Tuesday, 29 March 2011, 6.00pm, Room 153, Malet Street, Birkbeck, London WC1E 7HX 

How to confront tyranny?  How to maintain ethical self conduct within such a situation, in the midst of murderous dictatorship?  How to make art, to celebrate creativity amidst violence and horror?  This paper considers the changing forms of critiques in the artworks of Leon Ferrari, suggesting that his oeuvre can be read as a trace of the ways in which one’s freedom is and has been problematised, as an ethical question, over the past decades of Argentina’s changing political fortunes.  Ferrari, now in his ninetieth year is both celebrated and ridiculed, not least because of the style in which he lives his life, his aesthetics of existence, and the modes of critique he has launched through his art, most tenaciously, at the dictatorship and at the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.  A work in progress, the paper reads Ferrari’s changing responses to political contexts alongside Foucault’s changing conceptions of ethics and critique, focusing in particular on the lectures on parrhesia, or speaking the truth to power. Contrasting modes of address (and thence of ethics and of critique) such as Kantian are discussed, especially as this relates to the practice of critique as letter writing, to highlight the Ferrari’s use of language, of montage and of sculpture as critique.

Vikki Bell is Professor in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London where she convenes the taught MA programmes.  She is also an International Research Associate of the School of Humanities, University of San Martín, Buenos Aires.  Her books include Feminist Imagination: Genealogies in Feminist Thought (Sage, 1999) and Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory (Berg, 2007).  Her work has engaged with the thought of Michel Foucault over many years, as well as other theorists of power, ethics and socio-cultural processes, and she has also spoken and written extensively on feminist and socio-cultural theory.  Of late, she has also been working on socio-cultural aspects of transitional justice in Argentina and in Northern Ireland. Vikki has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Social & Legal Studies, Cultural Politics, Journal of Visual Culture and Theory, Culture & Society, where she has been editor since 1995 and where her most recent article ‘Fernando’s Photograph: The Bio-politics of Aparición in Contemporary Argentina’ was published in 2010.  Some of her articles and chapters are available free through Goldsmiths Research Online.