In Flagrante Delicto: On Some Burning Questions for Preservation

Thu, Mar 29    6:30pm

In this talk I want to look at the issue of fire and conflagration as a way of getting at some of the deadlocks and logical impasses that continue to structure the theory and practice of preservation, and their underlying aesthetic, metaphysical and ontological presuppositions. I will take as my starting point the images of conflagration in the 19th century French restorer and theorist Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s work as a starting point, and then begin to sketch out some further implications of these scenes with more recent examples drawn from art, architecture, preservation, and philosophy. The issues of fire, in its capacity to consume and preserve, to alter and remain the same, to generate and destroy, and to negotiate between the extravagant and the conservative, spirt and matter, sacred and the profane, draws out the coordinates that constitute what preservation is and can be. My point here is not to simply elucidate these deadlocks, but rather to suggest ways of looking at these examples as hyperbolic sparks of contingency that can illuminate new ways to think about the theory and practice of preservation.

Aron Vinegar is Professor of Art History in the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo, Norway. His main areas of interest and publication include: modern architecture, design, and preservation; the intersections of art history, visual studies, theory, and aesthetics; and philosophical approaches to art and architecture. These domains of inquiry are driven by two intersecting constellations of concern: habit and the ‘unthought’, and issues of suspended judgment, ontological indifference, and self-preservation. Vinegar is the author of I AM A MONUMENT: On Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), and co-author of Heidegger and the Work of Art History (Ashgate Press, 2014) and Relearning from Las Vegas (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), as well as essays, book chapters, and guest-edited journal issues. He is currently completing a book entitled, Habitations: On Habit, Art, Architecture, and Aesthetics.

Organized by Columbia GSAPP and the Historic Preservation program. Free and open to the public.

Generously supported by the Charles T. Mathews ‘1889 Lectureship Fund

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