Call for papers

9 juin 2010

There are many American artists, active in the second half of the twentieth century, whose practice and theory have been infuenced by philosophy, literary studies and social sciences. In this regard, several French scholars have benefited from early sustained interest. Among these are major figures such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida or Gilles Deleuze. Many thinkers whose writings have come to constitute the corpus of the so-called French Theory. The influence of this French thought in the American universities, from the mid-1970s on, notably contributing to the emergence of the Cultural studies, has been the subject of several studies, including the important and recent work by Francois Cusset. However, the reception of such a thinking in the specific field of the visual arts has not yet been the subject of systematic research, with the exception of a few and relatively dispersed studies. Among the laters are some essays by Sylvère Lotringer considering artistic practice posterior to the mid-1970s, and by Sande Cohen. Still, it turns out that some artists could gradually have access to various pieces of this corpus as soon as the second half of the 1960s, thanks to first translations, conferences, travels or the presence of one or the other author itself on the territory. Thus, this symposium intends to study the reception of this French thought in the field of the visual arts from 1965 until 1995. A year that marks the eve of a movement of critical evaluation of the influence of these authors on the American intellectual field initiated by the now famous « Sokal affair », among other events.

To understand this episode, three issues or topics can be brought to the fore.

The first one concerns the ways and means by which the dissemination of the ideas of these French authors occurred. How and by the mean of which historical events did the artists happened to get in touch with their writings ? Is it possible to define different and subsequent phases of dissemination of authors in the United-States (such as : Lévi-Strauss, Barthes ; then Foucault, Lacan, Bourdieu and Lyotard ; and finally Baudrillard, Deleuze and Derrida ; phases to be revised during the symposium) ? Did some English artists and reviews play a role in the relaying and spreading of these ideas ?

A second issue deals with the reception of the French thought among artists. For instance, is it possible to figure out the understanding the first artists could possess of structuralism and post-structuralism in the second half of 1960s ? Is it possible to define the chronological moment of a real reception ? Besides, what is also at stake are the different cultural, intellectual and even political conditions that might have provided a convenient environment or cradle for the rise of this French thought in the United-States. Or, to the contrary, what were the conditions that might have impede its reception and absorption. It will also be of interest to study which texts, which concepts and which theories, the american artists decided to retain and to use, and therefore to study the changes this thought underwent owing to these uses.

Finally, a third issue will focus on the application or use made by the artists of the lessons gained from these French authors. Through a series of case studies, covering the period of the three decades, we expect to uncover the benefits and changes experienced by visual practices thanks to the French Theory. What’s more, from a more historiographic point of view, what needs to be reassessed is the relevance of the critical use critics and art historians themselves might have made of this same thought when studying these very artistic practices.

Proposals for papers in French or English will be accepted at . Proposals are limited to 400 words.

The deadline for submissions is October 15th, 2010.

Papers should not exceed 30 minutes.

Selected participants will be notified by November 30th, 2010 at the latest.


Organizing committee

  • Anaël Lejeune (F.R.S.-F.N.R.S. – UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve)
  • Olivier Mignon (UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve)
  • Raphaël Pirenne (F.R.S.-F.N.R.S. – UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve)

Scientific committee

  • François Cusset (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre)
  • Ralph Dekoninck (UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve)
  • Thierry Lenain (ULB, Bruxelles)
  • Valérie Mavridorakis (Haute école d’art et de Design, Genève)
  • Alexander Streitberger (UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve)
  • Hilde van Gelder (KULeuven, Leuven)


  • Centre de Recherche en Théorie des Arts (CeRTA – UCLouvain)
  • Institut des Civilisations, Arts et Lettres (INCAL – UCLouvain)
  • Lieven Gevaert Centre (KULeuven – UCLouvain)

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