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Discussion: Serial Narratives & Never-ending Stories

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American Folk Art Museum

2 Lincoln Square

New York, NY 10023

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In conjunction with the exhibition Vestiges & Verses: Notes from the Newfangled Epic, this evening discussion will explore the theme of narrative seriality in self-taught art, with particular focus on works in which text and language intersect in innovative ways. It will give attention to artists Henry Darger, Malcolm McKesson, A.G. Rizzoli, and Adolf Wölfli -- all of whom attempted to create magnum opus' by continuously building upon a single story. Also considering these works in relationship to narrative theory, more generally, parallels will be made between these works and comic books and the graphic novel.

The evening will begin with an introduction by exhibition curator Valérie Rousseau, followed with presentations by Lytle Shaw and W.J.T Mitchell. It will conclude with a panel discussion moderated by Choghakate Kazarian.


Choghakate Kazarian is curator at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris where she has been since 2011. She has curated several exhibitions such as Lucio Fontana, rétrospective in 2014, Henry Darger, 1892-1973 in 2015, Piero Manzoni, Achrome, in 2016, Karel Appel in 2017, and published about the same subjects. Her research interests include outsiders (real or not) such as Henry Darger and Louis Michel Eilshemius, deviant paths of modernism, and the relationship between the artist and his/her practice.

W.J.T Mitchell is Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He served as Chair of the English Department from 1988 to 1991, and has been the editor of Critical Inquiry since 1978. His work is primarily focused on the interplay of vision and language in art, literature, and media, and the subjects of his articles range from general problems in the theory of representation, to specific issues in cultural politics and political culture. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society, as well as numerous awards and grants. His books include Blake’s Composite Art (Princeton, 1977), Iconology (Chicago, 1986), Picture Theory (Chicago, 1994), The Last Dinosaur Book (Chicago, 1998), and What Do Pictures Want? (Chicago, 2005). He has edited six collections of essays, all published by University of Chicago Press: The Language of Images (1980), On Narrative (1981), The Politics of Interpretation (1983), Against Theory (1985), Art and the Public Sphere(1993), and Landscape and Power (1994, 2nd edition, enlarged with 5 new essays, 2004). His recent publications include two books: Cloning Terror: The War of Images, September 11 to Abu Ghraib (2011), and Critical Terms in Media Studies (2010; with Mark Hansen). His book, Seeing Through Race, based on the W. E. B. DuBois Lectures at Harvard, was published by Harvard University Press in 2012, and his collaborative book, Occupy: Three Essays in Disobedience, co-authored with Michael Taussig and Bernard Harcourt, published by Chicago in the spring of 2013. His newest book is Image Science: Iconology, Media Aesthetics, and Visual Culture, (Chicago, 2015). He is currently working on a book entitled Seeing Madness: Insanity, Media, and Visual Culture.

Valérie Rousseau, PhD, is Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut at the American Folk Art Museum. Since 2013, she has curated exhibitions on artists from various countries, including the AAMC Award–winning When the Curtain Never Comes Down on performance art (2015); Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die on Ronald Lockett, Melvin Way, Native American effigies, and Brazilian ex-votos (2016); Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (2015); and shows on Bill Traylor (2013) and William Van Genk (2014). The Director of Société des arts indisciplinés, Montreal, from 2001 to 2007, Rousseau built an archive on art practices emerging outside the art mainstream and organized exhibitions, notably Richard Greaves: Anarchitect (2005–07). Rousseau holds a PhD in art history and an MA in art theory, both from Université du Québec à Montréal, as well as an MA in anthropology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. She is the author of the essays “Visionary Architectures” (The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, 2013), “Revealing Art Brut” (Culture & Musées, 2010), and Vestiges de l’indiscipline (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2007).

Lytle Shaw’s books include Frank O’Hara: the Poetics of Coterie, The Moiré Effect, Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics, and the forthcoming Narrowcast: Poetry and Audio Research. Catalog essays on Robert Smithson, Gerard Byrne, Paul McCarthy, Zoe Leonard and other artists have been published by the De Hallen Museum, Dia Center, the Reina Sophia, the Drawing Center and other museums. Shaw is a contributing editor to Cabinet magazine and professor of English at New York University.


Image (Detail): Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930, Switzerland), Geographische Karte der beiden Fürstentümmer Sonoritza und Willi=Wand=West. (book 4 "From the Cradle to the Grave", page 421), 1911, Graphite and colored pencil on newspaper sheet, 39 1/4 x 28 in., Adolf Wölfli-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Photo by Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern.

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New York, NY 10023

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