Highlights of the CCA Lecture Series: Terry Smith, Claire Fontaine and Hal Foster

8 Nov

CCA’s lecture series each week offers many public talks by prominent international artists, curators and other art professionals. I have attended several  events and was particularly excited to have the chance to attend Terry Smith’s and Claire Fontaine’s and also to join the dinners with them. 


Claire Fontaine, Julian Myers, Leigh Markopoulos,Jens Hoffmann, Terry Smith, Micki Meng, Tijana Stepanovic

Terry Smith’s new book, Thinking Contemporary Curating is the first book to offer an in-depth analysis of the international curatorial practice and the thinking that underpins it. During his lecture Mr. Smith raised such questions as “Do curators think in ways that are unique to their profession? Can curatorial thought be distinguished from the thinking processes within the myriad of closely related practices—especially art criticism, art history and art making—and from curating within other kinds of museum or display spaces, public and private?”


I imagine all of us who practice curating felt a deep resonance with his ideas about how (and if) curators can take on roles far beyond exhibition making, like writing the history of curating, creating discursive platforms and undertaking social or political activism, as well as rethinking spectatorship. Familiar questions, aren’t they?  After the lecture Mr. Smith was interviewed by Jens Hoffmann.


Another interesting talk was given by Claire Fontaine, a Paris-based artist collective together with Hal Foster, the renowned art critic and art historian. They have discussed the political impotence in the contemporary culture and the possibilities of radical protest. Jens Hoffmann also joined the discussion, as he was who invited Claire Fontaine to participate in the Capp Street Project and also to his show When Attitudes Became Form. Become Attitudes, currently on view in the Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art

Further information:


Terry Smith is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. His major research interests include global contemporary art; the histories of multiple modernities and modernisms; the history and theory of contemporaneity; and the historiography of art history and art criticism. Among Smith’s most recent publications is What is Contemporary Art? (2009), a book that examines and categorizes multiple definitions of the contemporary in art.

Claire Fontaine is a Paris-based collective artist, founded in 2004. After lifting her name from a popular brand of school notebooks, Claire Fontaine declared herself a “readymade artist” and began to elaborate a version of neo-conceptual art that often looks like other people’s work. Working in neon, video, sculpture, painting and text, her practice can be described as an ongoing interrogation of the political impotence and the crisis of singularity that seem to define contemporary art today. But if the artist herself is the subjective equivalent of a urinal or a Brillo box – as displaced, deprived of its use value, and exchangeable as the products she makes – there is always the possibility of what she calls the “human strike.” Claire Fontaine uses her freshness and youth to make herself a whatever-singularity and an existential terrorist in search of subjective emancipation. She grows up among the ruins of the notion of authorship, experimenting with collective protocols of production, détournements, and the production of various devices for the sharing of intellectual and private property.

Harold “Hal” Foster is an American art critic and historian. He was educated at Princeton University, Columbia University, and the City University of New York. He taught at Cornell University from 1991 to 1997 and has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1997. In 1998 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Foster’s criticism focuses on the role of the avant-garde within postmodernism. In 1983, he edited The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, a seminal text in postmodernism. In Recodings (1985), he promoted a vision of postmodernism that simultaneously engaged its avant-garde history and commented on contemporary society. In The Return of the Real (1996), he proposed a model of historical recurrence of the avant-garde in which each cycle would improve upon the inevitable failures of previous cycles. He views his roles as critic and historian of art…

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