Jaspar Joseph-Lester


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Transmission: Host

Sheffield Hallam University, The Showroom Cinema and Site Gallery

Guests: Ines Weizman and Ahuvia Kahane
Hosts: Jaspar Joseph-Lester and Sharon Kivland

There is an ethics of hospitality. Hospitality means offering kindness to strangers, making the other welcome. A host has a standard of conduct, and historically, hospitality has been seen as a code, a duty, a virtue, and a law. There is a bond between host and guest, and in the lecture series, this bond has been formed by the engagement in and the practice of art. Something has been shared between host and guest, and this is shared with others, who are also guests in their way. The audience is also a host, with all the responsibilities that implies, receiving the stranger/guest with goodwill, liberality, and grace – or so the ethics of hospitality imply. Hospitality – what makes a good host, a good guest, or a bad host, a bad guest – has been the underlying theme of the lectures, though often unvoiced. The symposium extends an invitation to address the nature of hospitality.

Ines Weizman: Architecture as a politics of dissent: A Cold War narrative melts

The concept ‘architectural arms race’ represents a particularly aggressive form of architecture that could be understood as the essence and very means of a war. But what does an arms race with architecture, bricks and mortar look like? How can architectural categories like the shape, size, position, the function, use, and look of a building become munition, designed to deter the other side from using its own arsenal of ‘weapons’? This talk will analyse the larger political narratives during the Cold War as they were expressed and instrumentalised through architecture, particularly on both sides of the Berlin Wall, against narratives of dissent and their complicated historical position in the ‘melt down’ years of the ideological conflict.

Ines Weizman is an architect and critic based in London. She is director of the MA Cities, Design and Urban Cultures at the Department of Architecture and Spatial Design, London Metropolitan University, and is also teaching history and theory at Syracuse University Architecture Program London. She has taught at the Architectural Association, the Berlage Institute of Architecture in Rotterdam and in the department of politics at Goldsmiths College London. In recent years she has researched utopian visions in the context of urbanism after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. She particularly studied the architectural transformation of former East German cities since the reunification. She has published articles on the political and ideological spectacles enacted by Soviet-era architecture, on the urban historiography of former East German cities, and currently is working on a book about the urbanism of the spectacle of what was East Germany.

Ahuvia Kahane: Hospitality and the Meaning of History

Starting off with some observations by Derrida on the meaning of the gift and of death in the context of history, this presentation considers the existence of these three related terms as objects both outside knowledge and within experience. One way of placing these items side-by-side, I suggest, is to consider them as instances of a relationship between ‘bound strangers’ (xenoi): The present plays host to the past, inasmuch as it gives presence to something which (in Arisotelian terms) ‘has been’ and thus ‘no longer exists’. But the opposite also obtains, inasmuch as every present action takes place in the context of a desire for the past and through the images of the past. In this sense it is the past that plays host to the present. In traditional sociological terms one might thus say that history holds an important position in-between radical asymmetry and the radically symmetrical. This position can be traced in ‘objects’ as far removed as, on the one hand, the death narratives or ‘history’of real-life Holocaust survivor Primo Levi and, on the other hand, biographical traditions concerning the death of the mythical archaic-Greek poet Homer. This ‘identity’ between an object in ‘present life’ and an object of ‘past myth’ might suggest the collapse the notion of history and of change in the course of time. But, in fact, it is precisely in that collapse of object-boundaries that these possibilities reside: the hope of an exchange with the absolute transcendence and unknowability of the other, of giving and receiving, and of historical knowledge and history itself.

Ahuvia Kahane is Professor of Greek and Director of the Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published widely on classical philology, Greek and Latin authors, and general problems of critical thought. Among other projects he is currently completing an essay on ‘Lacan’s Antigone and the Possibility of Political Action’, a book entitled Epic, Novel, and the Progress of Antiquity, about literary form and the phenomenology of historical time, and a collection of essays entitled ‘Monumentality and the Illegible’.