Tuesday, March 08, 2011


by J J Cohen

If you live near DC -- or if you have the money to blow on a sudden train, bus, or airplane trip -- please join us for the GW MEMSI conference Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects in the Early Modern and Medieval Periods.

The complete program may be accessed here. Though registration filled and was closed a few weeks ago, all events Friday are free and welcome anyone who wishes to attend. That includes Jane Bennett's keynote Friday evening, "Powers of the Hoard: Notes on Material Agency." The talk isn't on this hoard, but rather (in her own words):
Though there are historical concepts to draw from in the history of philosophy, a distinctively contemporary vocabulary for a world of thing-power is still in the making, at least within the humanities and social sciences. In the talk, I try to add to that vocabulary, primarily by examining what hoarders -- considered as people who are preternaturally attuned to things -- have to teach us. This idiolect is directed not toward capturing the things outside of us but toward changing our own sense-perception, tuning it toward the frequencies of the thing-powers within and around our bodies. How to render the self more susceptible to the non-linguistic communicability between vibrant materials? I seek also to critically assess the theory of "thing-power" and the "agency of assemblages" that I pursued in Vibrant Matter by engaging some more trash, indeed a whole hoard.
Worth the price of admission alone. Which is, by the way, zero dollars. It's free. Please come.

1 comment:

Eileen Joy said...

I cannot wait to hear Bennett's talk. It counter-echoes in interesting ways with something Ruth Evans presented on at BABEL's first biennial meeting in Austin, Texas last November:


This talk will discuss Michael Landy's 2001 artwork Break Down (in which he destroyed all his possessions) as a way into discussing our contemporary relationship with our possessions, and how medieval discourses of possession and dispossession (e.g. Franciscanism) can be read alongside and in dialogue with later discourses, with some mutual illuminations about ourselves and objects we own.

Link to Michael Landy's exhibit:


I'm thinking again, too, of the English painter Stanley Spencer's relation to objects in his daily reclamation of discarded objects from the trash heaps in Cookham and his idea that "nothing is ever lost" and that the beautiful resided in what was most "homely."