News & Events,Spring 2017

Monday 05/15/2017


Announcing New Courses and Teachers for Fall 2017

Home Is a Foreign Place: Writing on Art, Conflict, and Estrangement
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
What does it mean to write about art in relation to conflict? This class will grapple with the difficulty, intensity, and promise of capturing the work that artists do in times and places that are deeply troubled, whether by political upheaval, economic collapse, epidemic illness, armed struggle, or outright war. Through case studies, close readings, and lively discussions, we will scrutinize the forms of writing—including the dispatch, the daybook, and the diary—that document the urgency of art in moments of extreme or slow-burning crisis, in the face of subtle or sensational violence. Drawing on the work of John Berger, Cynthia Carr, Jace Clayton, Joan Didion, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Yasmine El Rashidi, and Susan Sontag, among others, we will, in our own writing, experiment with a mix of criticism, narrative, and reportage to shake up how we look, what we see, and why we write about a thing so fragile (and magical) as art in so often brutal circumstances.

Walter Benjamin: Profane Illumination and Dialectical Image
Michael Taussig
My plan for this course is that we each create a convolute to add to Walter Benjamin’s Paris Arcades that fairly represents his philosophy and approach, but refers to something in NYC today. Essential will be the engagement with Benjamin’s predilection for trash and the telling detail whereby something from the past is set into “Benjaminian motion” such that it “leap-frogs” into the present, thus redeemed with the time of “the now.” The key theoretical problem is the meaning of the “flash” of the image that surfaces in a moment of danger, only to disappear (see “Theses on the Philosophy of History” among other Benjamin writings, especially convolutes N and K). My intention is to relate this to what I call “the mastery of non-mastery,” using Proust, shamanism, Nietzsche, Deleuze & Guattari’s notion of “imperceptible movement,” plus Bergman’s film “The Magician” and Eisenstein’s “Strike.”

Writing Art and Race
Siddhartha Mitter
This seminar will explore racial representation and confrontation in contemporary art and the issues it raises for writers and critics. We will consider how writers have responded to the rise of art that overtly challenges white supremacy from the 1960s to the present. We will examine the position of non-white critics, who face certain burdens and expectations when they address work that deals with race, and the position of white critics who seek to engage it productively. We will examine how past and recent controversies unfolded over race and representation in artworks, exhibitions, or institutions, and their outcomes in public discourse. We will take on work being made or shown now to explore how art writing can contribute to understanding race in America’s current climate. For focus and clarity, the seminar will emphasize Blackness, the African-American critical tradition, and the White gaze, but students are welcome to expand the frame in their projects.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a contributing editor for Bidoun who writes regularly for Artforum, Bookforum, and Frieze. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East and North Africa to report on the relationship between contemporary art and political upheaval, writing for newspapers, magazines, and journals including Aperture, Parkett, and The New York Times, among others. In 2007, she was a fellow in the USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Program. She won a grant from the Creative Capital Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program in 2014. She is working (very slowly) on a book about contemporary art in postwar, reconstruction-era Beirut.

Michael Taussig is the author of The Corn Wolf (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2012), What Color is the Sacred? (2009), Walter Benjamin’s Grave (2006), My Cocaine Museum (2004), Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in a Colombian Town (2003), Defacement (1999), Magic of the State (1997), Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (1993), The Nervous System (1992), Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (1987), and The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (1980), among other books. In 2016, with David Levi Strauss, Peter Lamborn Wilson, and Dilar Dirik, he edited To Dare Imagining: Rojava Revolution.

Siddhartha Mitter is a regular contributor to The Village Voice and the Boston Globe. Mitter has also had bylines in Chamber Music, Foreign Policy, The Guardian (UK), Quartz, Scroll (India), The Wire (India), and contributes to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the publications of Teachers College and Columbia University. Previous outlets for his work include Al Jazeera America, The Atlantic, BL Ink (India), Daily Beast, MTV, The National (UAE), The New Yorker, Paste, The Oxford American, Transition, as well as radio production, reporting, or guest segments for Afropop Worldwide, PRI’s The World, and WNYC New York Public Radio. Mitter was on staff as the Culture Reporter at WNYC from 2006–2009.
We are still accepting applications for the MFA program in Art Writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the Fall 2017 term. Generous departmental scholarships, as well as other forms of assistance, are available. Contact us at or (212) 592-2409 for further information or to set up an appointment. Click here to apply online