Pierre d'Alancaisez

I interview authors of new books in art, critical theory, creative industry studies, and philosophy for the New Books Network. Pierre d’Alancaisez is a curator and critic. He investigates interdisciplinary knowledge exchange and the relationship between artists’ access to non-arts skills and the impacts of artistic practices. For a decade, Pierre was the director of Waterside Contemporary in London. He has also been a cultural strategist in higher education and the charity sector, a publisher, a scientist, and a financial services professional.

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David Swift: The Identity Myth
David Swift: The Identity Myth
In conversations about polarised political issues, phrases like ‘it’s not about race, it’s about class’ have become the perfect way to induce a stalemate. It seems as though the traditional, materialist critique of inequal ity has been supplanted by fast-evolving set of reflections of group identity. Mainstream politics makes fast and loose assumptions about the relationship between class and identity, and between economic conditions and culture. These assumptions are a key contributor to the culture wars. In The Identity Myth, David Swift covers the four different kinds of identity most susceptible to rhetorical and cultural manipulation – class, race, sex, and age. He considers how the boundaries of identities are policed and how diverse versions of the same identity can be deployed to different ends. Ultimately, it is not that identities are simply more ‘complex’ than they appear. Rather, there are commonalities more important to the creation of solidarity. David Swift speaks to Pierre d'Alancaisez about the crisis of class and the deceptive allure of identity politics. We talk about the divisive nature of the contested claims of identity and about strategies for regaining control of the narrative. In a powerful call to arms, Swift argues that we must unite against these identity myths and embrace our differences to beat inequality. David Swift is a historian and writer who specialises in the history and contemporary politics of the British Left. He has written on the state of the Left for The Times, Fabian Review, Progress Online, Jewish Chronicle, and The Critic. He is the author of A Left for Itself, 2019. The Emily Thornberry white van tweet story,Gordon Brown's 'bigotgate',Keir Starmer and 'beergate',Tomiwa Owolade's essay on Anglican social conservatism in London, 'rooted' in David's work,Rachel Dolezal is now an artist,San Francisco school board recall,White narcissism at a BLM protest. The Identity Myth Why We Need to Embrace Our Differences to Beat Inequality David Swift Published by Constable, 2022 ISBN 9780349135366
6d ago
1 hr 4 mins
Mike Watson: The Memeing of Mark Fisher
Through his blog K-Punk, Mark Fisher become one of the cult figures of cultural theory after the economic crash of 2008. One of Fisher's insights, widely taken up by the online memesphere, was that capitalism breeds depression. Mike Watson picks up Fisher's prognosis when the locked-down pandemic world is mired in a depression that is economic and psychological, and no doubt exacerbated by the transfer of culture and life online. In the aftermath, The Memeing of Mark Fisher revisits the Frankfurt School theorists who worked in the shadow of World War Two, during the rise of the culture industry. In examining their thoughts and drawing parallels with Fisher's Capitalist Realism, Watson aims to render the Frankfurt School as an incisive theoretical toolbox for the post-Covid digital age. Taking in the phenomena of QAnon, twitch streaming, and memes, Watson argues that the dichotomy between culture and political praxis is a false one. As more people have access to the means for theoretical and critical engagement online, he urges the online left to build a real-life cultural and political movement. Mike Watson speaks to Pierre d'Alancaisez about Mark Fisher's legacy in critical online spaces, the democracy of memes and their aesthetic warfare, the Acid Left, and how the Frankfurt School thinkers foreshadowed our current moment. Mike Watson is a theorist, critic and curator who is principally focused on the relationship between culture, new media and politics. He hosts the podcast Theorywave Nights. Can the Left Learn to Meme?Mark Fisher's K-Punk blog archiveK-Punk anthologyKnow Your Meme databaseCapitalist Realism bed meme4chanWojak memeDoomer memeThe Acid Left podcastMike's book memed by Academic Fraud The Memeing of Mark Fisher  How the Frankfurt School Foresaw Capitalist Realism and What to Do About It Mike Watson Published by Zer0Books, 2021 ISBN 9781789049336
May 10 2022
1 hr 15 mins
Georgina Adam, Nizan Shaked: The problem with museums
