About the event

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In Mythologies (1957), Roland Barthes first presented his renowned critical analysis of the cover of a 1955 issue of Paris Match—the iconic image of a young African cadet saluting the French flag. What haunts this famous analysis? When Belgian artist Vincent Meesen went in search of the then-cadet for his film Vita Nova (2009), he found an old African who had forgotten almost all of the French national anthem. As Meessen’s investigation reveals, Barthes himself “forgot” to mention the history of his own family’s relation to colonialism, particularly the history of his grandfather, Captain Louis-Gustave Binger, who “gave” Côte d'Ivoire to France. The film launches a critical and moving account of the specters that haunted one of France’s most enlightened cultural critics, and have yet to be fully acknowledged today. This lecture, drawn from Demos’ forthcoming book Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (2013), examines Meessen’s film, and opens up the aesthetics of its colonial hauntology.

Click here for an interview of TJ Demos by Ashley Dawson that grew out of this public program.