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M+M Doctoral Colloquium: Erica DiBenedetto + Nathaniel Wolfson + Joseph Bedford

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Doctoral Colloquium 2015

N107, School of Architecture, 5:00pm

Erica DiBenedetto (Art & Archaeology)
Advisors: Hal Foster, Brigid Doherty
“Sol LeWitt’s Structures: ‘Being transparent and still being there’”

Nathaniel Wolfson (Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures)
Advisors: Pedro Meira Monteiro, Claudia Brodsky
“The concrete /
co-real city: Augusto de Campos’s poem cidade/city/cité
Joseph Bedford (School of Architecture)
Advisor: Lucia Allais
“Dalibor Vesely: Being Underground”


Erica DiBenedetto is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology. Her dissertation, “Drawing from Architecture: The Conceptual Methods of Sol LeWitt’s Art, 1965–1980,” examines how LeWitt approached the historical problem of art’s relationship to architecture largely through drawing. Her previous work on the artist includes the exhibition The ABCDs of Sol LeWitt (2008) and a catalogue essay for Sol LeWitt: The Well-Tempered Grid (2012), both for the Williams College Museum of Art. She is currently the McCrindle academic year intern at the Princeton University Museum of Art.

My paper considers the structures of open cubes LeWitt produced between 1965 and 1966—works often characterized in relation to architectural models and metaphors. In 1977, for example, LeWitt compared the modular structures he started making twelve years prior to buildings and other industrial forms still in construction. Each case, he suggested, is “almost like being transparent and still being there. You can see all parts of it at the same time.” This passing remark illustrates the relationship between information and system in the artist’s work, but the analogy with architectural objects also demonstrates how complicated LeWitt’s definition of a structure could be. The sense that LeWitt’s open cubes created a visual experience that could not be captured within a singular moment preoccupied his critics as early as 1966, when Mel Bochner thrilled to the seeming impossibility of describing LeWitt’s cubes as “computations of interstices, joints, lines, corners, angles” while others like Corrine Robins saw them as “a series of windows on itself, shutting out the viewer." The idea that LeWitt’s structures could somehow be betwixt and between concept and object, art and architecture is the starting point for my talk.


Nathaniel Wolfson is a PhD Candidate in the Spanish and Portuguese department at Princeton University. He received a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Brown University in 2010 and in fall 2014 was a visiting student at the Universidade de São Paulo. His dissertation, titled “Versions of the Concrete in Brazil’s Mid-Century Art” explores a genealogy of concrete art throughout 20th century Brazil, and especially the build-up of versions of “the concrete” in Brazilian art, philosophical and political discourses around the mid-century. This year he has contributed texts to the book Brasil, cultura cosmopolítica (EDUerj) and the journals Flash Art and General Fine Arts.

In this paper I will explore Augusto de Campos’s poem "cidade/city/cité," which was originally written in 1963 and has subsequently been translated various times across different media. I will address examples of its translation, including the 1975 collaboration between de Campos and the visual artist Julio Plaza. I place this work in the context of the Concrete Poetry movement’s interest in semiotics and the reception of German philosopher Max Bense’s “new aesthetics,” which was rooted in Hegel's Aesthetics and applied “information theory” to writings on international avant-garde art throughout the 1950s, and was read widely in Brazil in the late 1950s and 1960s. The poem will also be read in connection to other examples of Brazilian art-historical discussions of works in which the city is the theme, including the poet Décio Pignatari’s interpretation of Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie. I will consider the question of what remains persistently “concrete” in Augusto de Campos’s poem despite the reproducibility implicit in its conception and the radical transformations it materially undergoes across media.

Joseph Bedford is a doctoral candidate in architecture at Princeton University. He studied architecture at Cambridge University and The Cooper Union, and was a recipient of a Rome Scholarship at the British School in Rome during the year 2008-2009. His work examines the role of phenomenology in the design pedagogy of Dalibor Vesely and Joseph Rykwert at Essex University, the AA and Cambridge University (1968-1988), and through this study explores larger questions concerning the interaction between architectural pedagogy and theory in the later third of the twentieth century. Joseph is the founding editor of Attention: The Princeton Audio Journal for Architecture, and The Architecture Exchange, a platform for theoretical exchange between architecture and other fields. He has practiced, made films of, and curated exhibitions about, architecture, in both London and New York, and is the author of numerous articles published in Architecture Research Quarterly, AA Files and Log.

This paper explores the influence of Husserlian ideas about historical crisis upon architectural education in the later third of the twentieth century through the Czech architect and émigré Dalibor Vesely. It explores the way that Vesely’s formative experiences in a police state, and his studies of phenomenology with Jan Patočka in the underground seminars in Prague, imprinted themselves upon his later architectural teaching. Vesely’s pedagogy has influenced a vast family tree of architects and educators in the Anglo-American world including architects such as Daniel Libeskind, and the conceptions of history and crisis transferred to architecture through Vesely’s use of phenomenology have had extensive effects on the teaching of architecture in the last four decades. This presentation examines the origins of Vesely’s conception of historical crisis as it was born out of the context of life under a totalitarian regime, and argues that the metaphysical division of that context, between Czech traditions and the “official culture” of the regime carried over into architectural theory, continuing a discourse of “division” between the memories of architecture’s past and the seemingly “official culture” of “technological society” in the West.