Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mick Finch's- introductions and context to 'Tableau: Painting Photo Object'. Friday 28, Saturday 29 October 2011.

Tableau: Painting Photo Object - Introductions and contexts.

Friday 28, Saturday 29 October 2011

Day1 - Morning

A motivation for staging this conference came from the experience of living and working in France; as an artist and teaching in French art schools. It quickly became obvious to me that deeply imbedded in the French vocabulary, connected to artistic practices, are a series of words that either do not strictly translate into English or are not commonly used in an Anglo Saxon context.

The most fundamental example of this is Tableau. It does not strictly refer to painting but is often used by artists in a very precise and conscious way, where as in an Anglo Saxon context, painting would most definitely be used in its place.

In the context of painting, tableau in French, is often not used casually. It is layered with nuance and has a history imbedded within it that the category of painting in English, I would say, resists.

In these terms what underlies the use of tableau in French culture is submerged in a series of histories and a discursive apparatus. Its use in French, for the most part, is apparent and obvious. The migration of tableau into English throws into question what descriptions and understandings tableau generates and the possibilities this has to transform the readings and the production of works of art.

This was the starting point for this conference. However its working title, for sometime, was Tableau, Apparatus, Dispositif (or to be exact Tableau, Appariel, Dispositif). Apparatus and dispositif have a more recent history. Apparatus arising from Louis Allthusser’s writing, dispositif from Michel Foucault’s, and most recently, Georgio Agamben has used both of these terms in his work. In French art schools, exhibitions texts and studios one hears and reads these words repeatedly. This is especially the case with dispositif that is invariably the choice of some of the more interesting French artists and is often used polemically in opposition to the use of installation as a description of a work. In many respects apparatus and dispositif resemble tableau, and particularly as forms that somehow serve a heterogeneous structure

Thus Tableau, Apparatus and Dispositif are how today has been structured. This will unfold in the morning session addressing specifically the tableau (with Jean-François Chevrier and Michael Fried’s papers), the afternoon session addressing apparatus and dispositif (respectively in Philip Armstrong’s and Claire Fontaine’s papers) and returning to tableau at the end of the day (in Michael Newman’s paper).

Day 2 of this conference (for which your tickets are valid) will be devoted to 6 research papers, which are a product of a wider process that needs describing in some detail here.

A further motivation for this conference arose from a series of pedagogical questions; I’d say a pedagogical necessity. It arose from debates that took place in a research group called Paint Club that is a network which allies all the departments across the University of the Arts London where painting nominally takes place - these being Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon and Central Saint Martins where I run the 2D pathway.

Through the valuable interaction and events staged by Paint Club I became convinced that questions of the tableau were essential to deploy pedagogically. This is as much because my department is orientated toward a wider pictorial field where painting takes place alongside, or within, a practice where photography, print media and collage are at work and where the autographic is as important as the reprographic. In an English teaching context it seemed to me that an understanding of the tableau form is essential. With Jane Lee, who is the Fine Art Programme leader at Central Saint Martins, we launched the Tableau Project.

Over the last 2 years its activities so far have been 2 research seminars comprised of 9 papers. 6 of these papers have been further developed and will be presented tomorrow by Moyra Derby, Adi Efal, Françis Gaube, Atsuhide Ito, Cédric Loire and Andrea Medjesi Jones. The international aspect of these presentations is important to note as well as the fact they are coming from doctoral, post-doc, practice based PhD and artistic backgrounds. These papers will later be published in an edition of the Journal of Visual Art Practice.

Also factored into the project was an extraordinary paper given by Steve Melville at Central Saint Martins entitled Between Image and Medium that he later developed in a paper given at the Royal Academy Schools entitled As in Nature. There was the hope that Steve would be here today but his teaching commitments in the United States makes this not possible. However, I’m hoping, that image will be the next phase of the Tableau Project and I cannot imagine he will not be involved with this.

At this point I must point out that Steve Melville, Laura Lisbon and Philip Armstrong’s As Painting project from 2001 is an essential reference for the Tableau Project. The exhibition at The Wexner Center in Ohio and the accompanying book, which for many has become an essential reference, covered the post war work of artists fundamental to these questions. The book was also a work of translation, many key texts appearing in English for the first time. I’m thinking particularly here of Jacques Lacan’s Notes on the Work of Francois Rouan the correspondence between Simon Hantaï and Georges Didi-Huberman and Christian Bonnefoi’s essay, The Objection that the Obscure Makes to Painting that is, in itself, a key text that addresses the question of the tableau form. It must also be said that the texts in As Painting by Laura, Philip and Steve themselves have served as a major reference for this project and thus it is not by chance that Philip Armstrong will be speaking this afternoon and that Laura Lisbon, presently over here from the United States as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar at Central Saint Martins, will be moderating sessions during the 2 days of this event.