In the past few years, museums of contemporary art have come under a fair deal of scrutiny. Pressures from groups such as Decoloinise This Place or the oxycontin scandal have forced changes to the governance of some of the world’s best-known institutions. At the same time, the work of journalists and museum scholars has revealed that the relationships between trustees, curators, collections, and the public are often far more complex than the narratives of public benefit and private value would have us believe. Nizan Shaked’s Museums and Wealth is a critical analysis of contemporary art collections and the value form. In the United States, institutions administered by the nonprofit system have an ambiguous status as they are neither entirely private nor fully public. Among nonprofits, the museum is unique as it is the only institution where trustees tend to collect the same objects they hold in ‘public trust’ on behalf of the nation. Shaked argues that the public serves as an alibi for establishing the symbolic value of art, which sustains its monetary value and its markets. In The Rise and Rise of the Private Art Museum, Georgina Adam tracks the phenomenon of the collector’s museum in the 21st century. There are some 400 private art museums around the world, and an astonishing 70% of those devoted to contemporary art were founded in the past 20 years. Although private museums have been accused of being tax-evading vanity projects or ‘tombs for trophies’, the picture is complex and nuanced. Private museums can add greatly to the cultural life of a community, giving a platform to emerging artists, supplying educational programmes and revitalising declining or neglected regions. But their relationship with public institutions can also be problematic. Are museums purely public affairs? How do private collections serve the greater good? What happens when these missions become confused? Georgina Adam and Nizan Shaked speak to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the 500-year history and the recent rise of the private art museum and consider if even public museums are, in the end, private. Georgina Adam is a journalist specialising in the art market. She writes for the Financial Times and The Art Newspaper. She is the author of Big Bucks and The Dark Side of the Boom. Nizan Shaked is a professor of Contemporary Art History, Museum and Curatorial Studies at California State University Long Beach. She is the author of The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art. Museum SuschThe Fisher collection at SF MoMAWarren Kanders leaves the board of the Whitney ISBN 9781848223844 ISBN 9781350045767
May 2 2022
1 hr 9 mins
David Maroto: The Artist’s Novel
Apr 1 2022
1 hr 8 mins
Abigail Susik: Surrealist Sabotage
According to the definition offered by Tate on the occasion of the exhibition Surrealism Without Borders, Surrealism “aims to revolutionise human experience. It balances a rational vision of life with one that asserts the power of the unconscious and dreams.” Surrealism, therefore, produces images and artefacts that are rooted outside the real and that evade rational description. For many artists, however, the practice of Surrealist art took on an explicitly political and therefore practical dimensions. In Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work, art historian Abigail Susik argues that many Surrealists tried to transform the work of art into a form of unmanageable anti-work. Abigail Susik speaks with Pierre d’Alancaisez about what the politics of work meant to the early French Surrealists, the ambiguous labour practices of artists like Simone Breton, and the imagery of typewriters and sewing machines that permeates the work of artists such as Oscar Domínguez. She brings these questions into the present by engaging with the work of the Chicago Surrealists of the 1960s and 70s. Abigail Susik is Associate Professor of Art History at Willamette University and co-editor of Surrealism and film after 1945. Man Ray, Séance de rêve éveiillé Oscar Domínguez, Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle Surrealism Without Borders at Tate Modern Abigail’s op-eds in the Washington Post and New York Times Abigail’s forthcoming book Radical Dreams Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work Abigail Susik Published by Manchester University Press, 2021 ISBN 9781526155016
Mar 23 2022
1 hr 14 mins
Julian Stallabrass: Killing for Show
Killing for Show  Photography, War, and the Media in Vietnam and Iraq Julian Stallabrass Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2020 ISBN 9781538141809 In the autumn of 2014, the Royal Air Force released blurry video of a missile blowing up a pick-up truck that may have had a weapon attached to its flatbed. This was a lethal form of gesture politics: to send a £9-million bomber from Cyprus to Iraq and back, burning £35,000 an hour in fuel, to launch a smart missile costing £100,000 to destroy a truck or, rather, to create a video that shows it being destroyed. Some lives are ended—it is impossible to tell whose—so that the government can pretend that it taking effective action by creating a high-budget snuff movie. This is killing for show. Since the Vietnam War the way we see conflict – through film, photographs, and pixels – has had a powerful impact on the political fortunes of the campaign, and the way that war has been conducted. In this fully illustrated and passionately argued account of war imagery, Julian Stallabrass tells the story of post-war conflict, how it was recorded and remembered through its iconic photography. Through accounts of events such as My Lai massacre, the violent suppression of insurgent Fallujah, or the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, Stallabrass maps a comprehensive theoretical re-evaluation of the relationship between war, politics and visual culture. Julian Stallabrass talks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the inescapable complicity of photography and media in warfare, the technical and social evolution of images as lethal weapons, and their changing role as witnesses or propaganda documents. Julian Stallabrass is an art historian, photographer, curator, and professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Thomas Dworzak’s Taliban studio photographsDocumentary on Eugenie Goldberg’s Open Shutters of IraqExecution of Nguyễn Văn Lém, photographed by Eddie AdamsLisa BarnardJames Bridle’s DronestagramOmer Fast’s 5000 feet is the Best
