Historic Houses and the Modern Gesamtkunstwerk
The Gesamtkunstwerk – the “total artwork” conceived by the composer Richard Wagner in the mid nineteenth century – challenges traditional conceptions of modernism. A synthetic, multimedia entity, the Gesamtkunstwerk clashes with the autonomy and medium specificity extolled by such modern critics as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. Moreover, assailed by Friedrich Nietzsche in the late nineteenth century and later embraced by Adolf Hitler, Wagner and his dream of a total work of art were dealt a series of critical blows. Most devastating was the critique delivered by Theodor Adorno who excoriated the composer’s theories as little more than fascism avant la lettre. What then should we make of artists’ engagement with forms of the total artwork during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? More specifically: What is the meaning of Gesamtkunstwerk’s influence on the interiors of some well-known collector’s houses that were conceived around the same time? This paper examines adaptations of Wagner’s project in collector’s houses attending to both their aesthetic and political dimensions.
ICOM’DEMHIST: Catching the Spirit. Theatrical Assets of Historic Houses and their Approaches in Reinventing the Past. 17-20 October 2011 – Antwerp, Belgium
Living Walls Albany, NYS Museum Lecture Series, Albany, NY
Virtual Baartman: Visualizing Saartjie Baartman in Second Life
As digital technology pervasively infiltrates human consciousness by way of connectivity, sending and receiving information, and the formation of networks of all kinds – it is necessary to take into account the ways in which representation is manifest within this system and how it opens new possibilities within the spectrum of subjectivity and cultural movement. I intend to unveil the conditions by which difference, as it relates to identifying the subject such as Sarah Baartman, is reinscribed in cyberspace. My paper will analyze theories that focus on artists’ representations and subject formation in media culture along with studies on representation and subjectivity in post-colonial and social theory. I will discuss how Baartman’s body has been explored in virtual space, and how artists in the 21st century are reconfiguring her as ‘subject’ in Second Life.
David C. Driskell: The Artist as Scholar
David C. Driskell’s scope and influence as a cultural producer is reflected on a multiplicity of levels and enacted on a number of fronts within the field of art. This paper will focus on his roles as an artist, as a curator, as an educator, and as a collector intertwine within a complex and multi-faceted practice. Dirskell’s approach is the embodiment of human connectivity that performs the subversion of boundaries and contains the numerous elements that indicate his awareness of the field as a complex system. In contrast to the notion of pure form in the canon of Western Art, time and time again Driskell has challenged the canon by adding in that which is most often excluded from the ranks of art history.
The David C. Driskell Center