Present Past: Contemporary Art and the Uses of History

On October 9th at MIT, “Present Past: Contemporary Art and the Uses of History,” with Matthew Buckingham, Jaleh Mansoor, Dieter Roelstraete, Danh Vo, and moderator Tim Griffin. 

“To be historical,” wrote philosopher Paul Ricoeur, “an event must be more than a singular occurrence, a unique happening. It receives its definition from its contribution to the development of a plot.” If narrative is central to written history, what might Ricoeur’s statement mean for artistic practices that operate with historical materials, such as archives or found objects, or for artistic practices that use historical theories themselves as subject matter? What of the connection between historical and fictional narratives? In what ways can artistic practices open a space to question the status of whose narrative is being articulated? More generally, what are the articulations of the relationship between contemporary art and an interest in historical phenomena? Can current artistic practices prompt a new sense of historical time, one reflected in a relationship to the contemporary as a category of the present that is, in itself already, historical?

Comments by Joe Haldeman.