Jan 29th 2022

Lecture: Emanuele Coccia



Opening Saturday, January 29th, from 4PM - 5PM

On view through Sunday, January 30th

Register to attend via Zoom here.

For this virtual talk, presented in response to Laws of Confusion, philosopher Emanuele Coccia takes Lydia Ourahmane and Alex Ayed’s exhibition as an entry point to discuss aspects of his own recent work. In lively and illuminating books such Metamorphosis (2021), Coccia considers forms of life, interconnection, and transformation. “There is no opposition between the living and the non-living,” he writes. “Life is always the reincarnation of the non-living, a carnival of the telluric substance of a planet—the Earth—that continually draws new faces and new ways of being out of even the smallest particle of its disparate body.”

The talk will be live captioned on Zoom.

Emanuele Coccia is Associate Professor at EHESS in Paris and currently Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He was formerly assistant professor of history of philosophy in Freiburg, Germany. Passionate about art and botany, he is the author of Sensible Life: A Micro-Ontology of the Image (2016), The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture (2018), as well as Metamorphosis (2021), which has been translated into several languages. His latest book, Philosophy at Home, will be published by Penguin next year. In collaboration with Giorgio Agamben, he published an anthology on angels in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic contexts, Angeli: Ebraismo Cristianesimo Islam (2009). In 2019, he was a scientific advisor on the exhibition Trees at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

Photo by Enrique Martínez Bueso.


LAWS OF CONFUSION is the second collaboration of Lydia Ourahmane and Alex Ayed, whose individual practices converge in a choreography of movements. Together, they contend with ideas of displacement and the friction between personal histories and wider narratives–­–geopolitical, mystical, speculative, technological. This new exhibition hinges on interceded or interrupted communications in various forms. On a more fundamental level, the show is a culmination of a sustained, ever-evolving, and at times chaotic process—what the artists describe as an “unraveling of attempts.”

With both mythological echoes and markers of the present, LAWS OF CONFUSION brings together a constellation of elements and materials from disparate environments. Taking the surroundings of Cairo in Egypt as a starting point—clay, papyrus hay, water from the Nile River, and stones, as well as other traces captured in analog photographs —the artists investigate what these materials and objects convey from the long-dissolved knowledge of ancient civilizations. Of these initial objects, however, only a few have actually made it into the space at the Renaissance Society, for reasons varying from aesthetic to ethical concerns, or practical limitations related to the importation of organic matter across borders.

The elusive presence of unseen communications intervene in the space with nearly immaterial gestures: signal interference might relieve visitors from the overwhelming saturation of information and data that invisibly floods our surroundings. Lithium, a chemical element that participates in electrical circuits, may appear as an illegible record of conversations between the artists and a molecular engineering lab at the University of Chicago. Perhaps a subwoofer conjures the low frequencies of a sound track produced by the artists. In a room charged with intangible energies carried within and beyond objects, the space is left with a residue of failure; materials are haunted by their own potential.

Curated by Myriam Ben Salah and Karsten Lund.

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