The Jean Fisher Archive Reading Group – Session 5
9 May 2023, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Part 5 in our series of reading groups led by Michelle Williams Gamaker, working through articles and objects from the archive of the late Jean Fisher (1942–2016).
Together with guest speakers, the sessions bring materials from the archive into conversation with artworks, videos, sounds and objects taking questions written by hand in the margins of Fisher’s notes as starting points.
Fisher was a critic and writer whose work often explored colonial legacies and sites of conflict including Ireland, Native America, the Black Atlantic and Palestine. She championed artists including Francis Alÿs, Sonia Boyce, James Coleman, Willie Doherty, Jimmie Durham, Edgar Heap of Birds, Susan Hiller, Tina Keane, Gabriel Orozco, Anne Tallentire and Steve McQueen. She taught widely including at Middlesex University, Byam Shaw and the Royal College of Art. Fisher had a long-standing and productive working relationship with Matt’s Gallery and our director Robin Klassnik, often writing on artists that were shown here and sometimes penning press releases for the gallery.
To join: Spaces are limited. To apply for a place please send a sentence or two (written or recorded) explaining your interest in the project to email@example.com by 5pm on Monday 1 May.
Session 5, Boxes number 3 and 9: So Different… and Yet
Tuesday 9 May 2023, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Guest speakers Michael Newman and Sophie Seita
Main reading (to be sent to participants):
From Box 3:
Jean Fisher, So Different… and Yet: 3rd Revised for Chicago
Initially commissioned 2004, revised and published in ‘Francis Alys’, London and New York: Phaidon Press, 2007, pp 109-120, Russell Ferguson (Author), Jean Fisher (Author), Cuauhtémoc Medina (Author)
James Coleman’s So Different...and Yet (1978–80) is a video work originally made to show on a monitor that would resemble a television. For the performance lecture by Jean Fisher, installations were designed, including chairs set up for an audience, as well as lights and sound speakers. Jean Fisher’s performance lecture took place in different installations at MACBA, Barcelona and Whitechapel Gallery, London in 2007 (the London version was designed by Liam Gillick). Fisher worked on the presentation with Coleman, so it was a collaboration involving decisions about clothing, gestures etc. The lecture becomes a performance in relation to the work which was projected immediately before. This raises questions about the relation of the performance lecture to the work-as-installation – is it inside or outside? How is its ‘perspective’ constructed? What does ‘interpretation’ involve, how is it enacted, and where are its limits? How is the lecturers' demeanour and gestures a part of this? How does that relate to the scenario in the video itself. And what of the audience?
Sophie Seita will introduce the format of the lecture performance, a hybrid and playful genre seated between art and academia, which questions the norms and forms of lectures. Often highly reflexive, discursive, and pedagogical, the lecture performance draws attention to the structures of how knowledge is produced, distributed, and received. It stages and costumes knowledge; makes it wearable or movable.
During this session we will be close reading a typescript of the lecture by Fisher with her performance notes.
Optional further reading:
More information about So Different...and Yet can be found on the MACBA web page here: https://www.macba.cat/en/art-artists/artists/coleman-james/so-differentand-yet-1980
Audio of the lecture can be found at the bottom of the web page.
• Jean Fisher, "Inexorable dissolve: James Coleman blindsides art". ArtForum. (MS from the Archive, published version Artforum, Dec 1993: https://www.artforum.com/print/199310/inexorable-dissolve-james-coleman-blindsides-art-33682)
• Jean Fisher, "The Place of the Spectator in the Work of James Coleman" (1983) and "The Enigma of the Hero in the Work of James Coleman" (1983) in James Coleman, ed. George Baker, October Files, MIT Press, 2003 - available on request.
• Sophie Seita, ‘Playing with Knowledge: On Lecture Performances’ TDR , Volume 66 , Issue 3 , September 2022 , pp. 78 - 95 - available on request.
Michael Newman is Professor of Art Writing at Goldsmiths. He holds degrees in English Literature and Art History, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He has published numerous essays on modern and contemporary artists, as well as thematic essays on the wound, the horizon, contingency, memory, drawing, nonsense and boredom. His writings on James Coleman include 'James Coleman', Artforum, November 1985; ‘Allegories of the Subject,' in James Coleman: Selected Works, Chicago and London: The Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago and ICA, 1985; and with Rebecca Comay, ‘Ghostly Medium: James Coleman’s Charon (MIT Project)’ in Omar Kholeif, ed., Moving Image: Documents of Contemporary Art, London and Cambridge, Mass., Whitechapel and MIT Press, 2015. In 2014 he was co-curator with Robin Klassnik of REVOLVER2 at Matt’s Gallery, which included a contribution by James Coleman. In 2021, he was the co-curator with Kate Macfarlane of the exhibition FIGURE/S: Drawing After Bellmer at The Drawing Room, London.
Sophie Seita is an artist and writer who works with language as a material across expansive writing projects, performances, lecture performances, videos, sound installations, and textiles. Upcoming projects include an exhibition at Mimosa House (Oct-Dec 2023) and a book of experimental essays, Lessons of Decal, forthcoming from the 87 Press. Sophie was a Dorothea Schlegel Artist in Residence in Berlin in 2022; and was a visiting artist at Brown University and Cornell University in April 2023. She teaches on the BA Fine Art & Art History at Goldsmiths.