The Domain of the Great Bear:
“Plasticity versus Inscription:
A Change of Paradigm”

The Domain of the Great Bear:
“Plasticity versus Inscription:
A Change of Paradigm”

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm

A. Mesnel, Land Salamander, 19th century. From C. Baenitz’s Textbook of Zoology in popular representation. 2nd edition (Berlin, Germany), 1877. pg 165.

January 21, 2015
The Domain of the Great Bear:“Plasticity versus Inscription:A Change of Paradigm”

A lecture by Catherine Malabou
Monday, 26 January 2015, 16h

Royal Institute of Art/Kungl. Konsthögskolan
Flaggmansvägen 1
111 49 Stockholm

About the lecture
The notions of trace, writing and inscription have been predominant in both philosophy and art since the turn of the 1970s. Claiming that all presence always consists in its own erasure, Jacques Derrida has shown that the movement of difference, or “différance,” is what always already displaces the metaphysical understanding of subjectivity, stability, and totality. However, the most recent discoveries in cellular biology, genetics, epigenetics, and neurobiology are challenging the hermeneutical importance of this paradigm of inscription. Neural networks, stem cells, genomes, are said to operate plastically, without leaving a trace but creating a form. A new vocabulary is thus emerging: firing, assemblies, populations. In her presentation, Catherine Malabou will evaluate the impact of such discoveries on the philosophical and artistic fields. Starting with Hegel, moving through Derrida, and ending with contemporary biology, Malabou will analyze three structures—totality, dissemination and regeneration—and will discuss them using three figures: that of the phoenix, the spider, and the salamander. Each time, images and concepts will be put into dialogue.

About the speaker
Catherine Malabou is a French philosopher. She is currently professor in the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University and joins the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm in autumn 2015 as International Visiting Chair in “Philosophy in the Context of Art” (a position alternated with Peter Osborne). Malabou graduated from the École Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines (Fontenay-Saint-Cloud) and her doctorate was obtained under the supervision of Jacques Derrida from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales.

Malabou’s contention that plasticity has become a major category in philosophy, arts, psychology, neurobiology and cell biology has opened up new perspectives on the way in which subjectivity and materiality, mind and body, are interrelated, along with new relationships between philosophy, arts and biology. In different ways, Malabou has studied how these interrelated significations are determining a vision of the form that would no longer be related to presence but to temporality (The Future of Hegel), historical metamorphoses (The Heidegger Change), and a change of paradigm from the trace to neural connectivity (What Should We Do With Our Brain? and Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing).


About The Domain of the Great Bear
“Plasticity versus Inscription: A Change of Paradigm” continues in the Royal Institute of Art’s series The Domain of the Great Bear and launches the Institute’s annual Research Week (26–30 January, 2015). The Domain of the Great Bear is the research platform of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm—a series of public lectures, workshops and events focusing on art and production and the changing nature of the conditions for that production to address the challenges and aspirations for anyone claiming the category of artist. The Domain of the Great Bear serves as the Royal Institute of Art’s will as an institution to plant within the public domain a set of attitudes about art, architecture, knowledge and culture that extend from historicity forwards, and vice versa—forwards, backwards—to serve as a larger conversation piece about anything that claims itself as or beyond the art world. The Domain of the Great Bear continues throughout 2015.


About the Royal Institute of Art
The Royal Institute of Art is a leading art institution of higher education located in Stockholm that offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Arts and Architecture.


Catherine Malabou at the Royal Institute of Art Stockholm: “Plasticity versus Inscription"

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January 21, 2015

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