In fall 2013, the New Museum’s Department of Education and Public Engagement initiated R&D (Research and Development) Seasons, connecting various projects in the galleries, Theater, and Resource Center around a new organizing theme each fall and spring. The inaugural R&D Season examined ARCHIVES, the Spring 2014 Season looked at considerations around VOICE, and the upcoming Fall 2014 Season will be dedicated to CHOREOGRAPHY. The seasonal, research-based approach allows artists and audiences to engage across multiple initiatives and to experiment and test the limits of ideas, connecting individual projects in active dialogues over the duration of several months.
This focus on sustained research and ideas in development stimulated the establishment of a seminar series, unique among museums, in which small groups of multidisciplinary thinkers gather to discus s pressing thematics related to art and the expanded art context over a three-month period. Entitled New Museum Seminars: (Temporary) Collections of Ideas, the series’ name directly references the Museum’s history of “collecting” ideas, rather than art objects. The goal of the Seminars is to provide a platform for discussing and debating ideas as they emerge, in real time, and to develop scholarship directly referencing art’s place in culture. Seminar participants are selected through an application process that takes into account the strengths and interests of a diverse group of thinkers and practitioners. A group of ten to twelve participants from various backgrounds (including artists, curators, critics, and scholars, but also those with specialties not directly art-related) constitute each Seminar group, along with R&D Season artists-in-residence and New Museum Education Department staff working on the topic.
The Seminars utilize some recognizable graduate-level and reading-group pedagogical strategies, such as syllabi and weekly closed, peer-led reading sessions, but are distinguished by their context within and about the contemporary art museum. To accomplish this, a topical theme—usually related to the Education Department’s Seasonal theme—is identified in advance for the open call, to which applicants respond with areas of focus they’d like to consider during the semester and a proposal for how they would lead one group session. Selected participants prioritize the direction for the semester’s study by jointly crafting a syllabus in consultation with participating New Museum staff and R&D Season artists-in-residence.
The series launched in late February of 2014 with a semester devoted to VOICE in all its valences: from inquiries into the political agency inherent (or not) in speech, to embodied practice, to the possibility that meaning is located outside language. Brought together by mutual, if not always compatible, interests in VOICE, the inaugural group of sixteen participants was made up of artists, scholars, curators, students, radio show hosts, advocates, activists, enthusiasts, and more. During the course of three months, the group put together a joint bibliography comprised of texts, artworks, and exercises that critique the dualism that has historically plagued discourse around the concept of voice. Participants met weekly to discuss this material, which included foundational poststructuralist, feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory texts alongside other fields of thought and practice, such as opera studies, communication theory, and critical animal studies, in order to pursue questions about the disembodied voice, acoustemologies, political speech, and radical forms of subjectivity.
Last Season’s semester culminated in June 2014 with an evening of discussions, performances, and lectures. The group invited four artists and writers whose practices were fundamental to the concepts explored during the semester—Daphne A. Brooks, Christine Sun Kim, Chris Mann, and Robert Sember—to present new works or ideas in progress. The day following the public event, participants engaged the invited speakers in a private roundtable, responding to the presentations
The next Seminar is tied to the upcoming R&D Season thematic, CHOREOGRAPHY. It will address the very concept of choreography and, additionally, various ways of “writing the body” will be plumbed to extend choreography’s value both inside and beyond the purview of dance. Potential lines of inquiry include the current role of dance within the art world and attendant questions relative to labor, embodiment, economy, pleasure, affect, and modes of exchange. The role of technology, new modalities of community, as well as structures of discipline and punishment may all be addressed. How does choreography allow new considerations of subjectivity, built as it is by way of negotiations between agency and oppression, complicity and refusal?
Applications for the fall semester are due on Monday, September 8. Please send a CV, a relevant work sample, a statement of interest detailing an overall directional approach to the theme (approx. 500 words), and a proposal for one session’s presentation including 3–4 objects of study (such as texts, artworks, cultural ephemera, and exercises) to: email@example.com. (You can view the “VOICE Seminar Presentations and Ongoing Bibliography” here for examples of how you might structure this section.) In your application, please indicate any sessions you are not able to attend. Regular attendance is a critical aspect of the Seminars.
Admissions will be announced by Monday, September 15, and the initial meeting will take place on Monday, September 22. Prior to this first meeting, selected participants will receive the Education Department’s research on the topic as well as the other participants’ proposals. From these materials, the group will prioritize the direction for the semester’s study by jointly crafting a syllabus in consultation with New Museum staff and R&D Season artists-in-residence Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly, who will be members of the Seminar.
From September 22 to December 15, weekly sessions will occur at the Museum on Monday evenings from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Additionally, meetings to focus solely on joint production (in a form such as a conference or publication, to be determined by the group) will take place on the first Wednesday evening of each month during the course of the Seminars.