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Bergson and his Postmodern and Immanent Legacies

Posted: Monday 24 Jan 2011
by LGS 0 comments

A conference organised by The Courtauld Institute of Art in association with The London Graduate School.

Key Speakers:

Jae Emerling (University of North Carolina)

Howard Caygill (Kingston University, London)

Elie During (Paris Ouest, Nanterre)

Eric Alliez (Kingston University, London)

14.00 – 19.00, Friday 25 February 2011 (with registration from 13.30)

09.30 – 18.30, Saturday 26 February 2011 (with registration from 09.00)

Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre and Research Forum South Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0R.

In the past two decades there has been a resurgence of interest in Henri Bergson’s work in various areas of philosophy and cultural studies, in part stimulated by the growing popularity of recent writers who have addressed his thought. There is now a large critical body of material relating to these fields, especially ones connected to the neo-Bergsonism of Gilles Deleuze. This conference seeks to address the timeliness of Bergson’s writing for contemporary thought on the immanent categories of rhythmic duration, perception, affectivity, the body, memory, and intuition.

This ‘Bergsonian Turn’ also reflects larger movements. The cultural and economic chastening of society in the past year may be understood in relation to a general realisation of its unsustainability, but to what extent might a turn away from circuitous histories to the material object be related to this shift? Questioning the validity of history can arguably be understood as a defence against the unrepresentational nature of our recent past.

Concomitantly, since 1988 contemporary French thinking has been distinguished for its interest in immanence, in particular in the work of Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Henry, Francois Laruelle, and Michel Serres. In concluding remarks in an anthology of critical texts published in 2005, Jae Emerling likewise noted the rich potential for an immanent turn in Art History. Yet despite Emmerling’s notice, few have attempted to integrate this philosophical shift into art historical or art critical practice.

The intention of this conference is also, therefore, to stimulate reflection upon this shift in philosophy towards the Bergsonian paradigm of immanence and to encourage responses to it from art historians. Does it give a new method through which to approach the subjects of our writing? What does Deleuze’s writing on Francis Bacon, Henry’s writing on Kandinsky, or Serres’ writing on Bonnard add to art historical discourse? How do we assimilate these cross-disciplinary texts into our own practice – both in research and in teaching within the institution? What might we lose by pursuing such alternative avenues for interpretation? Lastly, what does this return to the immanent, to matter as movement, and to its affect upon the viewer say of contemporary culture more broadly?

Conference Webpage:


Ticket/entry details: £15 (£10 concessions and Courtauld staff and students), includes coffee, tea and reception. Please send a cheque made payable to ‘Courtauld Institute of Art’ to: Research Forum Events Coordinator, The Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN, clearly stating that you wish to book for the ‘Bergson and His Postmodern Legacies’ conference. For credit card bookings call 020 7848 2785. For further information, send an email to

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