Boris Groys

CANCELLED / Agendas: Politics of Production


Boris Groys presents the second lecture in the Agendas: Politics of Production series. The Agendas series brings together prominent thinkers and practitioners to address modes of research. The goal of the series is to accumulate knowledge on research methodologies that engage diverse topics across the fields of visual culture and the built environment. Agendas is an invitation and platform for ongoing engagement between MIT and individuals who play a role in creating challenging and timely discourse.

Agendas: Politics of Production is the first iteration of the series, featuring a themed symposium, “Politics of the Image,” and two lectures tackling concerns of production in art, architecture, theory and ecology. The “Politics of the Image” symposium stages a conversation between three practitioners in art and architecture to address the most ubiquitous form of production: the image.

This series is conceived by Duygu Demir (PhD, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art) and Lucy Liu (SM, Architectural Design), in conversation with Professors Ana Miljacki and J. Meejin Yoon.

Boris Groys

Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, NYU; Professor of the European Graduate School

Boris Groys (b.1947) is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist and an internationally renowned expert on Soviet-era art and literature, specifically, the Russian avant-garde. He is a Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, a Senior Research Fellow at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, and a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS. His work engages radically different traditions from French poststructuralism to modern Russian philosophy, yet is firmly situated at the juncture of aesthetics and politics. Theoretically, Boris Groys’s work is influenced by a number of modern and post-modern philosophers and theoreticians, including Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze and Walter Benjamin.

Born in the former German Democratic Republic, Groys grew up in the USSR. He studied philosophy, mathematics, and logic at Leningrad State University (now Saint Petersburg State University). While a student, he immersed himself in the unofficial cultural scenes taking place in Leningrad and Moscow, and coined the term “Moscow conceptualism.” The term first appeared in the essay “Moscow Romantic Conceptualism,” published in 1979, in the art magazine A-YA. During this time in the Soviet Union, Groys published widely in a number of samizdat magazines, including 37 and Chasy. Between 1976 and 1981, Boris Groys held the position of Research Fellow in the Department of Structural and Applied Linguistics at Moscow State University. At the end of this fellowship, he left the Soviet Union and moved to the Federal Republic of Germany.

In 1992, Groys earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Universität Münster, where he also served as an assistant professor in philosophy from 1998-1994. During this time, Groys was also a visiting professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by another appointment at the University of Southern California, also in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature. From 1994 to 2009, Groys was Professor of Art History, Philosophy, and Media Theory at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, where he remains a senior research fellow. In 2001, he was the Director of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and from 2003 to 2004, he spearheaded the research program Post-Communist Condition, at the Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany. He assumed the position of Global Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Science at New York University in 2005 and in 2009 he became a full Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU. Groys is also a senior Fellow at the International Center for Cultural Studies and Media Theory at the Bauhaus Universität (Weimar); a member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art (AICA); and has been a senior scholar at the Courtauld Institute of Art (London); and a fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK, Vienna), Harvard University Art Museum, and the University of Pittsburgh.

In the Anglo-American world, Boris Groys is best known as the author of The Total Art of Stalinism (1992), and for introducing the western world to Russian postmodernist writers and artists. His contributions stretch across the field of philosophy, politics, history, and art theory and criticism. Within aesthetics, his major works include Vanishing Point Moscow (1994) and The Art of Installation (1996). His philosophical works include A Philosopher’s Diary (1989), The Invention of Russia (1995), and Introduction to Antiphilosophy (2012). More recently, he has also published Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of the Media (2000), Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment (2006)and The Communist Postscript (2010). In addition to these works, other significant works in art, history, and philosophy include: History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism (2010), Going Public (2010), Art Power (2008), The Total Enlightenment: Conceptual Art in Moscow 1960-1990 (2008), Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Period (2004), Apotropikon (1991), and Thinking in Loop: Three Videos on Iconoclasm, Ritual and Immortality (DVD, 2008), which is a trilogy of video-text syntheses, wherein Groys reads the composed text superimposed onto a collage of footage fragments taken from movies and film documentations.

As a prominent contemporary art theorist and critic, Boris Groys has also curated a number of notable exhibitions, including: Fluchtpunkt Moskau at Ludwig Forum (1994, Aachen, Germany), Dream Factory Communism at the Schirn Gallery (2003-2004, Frankfurt, Germany), Privatizations at the KW Institute of Contemporary Art (2004, Berlin, Germany), Total Enlightenment: Conceptual Art in Moscow 1960–1990at the Kunsthalle Schirn (2008-2009 Frankfurt, Germany; Fundación Juan March, Madrid, Spain), Medium Religion with Peter Weibel at the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (2009, Karlsruhe, Germany), Andrei Monastyrski for the Russian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011, Venice, Italy), After History: Alexandre Kojève as a Photographer, at BAK Utrecht (2012, Netherlands).