Thursday Seminar / Performance: “Sorry to disturb your serenity with a super-criticism of a minor defect:” Albert C. Barnes, John Dewey, and lusus naturae in 1934


Thursday, October 26, 2023, 6:00pm to 8:00pm


I Tatti
Barnes foundation, room 14 west wall detail

Speaker: Dario Gamboni (I Tatti / University of Geneva)

When John Dewey published Art as Experience in 1934, a book dedicated to Albert C. Barnes, the collector pointed out a flaw in the philosopher’s thesis. Referring to his own experience of perceiving a “Picasso in the snow,” Barnes argued that an authentic aesthetic experience could be provided equally by “an artist of flesh and blood or the combination of the forces of nature,” while Dewey downplayed the latter phenomenon as lusus naturae. The talk will explore the links between this debate and Early Modern notions of imitation, imagination, and artistic agency. It will also explore what Barnes’s “snow Picasso” can tell us about his relationship with works of art, the way he arranged them in the Barnes Foundation, and his attitude to the development of the “ready-made.”

Dario Gamboni is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Geneva and a Honorary Fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France. His research interests include iconoclasm, visual ambiguity, aniconism, and museums created by artists and collectors. Among his books, translated into many languages, are The Destruction of Art (Reaktion, 1997), Potential Images (Reaktion, 2002), The Brush and The Pen (Minuit, 1989; Chicago, 2011), and The Museum as Experience (Brepols, 2019; Hazan, 2020; Wallstein, 2021). He is one of the editors of The Aesthetics of Marble (Hirmer, 2021).

The seminar will be followed by a performance by Dario Gamboni and Artist in Residence Johanna Weis

 Striped-Dress and Checkered-Dress
“Striped-Dress, you to whom I turn every morning, what have you done with your legs?” Making his way through the labyrinth of an untitled paper cutting without a GPS, the narrator encounters a black cat and makeshift spelunkers, then crosses the restless world of comic books in the throes of gentrification before paying homage to the goddess Gironde, aka Checkered-Dress. In Johanna Weis’s and Dario Gamboni’s four-hands artist’s book, language casts its miner’s light on the phytomorphic lace and ambiguous figures carved out of the paper by a playful scalpel. Far from exhausting the vein, it invites us to explore it further.

Show woman: Johanna Weis; reader: Dario Gamboni 

Striped-dress and checkered-dress


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