Program: Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 7pm - New York book launch: Jalal Toufic, What Was I Thinking?
Lecture by the author and conversation with Walid Raad
Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 7pm          e-flux, 311 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002, USA

New York book launch: Jalal Toufic, What Was I Thinking?
Lecture by the author and conversation with Walid Raad

Jalal Toufic, What Was I Thinking? (e-flux journal-Sternberg Press, October 2017). Design: Jeff Ramsey. Cover design: Liam Gillick.

Join us at e-flux to celebrate the New York launch of Jalal Toufic’s newest book, What Was I Thinking?, published by e-flux journal and Sternberg Press (2017). The evening will feature a lecture by the author, followed by a conversation between him and the artist Walid Raad.

What is the most appropriate question to ask a thinker? Is it not: “What were you thinking?” (the title of one of my previous books). What is a common response to a thinker’s answer to that question? Is it not: “What were you thinking?”—an exclamation echoed at times by his or her own “What was I thinking?” Yes, it is not only (rare) others who ask a thinker, “What were you thinking?”; it is also the thinker who asks himself or herself, “What was I thinking?” (someone who never asks himself or herself this question is not a thinker). Why would a thinker ask himself or herself this question? He or she could ask it after undergoing memory loss as a result of attempting to think another’s/others’ thought-provoking trauma or something thought-provoking that ends up, through a series of associations, linking with a personal trauma; or coming up with an ostensibly counterintuitive rigorous concept that takes him or her aback, especially in moments of weakness, when he or she resumes being exoterically all too human—what was I thinking when I considered that the visionary is faceless; that Oedipus gave ground on his desire; that Jesus was crucified not in Jerusalem circa 30 but in Baghdad in 922; that the resurrected brother of Mary and Martha resurrected God; et cetera?
—Jalal Toufic

What Was I Thinking? is an initiation into thinking. With a mind that is extremely analytical and yet extremely capable of rendering all kinds of knowledge and experiences permeable to each other, Jalal Toufic creates here a 'summa,' but an open-ended one. He looks into the arts as if they were the privileged site of thinking, even when they inevitably fail, and still confronts his insights/thoughts with texts taken from the traditional religions and mystics of the past. He has reached in this work an Olympian attitude—tuned to his basically Dionysian temperament—that announces the beginning of a detachment, of a remarkable serenity (a joy in thinking that Nietzsche had already understood). Jalal Toufic is today, and has been for some time, the most original thinker on the planet. He assumes the challenge stated by Heidegger in What Is Called Thinking? by his own thinking (by writing this book). To imagine the best possible worlds, to go into uncharted territory; these worlds are eminently those of the arts (as he practices them, as he delves into their layers, their paradoxes, their darings, ever admitting their maddening inbuilt inaccessibility). His kind of an endeavor takes a tremendous courage. And a unique freedom: letting his mind go into unpredicted ascertainments, so that his writing ‘does not fall apart two days later.’ Situated somewhere close to the spirit of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and Nietzsche's breakthroughs, we can say that Jalal Toufic is indeed a ‘destiny.’”
—Etel Adnan 

Jalal Toufic is a thinker and a mortal to death. He was born in 1962 in Beirut or Baghdad and died before dying in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois. His books, a number of which were published by Forthcoming Books, are available for download at his website. His videos are also available for viewing online, here. He, along with artists and pretend artists, participated in the Sharjah Biennials 6, 10 and 11, the 9th Shanghai Biennale, the 3rd Athens Biennale, and the exhibition A History: Art, Architecture, and Design, from the 1980s Until Today at the Centre Pompidou.

Walid Raad is an artist and a Professor of Art in The Cooper Union (New York, USA). Raad’s works include The Atlas Group, a fifteen-year project between 1989 and 2004 about the contemporary history of Lebanon, and the ongoing projects Scratching on Things I Could Disavow and Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut). 

Jalal Toufic, What Was I Thinking?
e-flux journal-Sternberg Press, October 2017
Series editors: Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Kaye Cain-Nielsen, Stephen Squibb, Anton Vidokle
Design by Jeff Ramsey, front cover design by Liam Gillick
10.8 x 17.8 cm, 280 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-3-95679-358-5

e-book available February 2018; PDF available starting 2019 at 

Earlier in the week, on Monday, February 26, e-flux will host a double feature of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Jalal Toufic’s Vertiginous Variations on Vertigo. Please see here for more details.

For more information, contact

New York book launch: Jalal Toufic, What Was I Thinking?
Lecture by the author and conversation with Walid Raad
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Lecture by the author and conversation with Walid Raad
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