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October 2006

After Lévi-Strauss:
Considering Structuralism’s Legacy
for Art and Cinema

Friday, 27 October 2006, 10:30am – 4:00pm
Mills Lecture Theatre, Room 209, R.C. Mills Building, Fisher Road,
The University of Sydney

Entry: Free, but booking essential by 13 October

This 1-day forum considers the engagement of art theory, criticism and film theory with Claude Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism since the 1960s. Speakers discuss responses to Lévi-Strauss’s project within a history of critical thought, the contemporary utility of concepts such as bricolage, a ‘concrete thinking through the medium of objects’, the structuralist turn of Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1970s, and forms of structuralism and the structured in American art writing. Speakers include Jadran Mimica (Anthropology), John Clark (Art History & Theory), Melissa McMahon (Philosophy), and Julian Pefanis (Art History & Theory).


Session 1: Lévi-Strauss and Structuralisms
Chair – Yao Souchou
Lévi-Strauss: An Introduction (Jadran Mimica)
Symbolic Structures: Mauss, Lévi-Strauss and Lacan (Julian Pefanis)

Session 2: Translations
Chair – Julian Pefanis
Bricolage Between Art Cultures (John Clark)
Annette Michelson’s “Art and the Structuralist Perspective” (Meredith Morse)

Session 3: Structuralisms and Cinema
Chair – Laleen Jayamanne
How do we recognise Deleuze’s structuralism? (Melissa McMahon)
Structuralism, Film, and Cahiers du Cinéma (Daniel Fairfax)


Jadran Mimica (Department of Anthropology)
Lévi-Strauss: An Introduction
This presentation provides a critical perspective on Claude Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist imagination by focussing on his key concepts: the human unconscious and symbolism as the matrix of social-cultural life-worlds.

Melissa McMahon (Department of Philosophy)
How do we recognise Deleuze's structuralism?
Deleuze's 1967 essay "How do we recognise structuralism?" is certainly recognisably Deleuzean: the author stalks structuralism like a birdwatcher in the field and then enters into an Ahab-like becoming where Deleuze becomes a structuralist and all of the structuralists become Deleuze. Perhaps the unorthodox understanding

of kinship structures on show in this essay is the place to start in examining Deleuze's relation to structuralism, as both observer and participant. A full examination would include Deleuze's fascination with totemism, perhaps especially apparent in his work with Guattari, but we will content ourselves here with locating the traits in this essay that distinguish its structuralism as specifically Deleuze's.

John Clark (Department of Art History and Theory)
Bricolage Between Art Cultures
The leitmotif of La Pensée Sauvage is the bricoleur problem, and its analysis can in art be used to look at an interpretive position for assemblages or collages. However, the understanding of cross-cultural transference of art styles and their intra-cultural transformation may also benefit from a distinction between mythology, scientific conception and their intermediate stage or domain of bricolage - concrete thinking through the medium of objects. In the case of art, this concrete thinking is frequently applied to styles themselves. It may help us understand why Fauvist and Expressionist stylistic discourses have had an appeal in Japan and elsewhere which is not a misprision, but a kind of concrete thinking through style as the bearer of a special kind of material and inter-cultural object.

Julian Pefanis (Department of Art History and Theory)
Symbolic Structures: Mauss, Lévi-Strauss and Lacan
This presentation examines how the dualism inherent in Lévi-Strauss's structuralism was complicated by Lacanian thought, giving rise to a countertradition called poststructuralism...

Daniel Fairfax (Honours, Department of Art History and Theory)
Structuralism, Film and Cahiers du Cinéma
The events of May '68 not only had a major impact on French society, but were also the cause of sweeping change in the area of film criticism and theory, in particular within the country's highest profile journal, Cahiers du Cinéma. Under the editorship of Jean Narboni and Jean-Louis Comolli, Cahiers turned towards a structuralist analysis of film and a Marxist-Leninist critique of its role in society. This talk will look at the development of this project from 1968 to the mid-1970s, and relate it to the theories of Althusser, Metz, and Lacan, and the film practice of directors such Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Marie Straub.

Meredith Morse (PhD, Department of Art History and Theory)
Annette Michelson’s “Art and the Structuralist Perspective”
In 1969, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, sponsored a lecture series titled On the Future of Art. Speakers included Herbert Marcuse, behaviourist B.F. Skinner, architect Louis I. Kahn, and art-world figures Jack Burnham, Annette Michelson, and James Seawright. Michelson contributed a lecture on Lévi-Strauss and structuralism. This paper considers Michelson’s choice of topic in terms of her thinking on Robert Morris, Yvonne Rainer, cinema, and a new critical model for Minimalist sculpture that she promulgated in essays of the same year.

Session Chairs
Yao Souchou (Department of Anthropology)
Laleen Jayamanne (Department of Art History and Theory)

Meredith Morse and Jadran Mimica

Bookings and enquiries:
Meredith Morse
Department of Art History and Theory
R.C. Mills Building
The University of Sydney NSW 2006

This forum is supported by the Power Institute Foundation for Art & Visual Culture, Department of Anthropology and the School of Literature, Art and Media, University of Sydney.