, and the Americas. To some extent, they were more concerned with the exploration of exoticism than in actual research on the specificity of various colonial contexts. For despite their attraction to non-European cultures and their numerous journeys to Mexico, Egypt, Martinique, and Vietnam, for the surrealists, the appeal of far-off lands pertains more to myth than to a true knowledge of unfamiliar cultures founded upon a dialogue.

Donna West BrettComment
Beyond the Travellers Gaze: Expatriate Ladies Writing in Sicily (1848-1910)

By Giorgia Alu, Peter Lang 2008

This book offers a stimulating analysis of three non-canonical texts in different genres written by British women who lived in Sicily in the second half of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. These texts cover a series of crucial political events as well as social and cultural changes which affected the history of Sicily during the period in question, all seen through the direct and indirect experiences of the authors. The book offers a historical perspective on the late-Victorian and Edwardian representations of post-Unification Italy. At the same time the author challenges current critical literature on travel writing which tends to analyse travel texts without making substantial distinction between works written during a brief visit to a foreign country and those produced during a long-term or permanent residence.
The book adopts an interdisciplinary, comparative approach. The three texts are studied by looking at patterns of connection in other written and visual works produced during, or after, an experience in Italy. By drawing on theories of travel writing, genre and gender, along with visual and cultural studies, the author aims to verify how the three texts respond to being analysed as a distinct group, and hence define the specific roles and functions of expatriate women’s writing.


Donna West BrettComment
Modernism and Masculinity

Edited by Natalya Lusty and Julian Murphet

Modernism and Masculinity investigates the varied dimensions and manifestations of masculinity in the modernist period. Thirteen essays from leading scholars reframe critical trends in modernist studies by examining distinctive features of modernist literary and cultural work through the lens of masculinity and male privilege. The volume attends to masculinity as an unstable horizon of gendered ideologies, subjectivities and representational practices, allowing for fresh interdisciplinary treatments of celebrated and lesser-known authors, artists and theorists such as D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Henry Roth, Theodor Adorno and Paul Robeson as well as modernist avant-garde movements such as vorticism, surrealism and futurism. As diverse as the masculinities that were played out across the early twentieth century, the approaches and arguments featured in this collection will appeal especially to scholars and students of modernist literature and culture, gender studies and English literature more broadly.


Donna West BrettComment