Research Forum / Andrew w mellon
foundation MA PROGRAMME
Andrew W Mellon Foundation/Research Forum Mellon MA 2011 - 2012 Report
Art and Psychoanalysis: Fifty Years of War in the Time of Peace, 1960-2010
The 2011-12 Mellon MA, ‘Art and Psychoanalysis: Fifty Years of War in the Time of Peace, 1960-2010’ challenged students to work across the fields of art history and psychoanalysis in researching artists’ responses to war in the ‘post-war’ era of American art. The course was co-taught throughout with Visiting Professor Juliet Mitchell, a pioneering feminist and psychoanalytic theorist who, following her retirement as Founding Director of the Centre for Gender Studies at Cambridge University, split her time this academic year between the University College London Psychoanalytic Unit, which she now directs, and The Courtauld. Professor Mitchell’s commitment to take a full part in the teaching of the MA seminar from the first meeting in the autumn through supervision of the MA dissertations enabled a close pedagogical and cross-disciplinary collaboration to develop. The course attracted an intellectually and culturally diverse group of students who worked productively as a group to generate an innovative body of research on art, psychoanalysis, and war, including, at dissertation stage, compelling pieces on contemporary artists’ representations of the female soldier; Thomas Hirschhorn’s reflections on ‘the importance of looking at destroyed human bodies’; and Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s Polish Trilogy, considered in the contemporary discourse of ‘parafiction’. A small core group of current PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, including the Mellon MA Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Monia Abdallah, a specialist in contemporary art of the Middle East, followed the seminar throughout the year and contributed significantly to its intellectual culture.
The course opened in the autumn term with seminars devoted to close reading of psychoanalytic texts complemented by curator-led exhibition visits to case-study exhibitions, including, for example, an exhibition tour and seminar with Dr Mark Godfrey on the Tate Modern Gerhard Richter exhibition, focusing in particular on Richter’s representation of war. Beginning in November, a series of public seminars with visiting speakers, including one led by the journalist, humanitarian, and photographer Ann Jones about her work with women in Afghanistan, opened the course to the larger community as a forum of interdisciplinary exchange. In the spring term, a public lecture series with contributions from Juliet Mitchell, the artists Silvia Kolbowski and Thomas Hirschhorn, and the cultural theorists Lyndsey Stonebridge and Jacqueline Rose further expanded the constituency of the collaboration and generated important new work, both by our invited speakers and our students. A particular highlight of this series was Juliet Mitchell’s own lecture on war and ‘the law of the mother’, which reflected on the notion of war as a socially legitimated form of violence. Both Silvia Kolbowski and Thomas Hirschhorn also led open seminars, in each case on the morning after the evening lecture, which proved occasions for intensive discussion of such problems as the figure of the female terrorist and the ethics of exhibiting and viewing graphic images of war’s effects. Throughout this term, the MA Option students themselves contributed seminar presentations on topics drawn from the history of artistic response to American wars from Vietnam to the present, including Martha Rosler’s Bringing the War Home series then and now, the Guerrilla Art Action Group, and Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projections as counter-monuments.
A study visit to New York in late February, in which Juliet Mitchell also took part, provided an opportunity for all of us to engage directly with contemporary artists, activists, and scholars responding to war in their own work now. Studio and gallery visits and informal discussions facilitated an expansion of the terrain of the course at that crucial stage to incorporate topics the students went on to explore in their individual research projects at dissertation stage. Many of the students identified the study visit as the pivotal experience of the course.
This group of students has excelled academically, with six of the eight achieving a Distinction for the MA and one a Merit. One will be beginning PhD studies in the history of art at Harvard in the autumn, and others have also expressed interest in pursuing advanced study. For Juliet Mitchell and me, the course has proved generative both as a cross-disciplinary dialogue extending into the future and as an exchange through which to develop our individual bodies of work. From my own perspective, the year has been transformative not only in refining and extending my thinking on psychoanalysis, art and war in connection with a current book project on feminist artistic responses to the American war in Vietnam, but also in equipping me more capably to teach and supervise research across the fields of art history and psychoanalysis in the future. I look forward to taking Juliet Mitchell up on her generous offer to remain involved with The Courtauld by continuing informally to advise doctoral students and by returning to meet next year’s seminar to share her work and experience with them. I am grateful to the Andrew W Mellon Foundation for enabling this generative and multi-dimensional collaborative project to develop.
