Dear IDSVA community,
It is my sad honor to say that my friend and longtime IDSVA faculty member Sylvère Lotringer died on Monday. He had been seriously ill for quite some time.
Even in his early years, Sylvère was known as one of Europe's leading contemporary thinkers. In the '70s he brought French theory to American shores, landing first at Columbia University. From there his extraordinary way of seeing the world spread out across the North American Continent, most effectively and certainly most famously through Semiotext(e), the journal Sylvère founded with another Columbia philosopher andIDSVA regular, John Rajchman, and distributed through MIT Press.
When Sylvère started with us atI DSVA, he and I designed the still ongoing Ethico-Aesthetics seminar, which weco-taught for several years. Those lucky enough to have participated inSylvère's Ethico-Aesthetics seminars will never forget the stunning lectures he delivered at each and every session, always with the ease and grace of the gifted thinker he surely was. The lectures ranged from interrogatives regarding Nietzche's radical thought to the question of Baudrillard's take on art, and much, much else in-between. Lotringer's ideas on Nietzche came in part from his infamous Schizo-Culture conference,1975, which in effect launched Semiotext(e) and set off an era of American thought. The lectures on Baudrillard he delivered as variations on themes first made known in Baudrillard's Conspiracy of Art, which Sylvèreedited in light of his groundbreaking interviews with Baudrillard. Along with the two-volume Schizo-Culture, Lotringer's Semiotext(e)publications of Baudrillard's The Conspiracy of Art and Forget Foucault have long been canonical mainstays in the histories of philosophy, especially as early and powerful modes of resistance to Western metaphysics. In the meantime, Sylvère's Ethico-Aesthetics lectures have taken on legendary status. Much the same can be said of Lotringer's six-hour non-stop lecture on his friend, Gilles Deleuze, delivered during one of our Paris residencies.The same goes for his unforgettable lecture on Lawrence of Arabia, whichSylvère gave during an IDSVA residency in Istanbul. The latter marked Sylvère'sreturn to Istanbul fifty years after having given a series of lectures at Istanbul University, these delivered on the heels of receiving his doctorate from the Sorbonne.
Our upcoming IDSVA newsletter will have more to say about Sylvère Lotringer. For now I will leave off with a couple of personal memories. When ten or twelve years ago I asked Tim Griffin, then editor of Art Forum, to suggest some good philosophers for IDSVA, he did not miss a beat in responding that in his viewSylvère Lotringer was the world's greatest living teacher of French philosophy and arguably France's greatest living philosopher.With that he made introductions, and from there I made Sylvère Lotringer's acquaintance for the first time, over a cup of tea in Harvard Square. We began talking about Virginia Woolf. As Sylvère spoke I soon began to realize that I was in the presence of one of the finest human beings I would ever know.
At IDSVA director Simonetta Moro's suggestion, I'm passing on an interview Jason Hoelscher(IDSVA PhD 2019) did with Sylvère, published in ArtPulse.