[LECTURE] Ornament, from the Enlightenment to the present

Teaching (in French) at the HEAD (Haute École d’Art et de Design) Geneva, Philosophy of Art (February/June 2020), lecture, Bachelor “Visual Arts”, 2d year.

Ornament is a historically rich notion that overcomes the too radical oppositions between abstraction and figuration; applied and fine arts; beautiful and useful; architecture and sculpture; original and multiple, etc.

Over the course of six sessions, the course aims to combine the presentation of great thinkers of ornament – whether defenders or perpetrators – with a philosophical reflection on ornament: is it a concept, a category, a phenomenon? Is the study of ornament on the side of anthropology because it is thought to be a need or even an impulse for decoration, or rather on the side of aesthetics through an analysis of the opposition between classicism and rococo, for example, or of art history in order to understand the life of forms according to their technical and stylistic evolution over time?

The point of departure will be etymological: to recall that in “cosmetics” there is “cosmos” and that what could be placed on the side of decoration, superfluity and aesthetics, is partly related to the myths of the creation of the world (cosmology, cosmogony) and that the structuring, organizing function of the ornament for the creation of forms and images comes partly from there.

The lectures

  • Introduction: around the exhibition “Pattern, Crime & Decoration” (MAMCO Geneva/ Consortium, Dijon, 2019)
  • The Ornamentstreit (the ornament dispute) around 1800
    Ornament and industry in the 19th century (Ruskin; Morris; Arts & Crafts; Jones; Benjamin)
  • The Ornamentstreit around 1900: Gottfried Semper, Aloïs Riegl, Adolf Loos; Art Nouveau; Secession; Jugendstil
  • Ornament and abstraction in the 20th century
  • Ornament and “minor” arts (postcolonialism, feminism)