Report on Andrew W Mellon Foundation/Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellowship (Mellon MA) 2011-2012
I have had the honour of joining The Courtauld Institute of Art as the Andrew W Mellon Foundation / Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellow (Mellon MA) in 2011-2012. This scholarship has been extremely beneficial to my professional development. Indeed, the various academic activities incumbent on my duties as well as those that I had the opportunity to join and participate in within The Courtauld Institute of Art have been very rewarding. These activities revolved essentially around three academic aspects: Teaching, Research and Academic life.
First, I have been able to improve my teaching experience with a second-year undergraduate course I had the opportunity to design and offer. This course focused on a cultural area rarely introduced in educational programmes in the history of art which is the contemporary art of the Middle East. Under the title of Contemporary Art from the Middle East: History, Practices and Representations, this course was designed to familiarize students with little-studied works in order to understand their origins (historical and theoretical) and be able to discuss them in their historical, political, sociological and economic dimensions within a globalized art scene. Offered to nine students, this course has allowed me to discover a very special teaching experience: indeed this few number of students allowed various exchanges and also the organization of visits outside The Courtauld such as a visit to the Delfina Foundation, which hosts artists from various countries in Asia and the Middle East and another visit to an annex of the Serpentine Gallery located in Edgware Road. We also had two guest- speakers: Ms. Rose Issa, an independent curator and gallerist specializing in contemporary art from the Middle East, and Ms. Sheyma Bouali, an independent art critic specializing in contemporary Arab cinema. This course also gave me the chance to supervise four assessed essays on various subjects which allowed the development and refinement of the study of works and artists introduced during the course.
Secondly, this fellowship enabled me to open up new fields of research, one of them focusing on Art and War in Contemporary Middle Eastern Art and more specifically in Iraq and Lebanon. The Mellon MA Seminar offered jointly by Professor Mignon Nixon and Professor Juliet Mitchell under the title Art and Psychoanalysis: Fifty Years of War in the Time of Peace, 1960-2010 has opened new avenues to my theoretical understanding of how I could develop an innovative and original approach to this new research. I also conducted preliminary research for an article that has been published in the catalogue of the exhibition Le corps découvert organized in Paris at the Institut du Monde Arabe in 2012.
Finally, my research interests have been enriched by the very stimulating academic and intellectual life offered by the Research Forum. Many plenary lectures (such as the ones offered by Professor Carlo Ginzburg, Dr James Cuno, Professor James Elkins) or Series of public lectures or seminars organised by Professors Nixon and Mitchell have given me the privilege to hear artists and intellectuals such as Thomas Hirschhorn who questioned his artistic practice in order "to be in conflict not against something but for something," or as Silvia Kolbowski who discussed her powerful video called A few Howls again? (2010), or as Jacqueline Rose who has revisited the work of Charlotte Salomon. The Faculty Seminars and the two occasions that I was offered to present my own research are all important moments during which the sharing of knowledge and insights was possible.
I also want to mention the Research Seminar: Modern and Contemporary for the important role that it has to acknowledge the various and fascinating research topics that occupy the PhD Students of The Courtauld Institute of Art. In addition, the work environment (the office, the Library, the facilities) has also been excellent and I also thank my co-fellows for their exchanges and friendship.
My stay at The Courtauld as the Andrew W Mellon Foundation / Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellow coincided with a rich artistic life in London for contemporary art of the Middle East with conferences and exhibitions at The British Museum, the Royal College of Art, the Serpentine Gallery, the Mosaic Foundation, the ICA and Leighton House among others.
I am now Assistant Professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal and I can only renew my gratitude to the Andrew W Mellon Foundation that allowed me to experience this unforgettable, very stimulating and unique fellowship. I would like to thank the Research Forum in the person of its Director Professor Caroline Arscott and the Director of The Courtauld Institute of Art Professor Deborah Swallow. Thank you to Professor Mignon Nixon for welcoming me as well as Professor Antony Eastmond, who was my mentor during my teaching term, and Professor Sarah Wilson for giving me such a warm welcome. Finally I would like to extend my thanks to all the academic and administrative staff as well as the students of The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Mellon MA 2010-11 report
Postdoctoral Fellowship (Mellon MA) 2010-11 report
Mellon MA 2009-10
Postdoctoral Fellowship (Mellon MA) 2009-2010 report
Mellon MA 2008-09 Aesthetic Body report
Mellon MA 2008-09 Arts in Exile report
Postdoctoral Fellowship (Mellon MA) 2008-09 report