After dinner, in early June, a graceless sow made a bed in a field in the Italian countryside. Absolutely determined, she ripped mouthfuls of grass and toddled back over to a makeshift shed, dropping the grass into something of a pile. This ritual occupied her for the evening. She was making a bed for her newborn piglets, who still seemed a bit at odds with this world, which was quite new to them. A group of IDSVA students and faculty watched this scene completely transfixed. We stumbled upon this vision during this Summer’s Spannocchia Residency. Something was marvelous about the seemingly unflinching resolve of the sow—so marvelous we found ourselves walking back to Spannocchia castle momentarily enlightened, but also quite in the dark.
Back within Feudalist architecture of the castle, this Summer’s residency welcomed an enthusiastic and talented group of first-year students, who—with the help of this year’s well-loved writing fellow, Joni Doherty—covered One-Hundred years of Art in Theory in the span of three weeks. First-year students reconsidered Manet’s ever-fluid Olympia through IDSVA president, George Smith’s, feminist explication of the painting, and questioned the relationship between Kantian aesthetics and the feudalist night in shining armor in relation to the architecture at Spannocchia.
Second-yearstudents spent their days in the old stone walls of La Fattoria, keeping company with Kant, Hegel, and of course most importantly, Professor Seth Kim-Cohen, who illuminated, punctuated, and opened the philosopher’s text—weather it be through welcoming in the Tuscan landscape to demonstrate Kant’s theory of judgment or Derrida’s notion of the parergon to critique it.
Visiting professor, Stephen Greenblatt, challenged traditional readings of Shakespeare through reexamining the beauty mark. Howard Caygill was eagerly welcomed back to Spannocchia, covering topics from the Romantic poetry and Richard Long to Situtationist film. After three weeks of late nights in the Spannocchia Library, hard work, exhaustion, delicious food, and presentations, first year students completed their Italian chapter. Second year students headed to Milan for a whirlwind two days under the expert guidance of art historian and Milanese cultural connoisseur, Sharon Hecker, considering works that ranged from da Vinci’s Last Supper to Dan Flavin’s permanent installation in Santa Maria Annunciata Church.
Assembled in Paris, both cohorts reconvened to spend, days in the city’s multitude of museums and galleries, which inspired morning discussions debating contemporary work at The Pompidou to the endless corridors of The Louvre, with time for a few pastries in between. Highlighting this Parisian immersion was a lecture by world renowned Marxist scholar Étienne Balibar and returning IDSVA guest lecturer, John Rajchman, who discussed the legacy of Poststructuralism and further, explored the meaning of the “contemporary.”
After taking in an overwhelming and inspiring amount of artworks, pages, and conversations, it struck me, there, in front of this sow— really lacking in every kind of grace—that this pig, on an absolute mission, with a total understanding of how to make this grass bed for her piglets—that she asked the question found on every wall of a museum, on every page of Kant and Hegel: How do we acquire knowledge and what is it?