The final aspect of the Tableau Project that I must speak to took place last week. When I approached Jean-François Chevrier asking he be involved in today’s event he proposed to me a plan whereby he would develop what he would have to say at the Tate, through the means of a seminar he would give to students at Central Saint Martins entitled The Tableau Form: methodology and composition. This he did with a group made up of BA, MA,Mres and PhD students. I would like to thank him publically here, not only for a remarkable 3 days, but also for one of, if not the, most lucid discussions about the tableau I have heard. As Jean-François often says c’est très compliqué and if the 2 days of the seminar devoted to the tableau form ever reach the page in English I ‘m sure it will become a standard reference text on the subject. Over the years Jean-François has published much on the tableau, in French and English, but the act of laying out these concepts and histories to an English speaking audience highlighted the need to further consolidate and document his and others thinking around these questions. So much of value occurs in migration and translation.

This event has many people that I must thank here for their support.

Firstly the faculty and administration at Central Saint Martins – Mark Dunhill, Anne Tallentire and Janet McDonnell for their continuing support and Janet particularly in terms of making Laura’s Fulbright visit happen. My fellow BA Fine Art pathway leaders, Stephen Carter, John Seth and Elizabeth Wright need to be mentioned here because this project really does come out of the School of Art at Central Saint Martins and I’m very grateful for their interest and support and being part of such an extraordinary team. I would add to this my other colleagues in 2D and particularly Mario Rossi who sadly cannot be here today and whose involvement with Paint Club has been so valuable.

Many thanks also go to the Institut Français in London for their interest and sponsorship of this event and particularly to Caroline Ferreira.

I also need to thank the core members of Paint Club Jo Bruton, Jeff Denis, Rebecca Fortnum, Dereck Harris and Dan Sturgis. As I mentioned earlier this has been a very valuable, enjoyable and a rare aspect of cross college dialogue within UAL and from within which the Tableau Project arose.

Chris Smith must also be acknowledged for the Journal of Visual Art’s support of the project in the form of the coming publication of the research papers from the 2nd day.

I have already acknowledged the As Painting team in the context of today but there are other people whose work I feel it is important to acknowledge. Conversations with and readings of the texts by the French art historian and critic Tristan Trémeau has been essential over the years. Similarly the work of Lucien Massaert, from the Académie Royale des Beaux-arts in Brussels, has to be acknowledged especially in his work associated with the journal La Part de l’Oeil. Christian Bonnefoi, Daniel Dezeuze and François Rouan needs to be noted here. The dialogue that took place particularly in the 90s with these French artists was of such value, possibly more than they realise.

I also would like to thank the students at Central Saint Martins. It is in the studio where tutor and student come together in the making and looking at art. It is a collective work and I commend them for their engagement and enthusiasm.

Thank you also to the team at Tate Modern, Sandra Sykorova and Chinami Sakai for amazing powers of organization but also to Marko Daniel. This project has been 2 years of planning and Marko’s judgements and insights have been invaluable.

Most importantly I must thank Jane Lee. I do regard that this project is as much her conception. She has not only given pragmatic support and offered such valuable advice, through out all of its stages, she has also had a clear understanding of what is at stake in this project. I’m glad to say she will be moderating tomorrow morning’s session.

And onto today’s programme. I will introduce Philip Armstrong, Claire Fontaine and Michael Newman this afternoon.

This morning we will hear papers from Michael Fried and Jean-François Chevrier. Michael Fried almost needs no introduction to many of you here. I know that for artists, at least, his extraordinary essay Art and Objecthood from 1967 continues to be of such relevance. I would also number Shape as Form as another early key text of his and yet another example of how terminology struggles in translation. Forme Comme Forme or Forme Bi-dimensionale Comme Forme highlighting what happens in migration. I seem to remember that the English title is how this essay is known in France.

The application of theatricality, fundamental to his critique of minimalism in Art and Objecthood, was again explored, alongside absorption, in his book Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot. Subsequently in Courbet’s Realism and Manet’s Modernism questions of the tableau become important. However in his book from 2008, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, the tableau form assumed a crucial position. In the chapter Jean-François Chevrier on the « Tableau Form » ; Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Luc Delahaye he not only mobilises the Tableau-Form in the service of an account of recent photography but also, interestingly, speaks of the restitution of the Tableau-Form that Jean-François Chevrier many years ago stated was what he considered the art of the 1960s and 70s was opposed to. I would just note here how this observation perhaps marks a shift in modes of spectatorship in terms of a notion of a public and also how both our speakers have entered into commentaries about Minimalism in connection with the Tableau-Form.