Feb 25 2022
1 hr 5 mins
Keller Easterling: Medium Design
Medium Design  Knowing How to Work on the World Keller Easterling Published by Verso, 2020 ISBN 9781788739320 How do we formulate alternative approaches to the world’s unresponsive or intractable dilemmas, from climate change, to inequality, to concentrations of authoritarian power? Keller Easterling argues that the search for singular solutions is a mistake. Instead, she offers the perspective of medium design, one that considers not only separate objects, ideas and events but also the space between them. This background matrix with all its latent potentials is profoundly underexploited in a culture that is good at naming things but not so good at seeing how they connect and interact. In case studies dealing with everything from automation and migration to explosive urban growth and atmospheric changes, Medium Design looks not to new technologies for innovation but rather to sophisticated relationships between emergent and incumbent technologies. It does not try to eliminate problems but rather put them together in productive combinations. And it offers forms of activism for modulating power and temperament in organisations of all kinds. Keller Easterling speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about thinking in a world where ‘nothing works’, the paradoxical possibilities for solving concurrent problems, and the chances of winning games rigged by the Superbug. Keller Easterling is a designer, writer, and the Enid Storm Dwyer Professor of Architecture at Yale. She is the author of  Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (Verso, 2014) and numerous other books and articles. Easterling was a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Architecture and Design, and the recipient of the 2019 Blueprint Award for Critical Thinking.
Feb 9 2022
47 mins
Nina Power: What Do Men Want?Grant Tavinor: The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality
The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality Grant Tavinor Published by Routledge, 2021 ISBN 9780367619251 When philosophers have approached virtual reality, they have almost always done so through the lens of metaphysics, asking questions about the reality of virtual items and worlds, about the value of such things, and indeed, about how they may reshape our understanding of the “real” world. Grant Tavinor finds that approach to be fundamentally mistaken, and that to really account for virtual reality, we must focus on the medium and its uses, and not the hypothetical and speculative instances that are typically the focus of earlier works. He also argues that much of the cultural and metaphysical hype around virtual reality is undeserved. But this does not mean that virtual reality is illusory or uninteresting; on the contrary, it is significant for the altogether different reason that it overturns much of our understanding of how representational media can function and what we can use them to achieve. This is the first book to present an aesthetics of virtual reality media. It situates virtual reality media in terms of the philosophy of the arts, comparing them to more familiar media such as painting, film and photography. Grant Tavinor speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about some of the fundamental features of virtual reality, the implications of working in a picturing medium, as well as the challenges that VR poses to the philosophy of the arts and ethics. Grant Tavinor is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Lincoln University, New Zealand. He has published widely on the aesthetics of videogames, virtual worlds, digital media ethics, and the philosophy of technology.
Jan 20 2022
48 mins
Michael Newall: A Philosophy of the Art School
A Philosophy of the Art School Michael Newall Published by Routledge, 2021 ISBN 9781032094342 If one were to devise a motto for the art school of today, the choice between ‘you too are an artist’ and ‘abandon all hope you who enter here’ would be difficult. Despite significant changes in mainstream art education in recent decades, many anglophone art schools have not abandoned the principal tools of the masterclass or the crit that stem from some stubborn 18th-century ideas and the belief that creativity is the preserve of the artistic genius. Considering these histories can shed light on the role of the art school in the 21st century. Research on art schools has been largely occupied with the facts of particular schools and teachers. Michael Newall’s book presents a philosophical account of the underlying practices and ideas that have come to shape contemporary art school teaching in the UK, US and Europe. It analyses two models that, hidden beneath the diversity of contemporary artist training, have come to dominate art schools. The book draws on first-hand accounts of art school teaching and is deeply informed by disciplines ranging from art history and art theory to the philosophy of art, education and creativity. Michael Newall speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the masterclass and the crit, the pervasive idea of the Romantic genius, creative disagreements with Kant, and the lessons for the future that a historical perspective may offer. Michael Newall is a programme leader in art and philosophy at the University of Kent.
