Art Speech: A Symposium on Symposia

Art Speech: A Symposium on Symposia

The Museum of Modern Art

May 13, 2011
Art Speech: A Symposium on Symposia

Friday, May 20 & Saturday, May 21
The Museum of Modern Art, New York



This two-day program brings together artists, art historians, scholars, critics, writers, and speech and performance studies experts to discuss possible frameworks for better understanding issues surrounding art speech, and methods for being direct and achieving clarity in spoken public presentations in the visual arts.


The spoken public presentation is central in the visual arts field, particularly in adult learning. Public program departments in museums operate according to certain conventions when presenting lectures or discussions involving artists, art historians, and/or theorists. Yet very little qualitative analysis has been conducted to assess the effectiveness of such presentations, and often they are judged impenetrable or obscure. What is communicated in writing cannot always be easily grasped when presented on stage.

Using a variety of strategies, this year’s Contemporary Art Forum will seek to anatomize art historians’ and artists’ habits at the podium. Sessions will include reenactments of famous acts of criticism, critiques of the academic slideshow, an investigation of the effects of apparently authoritative presentations, experiments in the effects of stage presence, and analyses of the academic versus the performative introduction.


This event takes place in MoMA’s Theater 3 (The Celeste Bartos Theater), mezzanine, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, 4 West 54 Street, New York.


Schedule for Friday, May 20, 1:00–5:00 p.m.
1:00–1:15 p.m.: Opening Remarks: Pablo Helguera, Director of Adult and Academic Programs, Department of Education, MoMA; James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1:15–2:30 p.m.: The Slide Talk and Museum Talk Dissected

Introduction by Pablo Helguera, followed by artist Carey Young on her recent work Speechcraft, a mass participatory event involving the public speaking club Toastmasters; Monika Szewczyk, Head of Publications at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, on modes of visual presentation; Jonathan Gilmore, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven, on the slide lecture; and a discussion and Q&A.
2:30–2:45 p.m.: Coffee break
2:45–4:00 p.m.: The Art Historical Lecture

Introduction by James Elkins, followed by a video excerpt of a lecture by T.J. Clark; a discussion of the excerpt by Claus Noppeney, Professor, Bern University of the Arts, Bern, Switzerland; an analysis of the excerpt by Ellen Levy, artist and Associate Professor, Pratt Institute, New York; and conclusions.
4:00–5:00 p.m.: Panel discussion and Q&A

Respondents: Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of Humanities, Stanford University; Benjamin Binstock, Associate Professor, Art History and Theory, Cooper Union, New York; Pablo Helguera; James Elkins


Schedule for Saturday, May 21, 9:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
9:30–10:00 a.m.: Coffee and snacks
10:00–10:15 a.m.: James Elkins discusses philosophical and rhetorical problems with art speech
10:15–11:00 a.m.: Christophe Cherix, Chief Curator, Prints and Illustrated Books, MoMA, presents a film of artist Robert Morris’s early performance work 21.3 (1964)
11:00–11:45 a.m.: Donald Preziosi, Professor of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles, deconstructs one of his previous talks, followed by a conversation with James Elkins
11:45–12:30 p.m.: Anna Kryczka, PhD candidate, Visual Studies, University of California, Irvine, talks about “Our Literal Speed,” followed by a conversation with Abbey Shane Dubin
12:30–12:45 p.m.: Coffee break
12:45–2:00 p.m.: Panel discussion and Q&A

Respondents: Charles Altieri, Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley; Alexander Alberro, Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Art History, Barnard College, Columbia University, New York; Pablo Helguera; James Elkins


Separate admission applies to each day of the symposium. Tickets for May 20 and May 21 (10 USD; members and corporate members 8 USD; students, seniors, and staff of other museums 5 USD) can be purchased online, or at the Museum at the lobby information desk and the film desk. Unsold tickets will be available for purchase at the front desk in the Cullman Education and Research Building on the day of each program.


The Contemporary Art Forum is supported by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art.


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The Museum of Modern Art
May 13, 2011

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