Avant-Garde in the Anthropocene

Monday, March 26, 2018, 7 - 8:30pm

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Hieronymus Bosch, 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail). Museo del Prado, Madrid

Hieronymus Bosch, 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail). Museo del Prado, Madrid

Joan Retallack, a poet and essayist, appears in a free, public event as part of the Intra-Disciplinary Seminar series organized by Leslie Hewitt and Omar Berrada.

"The historical avant-garde (modernism) embraced the enigma of a cultural space-time construct (Europe) reveling in enlightenment (philosophy) and progress (technology) while producing catastrophes still unspooling. Often ignoring a present tense filled with power and resource grabs (external: colonialism; internal: racist and misogynist exploitation), the avant-garde artist enacted strategies of salvation in visionary futures. Despite the prominence of queer Moms and Pops (e.g., Gertrude Stein and John Cage) the postmodern deus ex machina—true to militarist avant-garde tropes—largely turned out to be the same-old supraheroic patriarchy. How to parse this irony or, better yet, to move on amid current anthroposcenes, anthroposcenities?"

Joan Retallack is author of The Poethical Wager, Musicage: John Cage in Conversation with Joan Retallack, Gertrude Stein: Selections, and with coeditor Juliana Spahr, Poetry & Pedagogy. She has published numerous volumes of poetry, including Errata 5uite, Afterrimages, How To Do Things With Words, Memnoir, and Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d (an Artforum Best Book of 2010) as well as numerous essays on modernist and contemporary poetics, new music, ecopoetics, feminist discourse, and poethical responses to socio-political crises. In 2014 Retallack curated a procedurally structured event at MoMA, "SUPPOSIUM 2014: Beyond Default Geometries of Attention." A volume based on that event—The Supposium: Thought Experiments & Poethical Play in Difficult Times—is forthcoming from Litmus Press this spring. Retallack is John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Professor Emerita of Humanities at Bard College.

The IDS Public Lecture Series is part of the Robert Lehman Visiting Artist Program at The Cooper Union. We are grateful for major funding and support from the Robert Lehman Foundation for the series. The IDS Public Lecture Series is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

  • 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.