Skip to main content

Benjamin West Lecture Old

The Otolith Group, Infinity Minus Infinity, 2019. Film still.

2020-2021 Ben West Lecture: Profesor T. J. Demos, Racial Capitalocene: Visual Cultures and Abolitionist Ecologies


Benjamin West Lectures

The Benjamin West Lecture, made possible by gifts from members of the Class of 1905 and other friends of the College, is given annually on some phase of art.  It is the outgrowth of the Benjamin West Society, which built up a collection of paintings, drawings, and prints, which are exhibited, as space permits, in the buildings on campus.  The lecture was named for the American artist who was born in a house that stands on the campus and became president of the Royal Academy.

The 2021-2022 lecture will be announced shortly. (Updated: October 22, 2021)

Swarthmore College 2020-2021 Benjamin West Lecture in Art History

2020-2021 Benjamin West Lecture in Art History

Hosted by the Department of Art & Art History

Professor T.J. Demos, University of California, Santa Cruz
Racial Capitalocene: Visual Cultures and Abolitionist Ecologies

With reference to three approaches to the experimental aesthetics of abolition ecology—those of Thirza Jean Cuthand, The Otolith Group, and Black Quantum Futurism—this presentation discusses current modelings of radical Indigenous and Afro-futurisms, and worlds-to-come founded upon social justice and environmental flourishing. Where radical imagination meets radical praxis is in the material forces of solidarity, the political form of belonging, more than ever necessary today in the collective battle against international fascisms and global neoliberalisms. While acknowledging the bankruptcy of Eurocentric universalisms, this presentation defends approaches to insurgent political alliance beyond identitarian fragmentation, including within and through political aesthetics of abolition—ultimately of racial and colonial capitalism.

T. J. Demos is the Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in Art History in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, at University of California, Santa Cruz, and founding Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. Demos is the author of numerous books, including Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing (Duke, 2020); Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today (Sternberg, 2017); Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg, 2016); and The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke, 2013)—winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award. In 2020, he was a Getty research institute scholar, and during 2019-21, he is director of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar at UC Santa Cruz dedicated to the questions: what comes after the end of the world, and how can we cultivate futures of social justice within capitalist ruins?

Professor Kellie Jones, Columbia University
Women and the Dreamwork

Professor Paul Jaskot, DePaul College of LAS
Mapping German Architecture in an Era of Crisis (1914-1924): Digital Methods for Art Historical Work

2015-2016 Professor Elizabeth W. Hutchinson, Barnard College/Columbia University, NYC
Seeing Sovereignty in Early Portraits of Native Americans

2014-2015 Dr. Susan Walker, Sackler Keeper, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time: New Displays for Historic Collections at the Ashmolean Museum

2013-2014 Dr. Renata Holod, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Professor in the History of Art 
On Interiors and the Regimes of Lighting: Vision in the Mosque of Cordoba

2012-2013  Critical Histories of Modern Architecture and the Built Environment
Kathleen James-Chakraborty, University of Dublin
From the Bauhaus in Calcutta to the Swiss Minaret Debate: Who Wants Modern Architecture and Why?
Alice Friedman, Wellesley College
American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture
Zeynep Celik, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Archaeologistsí Palaces, Indigenous Villages, & Life at the Dig Swati Chattopadhyay, University of California, Santa Barbara City and Country in South Asia

2011-2012 Steven LeBlanc, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
Individuals, Specialization, and Prehistoric Pottery

2010-2011 William Wallace, Washington University
Writing Michelangelo's Biography

2009-2010 Margaret S. Nesbit, Vassar College
Gordon Matta-Clark in Italy

2007-2008 Leo Steinberg
O! Say, Can You See?

2006-2007 Richard Meyer, University of Pennsylvania
What Was Contemporary Art?