Jan 8 2022
1 hr 1 min
Anna Watkins Fisher: The Play in the SystemKim Charnley: Sociopolitical Aesthetics
Sociopolitical Aesthetics  Art, Crisis and Neoliberalism Kim Charnley Published by Bloomsbury, 2021 ISBN 9781350008748 Since the turn of the millennium, protests, meetings, schoolrooms, reading groups and many other social forms have been proposed as artworks or, more ambiguously, as interventions that are somewhere between art and politics. Kim Charnley’s Sociopolitical Aesthetics traces key currents of theory and practice, mapping them against the dominant experience of the last decade: crisis. Drawing upon leading artists and theorists within this field – including Hito Steyerl, Marina Vishmidt, Art & Language, Gregory Sholette, John Roberts and Dave Beech – Sociopolitical Aesthetics argues for a new interpretation of the relationship between socially-engaged art and neoliberalism. Kim Charnley explores the possibility that neoliberalism has destabilized the art system so that it is no longer able to absorb and neutralize dissent. As a result, the relationship between aesthetics and politics is experienced with fresh urgency and militancy. Kim Charnley speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the political punditry of Artist Taxi Driver and the political sloganeering of Tim Etchells, the limits of institutional sociality in the work of Tania Bruguera, the various guises of institutional critique, and what these developments owe to the conceptual art practices of the 1970s. Dr Kim Charnley is an art historian and theorist at the Open University. The works we discuss: Chunky Mark / Artist Taxi Driver on YouTube, TwitterTim Etchells, RevolutionTania Bruguera, 10,148,451 at Tate ModernMark Storor’s work with The Heart of GlassAndrea Fraser on institutionnel critiqueHito Steyerl, November, 2014, Is the Museum a Battlefield, 2013Art & Language, The Fox, 1975-76
Nov 22 2021
1 hr 10 mins
Adam Lehrer: CommunionsFuller, Weizman: Investigative Aesthetics
Investigative Aesthetics  Conflicts and Commons in the Politics of Truth Matthew Fuller Eyal Weizman Published by Verso, 2021 ISBN 9781788739085 Today, journalists, legal professionals, activists, and artists challenge the state’s monopoly on investigation and the production of narratives of truth. They probe corruption, human rights violations, environmental crimes, and technological domination. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, Bellingcat, or Forensic Architecture pore over open-source videos and satellite imagery to undertake visual investigations. This combination of diverse fields is what Fuller and Weizman call ‘investigative aesthetics’: the mobilisation of sensibilities associated with art, architecture, and other such practices in order to challenge power. Investigative Aesthetics draws on theories of knowledge, ecology and technology; evaluates the methods of citizen counter-forensics, micro-history and art. These new practices take place in the studio and the laboratory, the courtroom and the gallery, online and in the streets, as they strive towards the construction of a new common sense. Matthew Fuller and Eyal Weizman speak to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the logics behind Forensic Architecture and the evidentiary turn: the aesthetics of distributed sensing, the investigative commons, and the condition of hyperaesthesia. Matthew Fuller is a Professor of Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Media Ecologies, and with Andrew Goffey, Evil Media. Eyal Weizman is the founder and director of Forensic Architecture and Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Hollow Land, The Least of All Possible Evils, and Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability. Forensic Architecture investigation archive.Investigation: The Bombing of Rafah, 2015Investigation: The Killing of Mark Duggan, 2020ICA London exhibiiton.Investigation: Triple-Chaser, 2019Protests surrounding the Whitney Museum’s trustee Warren Kanders’ involvement with Safariland.Kanders divests from his arms production holdings. Post navigation
Oct 10 2021
1 hr 14 mins
Alana Jelinek: Between Discipline and a Hard PlaceHannah Wohl: Bound by CreativityPatricia Bickers: The Ends of Art CriticismFrans-Willem Korsten: Art as an Interface of Law and JusticeGayle Rogers: SpeculationCaroline Seymour-Jorn: Creating Spaces of Hope
Creating Spaces of Hope  Young Artists And The New Imagination In Egypt Caroline Seymour-Jorn Published by The American University in Cairo Press, 2021 ISBN 9789774169748 It is now just over a decade since protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square started Egypt’s chapter in the events of the Arab Spring. Much has been made in western criticism of art and culture’s role in the revolution, but the everyday cultural production of studio artists, graffiti artists, musicians, and writers since has attracted less attention. How have artists responded personally and artistically to the political transformation? What has social role of art been in these periods of transition and uncertainty? What are the aesthetic shifts and stylistic transformations present in the contemporary Egyptian art world? Caroline Seymour-Jorn speaks with Pierre d’Alancaisez about her many years of research in Cairo that goes beyond the current understandings of creative work solely as a form of resistance or political commentary, providing a more nuanced analysis of creative production in the Arab world. Caroline suggests that young artists like Hany Rashed or The Choir Project have turned their creative focus increasingly inward, to examine issues having to do with personal relationships, belonging and inclusion, and maintaining hope in harsh social, political and economic circumstances. Caroline Seymour-Jorn is professor of comparative literature and Arabic translation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the author of Cultural Criticism in Egyptian Women’s Writing, 2011.
Jun 26 2021
56 mins