"After Midnight: Fast Forward Art History," a panel with Molly Nesbit, Hilton Als, Yasmin Ramirez, and Ann Reynolds

On the occasion of the publication of Molly Nesbit's book, Midnight: The Tempest Essays(Inventory Press, 2017), it seems appropriate to convene a panel to ask the general question that haunts its pages: what are the uses to which art history can be put? Or more precisely, how does art history actually function outside academe? 

Clearly art history need not be confined to a single narrow register; its own genealogy is full of evidence to the contrary. Unlike art criticism it sets its own scenes for the discussion of art and artists and more. There are no limits or taboos. As a consequence, art history cannot be classed as a single species of knowledge. The same might also be said of curating, but unlike curating, art history can completely disregard the question of space since everything comes to bear elsewhere, as part of an epic or a story, as matter in time. Its galaxies and quicksand have been manifestly useful. But it might be better not to speak of art history generally and instead consider the actual work of art historians.

The earliest essays in Midnight were written in the 1980s while Molly Nesbit was teaching in New York at Columbia University. There she met Hilton Als, Yasmin Ramirez, and Ann Reynolds, all of whom would take their art history forward in their own ways. The evening at e-flux will bring them back together to talk over their sense of the possibilities now. Each of the participants will present a piece of their own work-in-progress. A discussion will ensue. Non-art historians are warmly invited.

Molly Nesbit is Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Vassar College and a contributing editor of Artforum.  Her books include Atget’s Seven Albums (Yale University Press, 1992) and Their Common Sense (Black Dog, 2000). Since 2002, together with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija, she has been curating the succession of Utopia Stations, an ongoing collective book, exhibition, seminar, web, and street project. The Pragmatism in the History of Art (Periscope, 2013) is the first volume of Pre-Occupations, a series collecting her essays; the second, Midnight:  The Tempest Essays, was published in 2017 by Inventory Press. 

Hilton Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1994 and a theatre critic in 2002. Previously, he was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe
Als edited the catalogue for the 1994-95 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, and has collaborated on exhibitions with artists and performers such as Justin Bond and Celia Paul. His first book, The Women, was published in 1996. His most recent book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014, discusses various narratives of race and gender. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2017. Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

Yasmin Ramirez holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City of New York.  Born in Brooklyn, she was active in the downtown art scene of the early 1980s as a club kid and art critic for the East Village Eye. Currently an independent curator, Ramirez has collaborated on curatorial projects with The Bronx Museum, El Museo Del Barrio, The Loisaida Center, The New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Franklin Furnace, and Taller Boricua. Ramirez’s published essays include: "Mi Querido Barrio: A Virtual Tour of East Harlem Through Time" (2016); "The Young Lords Way" (2015); "The Creative Class of Color in New York" (2009); The Activist Legacy of Puerto Rican Artists in New York and the Art Heritage of Puerto Rico (2007); "Puerto Rican Light: To Allora and Calzadilla" (2006); and "Nuyorican Visionary: Jorge Soto and the evolution of an Afro-Taino aesthetic at Taller Boricua" (2005). She is currently writing a book on art movements and collectives in East Harlem.

Ann Reynolds is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her recent publications include essays on Joan Jonas, remoteness, Jack Smith, and Zoe Leonard, and a co-edited anthology entitled Political Emotions. She is the author of Robert Smithson: Learning From New Jersey and Elsewhere, which has been recently translated into French. As the Allen W. Clowes Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she is currently working on In Our Time, a history of intergenerational relationships among New York artists circa 1940–1970 that were shaped by shared, if heterogeneous, commitments to Surrealism and its legacy, primarily through a love of film.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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