Student Lecture Series | Goldin + Senneby: A Thorn in the Side

Friday, April 23, 2021, 6:30 - 8:30pm

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This presentation will be conducted through Zoom. Zoom account registration is required, please register in advance here.

In the winter of 1882, a starfish larvae caught by a fisherman in Messina, Sicily, found itself under a microscope with a thorn in its side. Quite literally. It was a thorn taken from a nearby tangerine tree, introduced under the skin of the starfish. Being devoid of both blood cells and a nervous system, it’s hard for us to imagine what this might have felt like for the starfish, if anything. But the thorn was soon surrounded by mobile cells much like a splinter in a finger would be on a human.

The zoologist on the other end of the microscope identified the insertion of this thorn as an intrusion, and the response in the starfish as a defense, thereby introducing the metaphor of “immunity-as-defense” into biology. And implicitly characterizing life as war by other means in a way which no previous medical theory had done. The later addition of auto-immunity, harks back on this metaphor, suggesting the autoimmune condition as being at war with oneself.

In this artist talk, Goldin+Senneby revisit this meeting of the starfish and the citrus thorn from the perspective of living with an autoimmune condition and a growing discomfort with the very language which frames such a condition. A sense that the metaphors themselves are a thorn in the side.

Goldin+Senneby is a Stockholm-based artist subject. Since 2004 their work has explored the structural correspondence between conceptual art and finance capital, drawn to its (il)logical conclusions. Recent works include a ghostwritten detective novel about an offshore company on the Bahamas (2007-2015), a magic trick for the financial markets (2016) and a proposal for an eternal employment at a train station (2026-). Currently their practice is mutating: Drawing on bodily experiences of an autoimmune disease, they are staging a fiction with an ”autoimmune tree” as the main protagonist.

Solo exhibitions include: ”Insurgency of Life”, e-flux, New York (2019); ”Standard Length of a Miracle”, Tensta konsthall, Stockholm (2016); ”M&A”, Artspace NZ, Auckland (2013); ”The Decapitation of Money”, Kadist, Paris (2010); and ”Goldin+Senneby: Headless”, The Power Plant, Toronto (2008). Their work has been included in the 11th Gwangju Biennial (2016); 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013); Manifesta 9, Genk (2012); and 28th Sao Paulo Biennial (2008). They are represented in the collections of Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

This event is free and accessible to the public. 

View the full Spring 2021 Lectures and Events List.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.