ARTS & SOCIETIES
 

LETTER OF SEMINAR 17

Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po

 
 
 

appropriations




Sultan Njoya receiving homage from a vassal.
Photo: Marie-Pauline Thorbecke, 1912.


Benoît de L'Estoile
Appropriation and Reappropriation of Exotic Artefacts

Rémi Labrusse
Islamophilia ? Europe in conquest of the arts of Islam

 


Editorial Director: Laurence Bertrand Dorléac
Editorial Assistant: Elodie Antoine
Translator: David Ames Curtis

PREVIOUS LETTER

THE INFLUENCE OF THE SAINT-SIMONIANS AND THE IDEA OF ART IN THE VANGUARD OF THE SOCIAL REFORM

BODY MORALITY

DANDIES

The Model Child

THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE USEFUL

Photographs by amateurs

The market, at the start

art in the republic

the voyage of the avant-gardes

Major exhibitions

WHAT IS SOCIAL ART ?

PRIMITIVISMS

realisms

Joseph Beuys : A shaman's factory

the Artist and the philosopher




 
EDITORIAL


    
 
        “Race wars are perhaps going to start up again. Within a century, we shall see several million men kill one another other in one fell swoop. The entire East against the entirety of Europe, the Old World against the New! Why not? In another form, great collective projects like the Isthmus of Suez are perhaps rough drafts, preparations for conflicts whose monstrosity we cannot even conceive.”
        In his Correspondance, Gustave Flaubert could not avoid the mind-numbing fears of his time, a period that was avid for exoticism as well as keen for political passions caught up in the decline of the West. We now have thinkers, writers, and artists who have unconsciously fashioned the rods by which they are to be punished and, just as much, to punish themselves for a terribly awkward legacy. Obviously, the debate will not end anytime soon about the new Quai Branly Museum or in any other museum. For, we now know that every such site involves an ordering of the world in the name of the worship of art. The sole exception today seems to be those temples of culture where people still do not want to raise the problem of how one’s explicit and implicit world views are expressed in actual fact.
        Tzvetan Todorov has told us better than anyone else how crushing and oppressive the history of the discourse on the other has been. “In all times,” he writes, “men have believed that they were better than their neighbors; the only things that have changed are the vices and defects imputed to them.” In his preface, Todorov paid tribute to Edward Saïd’s seminal book on Orientalism because he felt the need to recount, finally, the interlocking fates of power and knowledge.
        We now know that Napoleon read the Orientalists before occupying Egypt. Indeed, “one of the most tangible results of this invasion was an immense amount of philological and descriptive work.” Trouble will always come from the discourse on the others. For, he who is the master on the level of speech will be, quite simply, the master of everything. Whether one speaks well or ill of the other, the very act of designating him is a sort of violence.
        Through their respective studies, books, and exhibition catalogues, Rémi Labrusse and Benoît de l’Estoile have the merit that comes not only from the richness of their scholarship but also from the newness of their thinking. Both invite us to pose in another way the question of the connections between taste, knowledge, and power. Each one reminds us, after his own fashion, in what way, aesthetic or scientific, knowledge--knowledge of any kind, anywhere and whenever, yesterday, today, or tomorrow--can be organized, instrumentalized, and debased.

Laurence Bertrand Dorléac




Letter published with the support of the Foundation of France

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