Welcome to Learning from Things


posted on 12 Nov 2012 14:11 by Elena Pinto Simon

Here's a little preview of what Michele Majer will be talking about in her upcoming trip to RISD later this week….

SALON: Proustfest part 1: Bard Graduate Center Assistant Professor of Clothing and Textiles Michele Majer on “Dress and the Dandy in Proust.”

“Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind.” This Baudelairean manifesto found nuanced expression in the work of Proust, for whom the evocative, multivalent aspect of clothing—its ambiguity in being intimately connected to but not of the body, its transformative ability to reveal, conceal, or disguise the body and the inner self, and our deeply personal, psychological relationship to what we and others wear—made it a serious object of study. Characters like the aristocratic dandy the Baron de Charlus, the cultured aesthete Charles Swann, and the supremely elegant Princesse de Guermantes are each associated with their highly distinctive styles. Majer will examine fashion’s fin de siècle moment and the ways that Proust used dress as a manifestation of his characters’ personalities and to deconstruct the meanings of their sartorial choices.

This talk is part one of the Artist/Rebel/Dandy Series, in conjunction with the Museum of Art, RISD.


Michele Majer (far lefty) with students at the Staging Fashion exhibition at the BGC, which she curated.

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election night field trip....

posted on 12 Nov 2012 13:42 by Elena Pinto Simon

A group of BGC students (Ali Baldenebro,Andrew Goodhouse,Christine Griffiths,Sophie Pitman,Nicole Pulichene, Laura Speers, and Katie Tycz did a little “research” into the material culture of New York City on Election Night.

Here they are in Times Square…..


…and they also made a stop at Rockefeller Center, for all the festivities.


When Rockefeller Center was first built, it was thought that the Plaza might serve as something like a “town green”, a gathering place…and certainly it functioned like that on Tuesday evening. NBC turned it into ‘Democracy Plaza ‘ for NBC’s election night coverage.

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november road trips....

posted on 11 Nov 2012 15:19 by Elena Pinto Simon

On Thursday 29 November, Dean Peter Miller travels to Antwerp to give an evening talk at the Rubens House on Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc.

Here is how the Rubens House website describes the lecture:

"The Southern French nobleman Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) was a well-travelled humanist, scholar and collector from Aix-en-Provence. Peiresc moved in circles that included artists and patrons. One of his dear friends was Peter Paul Rubens. He made his acquaintance in about 1620, when he was working as secretary to the court in Paris.


Peiresc and Rubens kept up an intensive correspondence that contains a mass of information on art and science. Peiresc visited Rubens’ studio in Antwerp and made very meticulous notes. In his talk, entitled The Conversation between Merchants, Makers and Scholars: The Example of Peiresc, Miller demonstrates the importance of Peiresc’s notes and the close affinity between art and science."

The talk is organised by the Rubenianum, The Institute of Art History at the University of Bern and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

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a talk with Ulrich Leben....

posted on 06 Nov 2012 12:47 by Elena Pinto Simon

EPS: Hello, Professor Leben. You have an interesting appointment. You are both a Visiting Professor, and a Special Exhibitions Curator. Can you start by talking a little about that?

It’s a very interesting position as it allows me to help the students gain “hands on” experience while they are doing their studies. They very much like to be involved in the process of exhibition-making, and follow-through well. It’s a bit challenging as you are standing on two feet and deal with two realities of one institution – the Exhibition side and the Academic side- which are not always easy to combine – but in the end it always works out.

EPS: You come to the world of material culture from a very interesting route. Can you talk about your own background and interests?

It must be in the genes. When I was a small child I built cardboard houses and furnished them , then I studied furniture making and now I am curator with one of the finest collections of French furniture in Europe and teach the history of European material culture at BGC – in a way I have been able to realize an aim – a dream – and my interest comes from deep inside myself. I am interested in this field because I want to know about the people who made these things and their social and cultural conditions in order to learn about how it happened that we are where we are.


EPS: The Hoentschel exhibition opens this spring. Update us on how the work is going.

We are fine – a lot of research has been accomplished – actually we found too much archival material- the object lists are done, the texts are in final editing – all is going ahead and the students with whom we worked on the project were actually all very involved and are still very engaged in the project. We are now working on the installation project and exhibition texts- the works of art have been conserved and look great – I am very excited to see the result of this big institutional effort and think it will bring new insights into a hidden treasure of NYC.

EPS: Tell us a little about some of your other areas of interest.

Furniture – and History of Materials – the interconnection of European cultures and the transatlantic connections with the USA since the 18th century — how it all came about, the age of enlightenment, and the age of nationalism and its results for the 20th century. Now more and more I look at world culture and people and think what we can do to exchange more, and communicate more directly. In this respect BGC is great – as you meet and communicate with students from parts of the world I still want to learn much more about!

EPS: As someone still relatively new to the BGC can you tell us how you feel about the mission of the school and gallery?

It’s a great idea and a very nice one, too, when you see what incredible good exhibitions have already been prepared by the BGC and the catalogues that go with them. It’s a very privileged institution to be able to do such big projects; they demand a lot of effort on every side. I think it’s a great learning opportunity for the students in every stage of these projects. In cooperation with Professor Deborah Krohn, we will propose a new class on Hoentschel and the upcoming exhibition for students who did not follow the exhibition class for the preparation of the upcoming show. We will see how we can involve a new group into this process which will go along with the last stages of its preparation. Hoentschel opens near the end of the spring term… another challenge, but I think we can turn this to an advantage, which will be a valuable experience for the students nevertheless, as they will be thinking about how to present the exhibition to the public.

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election day, 2012

posted on 06 Nov 2012 11:38 by Elena Pinto Simon


Election Day, November, 1884
by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, you
Powerfulest scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara – nor you, ye limitless
Prairies – nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite –nor Yellowstone, with all its
Spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
Appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon’s white cones – nor Huron’s belt of mighty
Laskes – nor Mississippi’s stream:
This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now,
I’d name – the still small voice vibrating – America’s
Choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen – the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing)


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