bergson and his postmodern and immanent legacies


Friday 25 February, 14.00 - 19.00 (with registration from 13.30)

Saturday, 26 February, 09.30 - 18.30 (with registration from 09.00)

Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre and Research Forum South Room

The Courtauld Institute of Art

This event is organised by The Courtauld Institute of Art in association with The London Graduate School

Bergson Paris'On écoute aux fenetres le cours de M. Bergson, Excelsior, 14 February 1914' ©. Mark Anliff, Inventing Bergson, Princeton, 1993

Speaker(s): Eric Alliez (Kingston University, London); Stella Baraklianou (University of Portsmouth); Howard Caygill (Kingston University, London); Felicity Coleman (Manchester Metropolitan University); Todd Cronan (Emory University); David Cunningham (The University of Westminster); Laura Cull (Northumbria University); James Day (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Charlotte de Mille (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Palma di Nunno (Università del Salento and Université Paris IV Sorbonne); Robin Durie (Exeter / Peninsula Medical School); Elie During (Paris Ouest, Nanterre); Adi Efal (Universität zu Köln); Jae Emerling (University of North Carolina); Caroline Fowler (Princeton University); Glafki Gotsi (University of Thessaloniki); David Hulks (University of East Anglia); Christoph Klütsch (Savannah College of Art and Design); Sarah Kolb (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna); Akos Krassoy (The Catholic University of Leuven, Institute of Philosophy); Ryan Lewis (University of Dundee); Craig Lundy (Middlesex University); John Mullarkey (Kingston University London); Ioulia Podoroga (University of Mainz); Brendan Prendeville (Goldsmiths, University of London); Wood Roberdeau (Goldsmiths, University of London); Sylwia Serafinowicz (The Courtauld Institute of Art); Corry Shores (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); Leon ter Schure (University of Groningen); Iris van der Tuin (Utrecht University); Sjoerd van Tuinen (Erasmus University, Rotterdam); Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Ticket/entry details:
£15 (£10 concessions and Courtauld staff and students), includes coffee, tea and reception. Please send a cheque made payable to ‘Courtauld Institute of Art’ to: Research Forum Events Coordinator, The Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, clearly stating that you wish to book for the ‘Bergson and His Postmodern Legacies’ conference.

For credit card bookings call 020 7848 2785/2909 (9.30 – 18.00, weekdays only). For further information, send an email to

Organised by:
Dr Charlotte de Mille (The Courtauld Institute of Art) with Prof. John Mullarkey (Kingston University) in association with The London Graduate School

In the past two decades there has been a resurgence of interest in Henri Bergson’s work in various areas of philosophy and cultural studies, in part stimulated by the growing popularity of recent writers who have addressed his thought. There is now a large critical body of material relating to these fields, especially ones connected to the neo-Bergsonism of Gilles Deleuze. This conference seeks to address the timeliness of Bergson’s writing for contemporary thought on the immanent categories of rhythmic duration, perception, affectivity, the body, memory, and intuition.

This ‘Bergsonian Turn’ also reflects larger movements. The cultural and economic chastening of society in the past year may be understood in relation to a general realisation of its unsustainability, but to what extent might a turn away from circuitous histories to the material object be related to this shift? Questioning the validity of history can arguably be understood as a defence against the unrepresentational nature of our recent past.

Concomitantly, since 1988 contemporary French thinking has been distinguished for its interest in immanence, in particular in the work of Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry, Francois Laruelle, and Michel Serres. In concluding remarks in an anthology of critical texts published in 2005, Jae Emerling likewise noted the rich potential for an immanent turn in Art History. Yet despite Emmerling’s notice, few have attempted to integrate this philosophical shift into art historical or art critical practice.

The intention of this conference is also, therefore, to stimulate reflection upon this shift in philosophy towards the Bergsonian paradigm of immanence and to encourage responses to it from art historians. Does it give a new method through which to approach the subjects of our writing? What does Deleuze’s writing on Francis Bacon, Henry’s writing on Kandinsky, or Serres’ writing on Bonnard add to art historical discourse? How do we assimilate these cross-disciplinary texts into our own practice – both in research and in teaching within the institution? What might we lose by pursuing such alternative avenues for interpretation? Lastly, what does this return to the immanent, to matter as movement, and to its affect upon the viewer say of contemporary culture more broadly?

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