Medium specificity

16th of December 2020
Chair Dr. Flavia Loscialpo with Laura Leahy


10:00 – 10:15 and 5min Q and A

One Medium Through Another: Displacement and Criticism in October
Matthew Bowman

From its outset, the October journal positioned its art criticism as an explicit repudiation of Clement Greenberg’s influential account of medium specificity and modernism. This led to the journal focusing its energies towards developing a comprehension of postmodernism in which the “purity” of medium specificity would play no part—thereby suggesting that medium specificity itself would likewise no longer serve as a criterion for advanced art practice.

However, phrased in this way, it becomes conceivable that the terms “purity” and “medium specificity” should not be collapsed too readily into one another. Could a “impure” medium specificity, for example, be envisaged? October’s early publications such as Rosalind Krauss on the index and the expanded field as well as Craig Owens revisiting of the previously maligned concept of allegory are interpretable as attempts to rethink medium specificity as constitutively impure rather than as arguments contra medium specificity as such. In the long run, if the medium is constitutivelyimpure, then this will be a latent factor of Greenberg’s own criticism and indicates that no sharp contrast between modernism and postmodernism on that basis is possible. 

This paper will contend that October’s formative period of art criticism rethinks, instead of rejects, medium specificity. In doing so, it is argued that October does not do this according to a model of interdisciplinarity or intermedia, but rather depends on ongoing processes of displacement and translation. Finally, this paper will propose that one of the mediums displaced in and through another is art criticism itself, that the emphasis upon textuality in art practice since the 1960s discloses a transformation in their relationship in which criticism will no longer be a secondary commentary upon an artwork that precedes it. On the contrary, art and criticism becomes translations of each other. In this respect, translation/displacement is neither linear nor does it travel only in a single direction. Nor does it conclude in a synthesis that often seems the implicit telos of various models of interdisciplinarity. Instead, translation here is akin to the incessant plurality and pluralizing definitive of Jean-Luc Nancy’s writings on art, a plurality in which the act of writing itself is necessarily imbricated.

Dr Matthew Bowman lectures in fine art at the University of Suffolk and regularly writes art criticism for Art Monthly. His research focuses on twentieth century and contemporary art, criticism, and philosophy in the USA and Europe. He has authored numerous essays, such as “Shapes of Time: Melancholia, Anachronism, and De-Distancing” in Heidegger and the Work of Art History and “October’s Postmodernism” in Visual Resources. In 2018 he published “Indiscernibly Bad: The Problem of Bad Art/Good Painting” in Oxford Art Journal and in 2019 “The Intertwining—Damisch, Bois, and October’s Rethinking of Painting.” A new essay, “Art Criticism in the Contracted Field.” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism in 2021. Currently, he is finishing editing an essay collection to be published as The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing: Art Criticism and the Art Market for Bloomsbury and October and the Expanded Field of Art and Criticism for Routledge. 

10:20 – 10:35 and 5min Q and A

Table for five.
Philippine Moncomble

A discussion proposal about the stakes of translation, through the creation of a poetic translation shaped as a dialogue.


In my research project, I question myself, as an architect, about the modalities of construction of a new or original theoretical language which would find place, paradoxically, outside my own words.

How to build in the subtraction of quotations? How to inform thought in the process of doing, in doing, out of thought ? Is it possible to be an author while being all but the authors ? I question the architectonic dimension of a text, my poetic production constructs a definition of architecture through the verb.

Like a re-description – association of isolated entities with the aim to produce a new meaning – the work involved here is the construction of a dialogue between authors who have never spoken or met, and have often never been able to do so.

The articulation of the different parts forms a unique purpose : from several texts, a whole new story can emerge.
How to exceed, better : move, copy and paste ? These stories, composed with scissors, glue and a few erasures, could be foreseen as fictitious postures. As anachronistic as they are, these conversations could maybe have existed, they just appear to be another possible reality.

For this publication, I propose to show how this rewriting is a form of translation, by bringing the texts beyond, but together. To illustrate my point, I will submit you an imaginary conversation about translation as a poetic creation.

Philippine Moncomble is an french architect, graduated from the National Superior School of Architecture of Marseille (ENSA-Marseille) in 2015.  She completed her diploma with a research course about the issue of the autonomy of the architectural project, before moving on a post-master at architecture’ school of Paris-La-Villette, towards the question of effects of non-built architecture. It is on this theme that she embarked on a doctoral work to define an unbuilt architectural practice. In parallel with her research, she teaches the project at ENSA-Marseille since 2017 and she co-founded the franco-brazilian office Beleza?Beleza. 

(Main projects :  Primma Hotel, Nova Andradina, Brasil, 2018 and  U pallazinu, Lumio, France, 2019)


Philippine Moncomble est architecte, diplômée d’état de l’école nationale supérieure d’architecture de Marseille en 2015. En 2016, elle ponctue son diplôme par un parcours recherche sur la question de l’autonomie du projet architectural, avant de s’orienter, l’année suivante, en post-master à l’école
d’architecture de Paris-La-Villette, vers la question du non-ouvrage et des effets de l’architecture. C’est sur ce thème qu’elle s’engage en doctorat pour un travail de définition d’une pratique.

10:40 – 10:55 and 5min Q and A

The Plurality of Plasma: BioArt as Translation Medium
Blue Grindrod

BioArt, or art that takes biological forms and processes as its medium of choice, is increasingly becoming a tool in methods of cultural translation; working to decolonise art practices, biological arts work to translate cultural attitudes through the medium of the body, allowing for increased representations of race, gender and sexuality within a tangible and visceral art form. Arising from religious and historical practices of bodily mark-making and morphological alteration, BioArt found a foothold in popular culture through the literary work of Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, the filmic traditions of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and in recent years the art of avant-garde enfants terrible Damien Hirst, Orlan and Stelarc.

The aim of this paper is to explore the plurality of biological art practices, both historical and current, as they relate to the translation of cultural values and ideologies through the medium of the human body. Drawing on posthumanist theory, advances in biological technology and feminist and queer discourses, the paper aims to identify the impact and cultural challenges of biological art to
the dominant ideological values of the society in which it has been created, whether this be challenges to existing heteronormative structures regarding gender and sexuality or the questioning of supposed human importance in a world increasingly damaged within the age of the anthropocene. By examining the work of key and diverse figures in the field of BioArt, this paper ultimately aims to identify the ways in which artists making use of biological forms have used the medium to present challenges to culturally inscripted models of behaviour and being prescribed by homogeneous hegemonic power structures, as well as assessing the capability of the forms produced to adequately articulate these challenges as they are translated into a textural and biological product.

 Blue Grindrod is a speculative designer, multimedia artist and researcher whose work deals primarily with the aesthetics of the future human body and human cultural practices. Rooted in queer theory, mythos and post- and trans-humanist philosophy, their design ethos is one of play, of craft, of DIY biological speculation that aims to provoke and question what it means to inhabit a body. Part-performance art, part-installation, part-biology experiment gone wrong, their practice makes use of aesthetic prosthetic adornments in order to showcase new ways of being that seek to remove the inside/outside, us/them paradigms that mark the human being, as well as exploring facets of behaviour central to the human experience. Working with biomedical processes, 3D design softwares and prosthetic sculpting tools, Blue builds bodies for an alternate universe in which biotechnologies rather than electromagnetic systems are the dominant form of technological progress. 

11:00 to 11:15
This section will conclude with a discussion on the topic

back to the programme

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search