Michael Fried is the J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University. His most recent books are the already mentioned Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, The Moment of Caravaggio, and (just recently published) Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon. I would like to also extend my thanks to Michael Fried for his participation in this event and to also note here that today was really sparked by the role of Tableau in Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.

His paper today is entitled About the Tableau.

I have already spoken about Jean-François Chevrier. He is an art historian, critic and exhibition curator (many will know of his important involvement with Documenta X). Since 1988, he has been a professor at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris where his lectures and seminars are legendary among artists and art students. For 30 years his main centres of interest have been the exchanges between art and literature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, modern and contemporary art and the history of photography. Among his recent publications is his monograph on Jeff Wall and seven volumes of collected writings are, or to be, published by L’Arachnéen in Paris. For many years the concept of the Tableau-Form has played an important role in his thinking to the extent that he can be credited with the development and application of it as key in the understanding and the making works of art today.

His paper is entitled Inside the view. Tableau form and document.

Laura Lisbon will be moderating the feedback at the end of this session. She is a painter and Associate Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at the Tanneries and Galerie L’Agart in France. In 2001, Laura co-curated As Painting: Division and Displacement with Philip Armstrong and Steve Melville at the Wexner Center for the Arts. She is co-editor of the 2001 volume of La Part de l’Oeil on “Peinture pratique théorique.” At present she is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar at Central Saint Martins.


Welcome back to the afternoon session. This will be brief but I would like to remind remind you that the 3 papers in this session will be looking at apparatus and dispositif as well as the tableau.

The session will begin with Philip Armstrong who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University. Publications include Reticulations: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Networks of the Political , Jean-Luc Nancy, Politique et au-delà: Entretien avec Philip Armstrong and Jason Smith, and (with Laura Lisbon and Stephen Melville) As Painting: Division and Displacement.

His paper is entitled Scenes of Interpellation.

The second paper is from Claire Fontaine. She is a Paris-based collective artist that was founded in 2004. After lifting her name from a popular brand of school notebooks, Claire Fontaine declared herself a "readymade artist" and began to elaborate a version of neo-conceptual art that often looks like other people's work. Recent exhibitions include "Etrangers Partout at QDM," Nuit Blanche of 2010 in Paris and the Athens, Istanbul and Moscow Biennial all which took place in 2011. This is a whistle stop visit for. She is presently an artist in residence in New York and she has a show opening at Metro Pictures next week. A monograph on Claire Fontaine will be published by Koenig books next year.

Her paper is entitled On imageless political subjectivity.

After a tea break Michael Newman will present. He teaches at the Art lnstitute of Chicago and is also professor of art writing at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. He has written extensively on contemporary art, including the books Richard Prince: Untitled (couple) from 2006 and Jeff Wall from 2007. He has also written essays on among which are Alfred Jensen, Hanne Darboven, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Dara Birnbaum, Seth Price and Hilary Lloyd. Curatorial projects include "Tacita Dean" at the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto in 2000 and on whom he has also published three essays.

His paper is entitled Tableau and Perversion.



I chose a quote from Jean-François Chevrier’s text The Adventures of the Picture Form in the History of Photography for the call for papers for the orginal symposia and I think this needs some remarks.

He says :

The restitution of the tableau form (to which the art of the 1960s and 1970s, it will be recalled, was largely opposed) has the primary aim of restoring the distance to the object-image necessary for the confrontational experience, but implies no nostalgia for painting and no specifically “reactionary” impulse. The frontality of the picture hung on or affixed to the wall and its autonomy as an object are not sufficient as finalities. It is not a matter of elevating the photographic image to the place and rank of painting. It is about using the tableau form to reactivate a thinking based on fragments, openness and contradiction, not the utopia of a comprehensive systematic order.

The reason for the choice of this text was to open up a wider discussion and one that brings into focus a complexity of positions. The quote from Chevrier is highly layered. On the one hand it distances itself from looking at photography in terms of a hierarchy of mediums – its status as painting. On the other hand he addresses fragments, openness and contradiction as somehow being in answer to the opposition to the tableau form of the art of 1960s and 1970s which I read here as Minimalist and Concept Art practices. The question here is if the opposing position to fragments, openness and contradiction can be stated as wholeness, closure and literalism? Interestingly Chevrier is opening up a position that in turn is critical of the Minimalist paradigm resembling Fried’s critical position as laid out in Art and Objecthood. However Chevrier here is not addressing an axis upon which specific objects and painting simply stand. He seems to be calling for a more complex analysis.

