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2017 Mayne Centre Lecture

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The University of Queensland Art Museum

Saint Lucia, QLD 4072

Australia

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Concrete Abstractions: Notes on Form

Sven Lütticken

The notion of form seems to belong to the more problematic heirlooms of art history. Indispensible though it may be in more popular use, it has been conceptually dethroned as the discipline has become more focused on the institutional field and the social history of art. Yet in institutional structures and social relations, art history again encounters forms; forms of life, to use Agamben’s term. Consequently, there is a growing interest in the development of a political formalism.

Form as a concept seems to oscillate between the Platonic and the Aristotelian; it can be conceived of as abstract idea, yet it will manifest itself as the concrete (in)formation of an embodied and material shape. This is what made “form” such a master signifier for much of modernity: modern thought and society are marked by the progressive becoming-concrete of the abstract; the productive operationalization of the abstract.

Today, Marx’s value-form breeds designified objects and subjects as financial, juridical and technoscientific forms of “real abstraction” are ever more fully integrated. Against this background, this lecture will address various accounts of form and of formation (a term used by Hegel) to sound out the potential and limitations of the politics of form in art and beyond.

The Mayne Centre Lecture is generously sponsored by Philip Bacon Galleries.
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The University of Queensland Art Museum

Saint Lucia, QLD 4072

Australia

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