2005-2006 Masatomo Kawai, Keio University
Tea Ceremony as Environment: Historical Considerations on the Display and Reception of Japanese Art

2004-2005 John Clark, University of Texas at Austin
Power over the Other - or the Other's Power? Laughing at the 'Pygmy' and the 'Black'

2003-2004 Stephen J. Campbell, Johns Hopkins University
Decentering Rome:  Mantegna, Correggio and the Gonzaga

2002-2003 Joan Brenton Connelly, New York University
Beyond the Icon: The Parthenon and Its Sculptured Frieze

2001-2002 Samuel Y. Edgerton, Williams College
The Cross and The Tree; The Arch and The Cave

2000-2001 CÈcile Whiting '80, U.C.L.A.
Pop Outside Manhattan/Inside L.A.

1999-2000 Madeline Caviness,Tufts University
Norman Knights, Anglo-Saxon Women, and the Third Sex: Re-evaluating Gender in the Bayeux Tapestry

1997-1998 Joseph Leo Koerner, Harvard University
Reformation Portraits & the routines of Modern Belief

1996-1997 Rowland Abiodun, Amherst College
What follows six is more than seven

1995-1996 Carol Armstrong, Graduate Center, CUNY
Julia Margaret Cameron and the Feminization of Photography

1994-1995 Michael Camille, University of Chicago
Illuminating Philosophy:  Art and Science at the Medieval University

1993-1994 Norman Bryson, Harvard University
Orientalism and Occidentalism

1992-1993 Suzanne Preston Blier, Columbia University
The Danger of Art: Anomie, Alchemy, and African Vodun

1991-1992 Madeline Caviness, Tufts University
The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux: A Medieval Discourse of Sexuality

1990-1991 Michael Fried, The Johns Hopkins University
Manet in his Generation

1989-1990 Eunice Lipton, 
Imagining a Woman's Life: The Case of Victorine Meurent

1988-1989 Esin Atil, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Origins of Islamic Iconography

1987-1988 Robert Herbert, Yale University
Impressionism and Tourism Along the Channel Coast

1986-1987 Irene Winter, Harvard University
Reading Concepts of Space from Ancient Mesopotamian Monuments 

1985-1986 Robert Venturi, Architect
Current Works and Ideas

1984-1985 Ernst Kitzinger, Harvard University
A Donor Portrait in Norman Sicily and its Byzantine Context

1983-1984 Richard Brilliant, Columbia University
On Portraits: Modes of Representation

1982-1983 James Cahill, University of California, Berkeley
Quickness & Spontaneity in Chinese Ptg: The Ups and Downs of an Ideal 

1981-1982 Albert Elsen, Stanford University
In Rodin's Studio: The Sculptor and the Photographers

1980-1981 George Kubler, Yale University
A Sixteenth Century Meaning of the Escorial

1979-1980 Meyer Schapiro, Columbia University
The South Tower of Chartres Cathedral

1978-1979 Colin Eisler, Institute of Fine Arts
Titian's Marsyas: Art's Martyr

1977-1978 Alfred Frazer, Columbia University
The Emperor Claudius as Architect

1976-1977 James Ackerman, Harvard University
Michelangelo's Religion

1975-1976 Oleg Grabar, Harvard University
The Meaning of Ornament in Islamic Art

1974-1975 Vincent Scully, Yale University
Modern Architecture

1973-1974 Helen Frankenthaler
Helen Frankenthaler Presents Her Work

1972-1973 Irving Lavin, New York University
Bernini's Chapel of Saint Theresa in Santa Maria Vittoria, Rome

1971-1972 Leo Steinberg, Hunter College, CUNY
Picasso at Large, or The Art of Being Everywhere

1970-1971 Andrew Sarris, Columbia University and Village Voice

1969-1970 Michael Sullivan, Standord University
The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art

1968-1969 John Rosenfield, Harvard University
Classical and Pre-Classical in North Indian Sculpture

1967-1968 Lotte Brand Philip, Queens College, CUNY
The Ghent Altarpiece: A New Solution to an Old Problem

1966-1967 Seymour Slive, Harvard University
Rembrandt's Self-Portraits