My feeling here is that tableau offers ways of addressing the rhetorical qualities within a broadly pictorial field of practice. That it can mobilise an analysis grounded in complexities rather than the arguably theatrical properties of gestalt effects, unitary and primary forms. Composition seems to be at stake here. Both in Greenberg and Morris and Judd’s analysis auto, non and anti composition have increasingly become standard strategies for artists, including painters. Tableau, dispositif and apparatus imply thinking of artistic forms as compositional objects. Words such as aggregation, distribution and parataxis give the possibility of reviewing composition in artistic practice not solely as the product of automatic process and displacement of authorship, but rather as material and immanent to the rhetorical address of pictorial forms. Diderot is in the background here, absorption and theatricality is at work here behind the scenes. The constructed nature of pictorial form brings to mind Leo Steinberg’s Flat Bed Picture Plane. Collage, montage, the reprographic and the autographic are material elements with the mechaism of the tableau. Another question here seems to be one of the image. Where can it be materially said to stand in pictorial forms; how can we talk about how it operates, functions and its address.

This is a very general background, or more accurately as a starting point for the papers you will here today from Moyra Derby, Adi Efal, Françis Gaube, Atsuhide Ito, Cédric Loire and Andrea Medjesi Jones.

This morning we will hear Atsuhide Ito’s paper The Promise of Painting: Spectres of the Baroque in Contemporary Painting

Followed by Cédric Loire’s What do images do to painting, what does painting do to images?

and with Adi Efal’s Figural distinction and the plastic domain at the end of the session

Dr Atsuhide Ito studied Fine Art and Social Anthropology and completed his PhD in 2007. His PhD research project, a combination of practice of painting and photography, and a theoretical inquiry into the notion of non-place, examined Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory while comparing Adorno’s approach to Jacques Derrida’s and Niklas Luhmann’s perceptions on art. Currently he teaches Fine Art Practice at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London.

Cédric Loire is Professor of History and Theory of Arts at the École Supérieure d’Art de Clermont Métropole. He also is an

Art critic and Independant curator. He is a member of the research laboratory InTRu — Interactions, Transferts, Ruptures artistiques et culturels.

Dr. Adi Efal works at the University of Cologne before which teaching in numerous art-academies and universities throughout Israel. Her postdoctoral itinerary included the Ecole normale superieure in Paris, the Franz Rosenzweig center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, And the International research center for the sciences of culture in Vienna.

The session will be moderated by Jane Lee.

Jane is the Programme Leader Fine art, BA and Post-Graduate at Central Saint Martins where she also works in a research group Artist: academy and archive.


Welcome back. Inthis final session we will start with Andrea Medjesi Jones paper A shock to thought- Conditions of the emerging image

This will be followed by Francis Gaube ‘s paper Surface and thickness: towards a painterly space

After the tea break we will hear Moyra Derby’s paper DEPTH as BREADTH in Rotation

Andrea Medjesi-Jones is an artist with a practice in painting and drawing. She has shown her work extensively in UK, Europe and USA. Andrea is currently working on her practice based PhD in contemporary painting at Anglia Ruskin University. She teaches fine art at Bath Spa University and London Met.

Francis Gaube is a Belgian artist. He graduated from the royal academy of fine arts in Brussels in 2008. He is actually working on his PhD at the Université Catholique de Louvain with Professor Alexander Streitberger. The subject of his thesis is based on his drawing practice and on the problematic of space within modern and contemporary painting.

Moyra Derby is an artist and curator. Based in Kent she is Senior Lecturer in Painting at the University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury and Coordinator of CRATE Space in Margate. Current projects include ‘A Sort of Night to the Mind, A Kind of Night for our Thoughts: Illusion and Materiality in Painting’’ co-curated with Bob Matthews, touring to Artary Galerie in Stuttgart in November.

This session will be chaired by Laura Lisbon. For those of you not here at yesterdays session - Laura is a painter and Associate Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at the Tanneries and Galerie L’Agart in France. In 2001, Lisbon co-curated As Painting: Division and Displacement with Philip Armstrong and Stephen Melville at the Wexner Center for the Arts. She is co-editor of the 2001 volume of La Part de l’Oeil on “Peinture pratique théorique.” At present she is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar at Central Saint Martins.


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