Graham Harman: What Objects Can Do For The Arts

JCI Lecture Series in collaboration with CENES Ziegler Series Lecture. 5:30 PM

Graham Harman is the Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo, and the author of numerous books, most recently including Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy(2012) and Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism (2013).

He is closely associated with Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Philosophy, both of which represent an inquiry into the conditions of philosophy in the waning of the linguistic turn, and proceed on the basis of a rejection of the post-Kantian reduction of philosophy to a correlation between thought and being.

In an essay for last year’s Documenta (13) catalog entitled “The Third Table,” Prof. Harman argued that the arts have a special role in dealing with objects in separation from their qualities, something the natural sciences cannot afford to do since their method (the opposite one) is to reduce objects to their specific qualities. In this lecture, he will push the argument a step further by clarifying further the relation of art to object-oriented philosophy. While some commentators assume that Speculative Realist philosophy wants to remove humans from art completely (given our distaste for the central role of humans in philosophy since Kant), the true situation is a bit subtler than this. While removing humans as the ubiquitous observer from art and all other domains, the object-oriented variant of Speculative Realism require humans to be a component of the artwork. This lecture considers the consequences of this unexpected turn in the argument.

Harman’s lecture is co-sponsored with The Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies Ziegler Series Lecture.