Artist workshop with Kim Schoen in cooperation with the Edith Russ Haus für Medienkunst
Nonsense raises philosophical problems from the first. In it, there is a confrontation between meaning and non-meaning.
The absurd is also born from this conflict. The absurd is not the ridiculous, and nonsense is, of course, not no sense.
Although nonsense has roots in literature and performance (the traditions of Commedia dell’arte and ‘grammelot’, Victorian
nonsense poetry, as examples), and although there are involuntary confusions between meaning and non-meaning in formal
thought disorders such as schizophasia (“word salads”), this seminar will focus specifically on intentional forms of nonsense
within the visual art and media landscape.
As a current stipend holder with the Edith Russ Haus für Medienkunst, my funded project, entitled Baragouin (named after a
French term for unintelligible jargon), is a video installation that gives voice to objects: specifically, copies of sculptures, ranging
in origin from Buddhist through rococo and neoclassical to modernist, found in a (now closed) commercial showroom in Los
Angeles. Working with the assumption that commerce creates a lingua franca, my proposal is to mount a ‘nonsense opera’ with
this cast of sculptures. I am collaborating with an art historian and voice talent who can imitate the sounds of languages from
around the world, and Baragouin will present these sculptures appearing to “speak” in relation to their originals’ provenance.
Our two weekend workshops together—in October and November, and an artist talk at the exhibition in April—will trace both a
short history of nonsense and the working process of Baragouin. There will be slide lectures on works ranging from Zaum to dada
to artists working with nonsense today; film screenings; discussions on short assigned readings; and in-class activities. Looking at
the various intentions involved in the production of nonsense will lead to further questions as to its effects and affect. These intentions
will be also considered within our current media environs, where politicians are currently employing the destabilizing effects
of ‘non-meaning’—and this will prompt a line of questioning as to how nonsense is being put into circulation today.
This seminar will challenge students with new understandings of nonsense as a practice, and provoke unconventional and
creative thinking in regards to art and language. Learning objectives: Use multi-disciplinary methods of thought and inquiry.
Methods of assessment: close reading and writing prompts, engaged in-class participation, activities and short presentations.
Kim Schoen (b. 1969, Princeton) lives and works in Los Angeles and Berlin. She received an MFA from CalArts in 2005, and a
Master of Philosophy from the photography department at The Royal College of Art in London in 2008. Her work in photography
and video installation has shown at numerous institutions and galleries worldwide including MoCA, The Los Angeles Museum of
Art (LAMOA), Richard Telles Fine Art, Young Projects, Moskowitz Bayse, LM Projects, and LAXART in Los Angeles; MMoCA
(Madison Museum of Contemporary Art); BAM, Brooklyn, NY; The South London Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery, and MOT International
in London; Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome; Museo de Arte Moderno y Contemporaneo, Spain; Archive Kabinett,
Kunstverein Springhornhof, and Kleine Humboldt Galerie in Germany. Her work was recently included in LACMA’s collection, and
has been written about in Art Forum, The Los Angeles Times, Mousse, and Art in America. Schoen has lectured widely at Otis
College of Art & Design, Goldsmiths, CCA, The Royal College of Art, and The School of Visual Arts and has published her own
writing on repetition and photography—“The Serial Attitude Redux”, “The Expansion of the Instant: Photography, Anxiety and
Infinity” in X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, as well as various experimental text works: Tolstoyevsky from Book Works, and
E.R.O.S. Press, London. Kim is also the co-founder of and co-editor of MATERIAL, a journal of writing by contemporary artists.