When ISIS destroys cultural monuments, such as the Baal Shaamin Temple in Palmyra, it is a form of terror executed in the name of fundamentalist authenticity. This lecture addresses how current global struggles are inscribed in dueling cultural policies and ideologies: spectacular iconoclasm, on the one hand, and the universalist museum of the West on the other, whose values of multicultural cohabitation mask its own history of forcibly removing cultural properties from their sites of origin. While iconoclasm is considered regressive and anti-modern, the universal museum is ideologically tied to the very foundations of modernity. This lecture will argue that we must expand our understanding of the modern in order to encompass both of these perspectives. Only then can we begin to develop an adequate cultural response to one of the most consequential conflicts of our time.

David Joselit is Distinguished Professor in the Art History PhD Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. He has taught at the University of California, Irvine, and Yale University where he was Department Chair from 2006-09. Joselit is author of Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941 (MIT, 1998), American Art Since 1945 (Thames and Hudson, 2003), Feedback: Television Against Democracy (MIT, 2007), and After Art (Princeton University Press, 2012). He co-organized the exhibition, “Painting 2.0: Expression in the Information Age,” which opened at the Brandhorst Museum in Munich in 2015. He is an editor of the journal OCTOBER and writes regularly on contemporary art and culture.

Organized by Concordia University’s Studio Arts MFA Program, with the generous support of Miriam Roland.