Peter Osborne (writer and academic)
Peter Osborne (born 1958) is Professor of Modern European Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), Kingston University, London. He is also an editor of the British journal Radical Philosophy.
Life and career
Osborne’s books include: The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (1995/2010); Marx (2005); Conceptual Art (2002); and Philosophy in Cultural Theory (2000). He also edited the three-volume Walter Benjamin: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory (2005). Osborne’s writing on contemporary art includes contributions to the journals Afterall, Art History, October, and Oxford Art Journal Catalogues accompanying exhibitions including: Matias Faldbakken: The Shock of Abstraction, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo and Ikon, Birmingham, 2009; The Quick and the Dead, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2009; and Sol Lewitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art, The Office of Contemporary Art Oslo, Norway, 2009.
Osborne is currently completing a book on the philosophical aspects of contemporary art. He lives and works in London.
Osborne teaches and publishes on Modern European Philosophy and the philosophy of modern and contemporary art — with particular reference to Conceptual Art. He has written catalogue essays for the Tate Modern art gallery in London, the Biennale art festival of Sydney, Australia, the Walker Art Center, and the Norwegian National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. He has acted as a consultant to the Education Programme at the Tate Britain art gallery in London (see Spheres of Action and In Defence of Philosophy on the Tate Channel) and is consultant for the Office of Contemporary Art (OCA) in Norway with regard to the representation of Norway at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
Osborne also served as editorial consultant for a series of publication for OCA (see the Verksted series), and currently serves as a member of the advisory board for Pavilion (Journal for Politics and Culture). He has played a major role in the bimonthly British journal Radical Philosophy for nearly thirty years and plays an active role in current debates about the future of universities in the United Kingdom.
The CRMEP is the leading centre for postgraduate level study and doctoral research in Continental Philosophy in the London area. Since its inception in 1994 it has developed a national and international reputation for teaching, research and publication in the field of post-Kantian European philosophy, characterised by a strong emphasis on broad cultural and intellectual contexts and a distinctive sense of social and political engagement. The CRMEP moved to Kingston University from Middlesex University in London in the summer of 2010 and sits across the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and Art, Design and Architecture (FADA).
Staff Profile from the (University of Kingston website)
The transition from Middlesex to Kingston
In April 2010, Middlesex University decided to close down Philosophy, its highest research-rated subject. Middlesex students and staff, and thousands of their supporters in the UK and around the world, battled to save it. The website set up as part of the effort to do so is still running today and is continually updated vis-à-vis related campaigns and issues (See Save Middlesex). There was a lot of coverage in the media, including for example in "The Guardian".
See Privatization as Anti-Politics: Interview with Peter Osborne (From the Journal: Reclamations)
Background and Project
Broadly speaking, Osborne's project has followed the conception and function of philosophy as ‘its own time comprehended in thought’ (Hegel). (At a talk at the ICA that was held in response to the (then) plans to close the philosophy department when Osborne and the CRMEP was based at Middlesex, he spoke of the fact that as a practise, philosophy is not quantifiable; that is, it is not something that is easily measurable by time.)
Osborne completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Sussex in England in 1988. Entitled 'The carnival of philosophy: philosophy, politics and science in Hegel and Marx', it no doubt formed some of the material for the more recently published How to Read Marx (Granta magazine, 2005), the fifth chapter of which recalls its title. A central influence on Osborne's thought has been the work of German philosopher Theodore Adorno, who figures in his early essays concerning the problem of modernity and the crisis in the visual arts
Osborne's first book, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (Verso Books, 1995, reprinted 2011) was reflective of his general understanding of the modern European tradition of philosophy as being "first and foremost a philosophy of time", stemming from the work of Immanuel Kant, as founder of modern philosophy. Osborne discussed the politics of time in relation to contemporary art in a discussion organised by the Frieze Art Foundation and held in conjunction with the London Frieze Art Fair in 2008 (See the Frieze Talk 'It's About Time').
In a recent exchange with his colleague Eric Alliez at the Stanley Picker Gallery on 27 April 2007, Osborne explained that at "the end of the Eighties, my project became to "mediate Aesthetic Theory with the history of contemporary art since the 1960s" (understanding Adorno's project as "the project of mediating the transdisciplinary post-Kantianism of Benjamin's thought with the history of modernism") specifically, through the reinvention of 'the dialectic of construction and expression' (Philosophy and Contemporary Art After Adorno and Deleuze: An Exchange). The late work of Adorno anticipates the breakdown of the difference between the arts that Osborne is interested in coming to terms with (see Art Theory and Aesthetics, below).
The follow-up to "The Politics of Time", Philosophy in Cultural Theory, was concerned with what is currently (2011) being pursued further by the CRMEP; namely, the transdisciplinary status of philosophy, as opposed to its traditional self-understanding as a self-contained discipline. Philosophy, as an activity, is constituted in its engagement with the non-philosophical.
Art Theory and Aesthetics
Conceptual Art (Phaidon Press, 2002), constituted an authoritative survey of the art of the late Sixties and early Seventies (and beyond). Conceptual art challenged the aesthetic definition of the work of art, and attempted but failed to be absolutely anti-aesthetic. However secretly it triumphed, by rendering explicit to subsequent generations of artists the conceptual aspect of all art.
For Osborne, a crucial juncture in the transformation of the ontology of the work of art (what art most fundamentally is) is marked by the work of American artist Robert Smithson. According to this view, the traditional practise of art according to mediums (painting, sculpture, architecture) is understood to have been historically destroyed ontologically by a transcategorial practise and field — inaugurated by work like Smithson's. This is intimated in the title for a lecture he gave on Smithson at the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in 2008: 'An interminable avalanche of categories': conceptual issues in the work of Robert Smithson (or, once more, against 'sculpture'), as part of a series of lectures given by significant art historians under the title Cornerstones.
Osborne later made the speculative claim elsewhere that contemporary art is post-conceptual art in a public lecture delivered at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti (FAR), Villa Sucota, in Como, Italy, 9 July 2010. It is a claim made at the level of the ontology of the work of art (rather than say at the descriptive level of style or movement). Around the same time, he gave a lecture in conjunction with Pavilion on the concept of the contemporary and the work of The Atlas Group entitled The Fiction of the Contemporary: Speculative Collectivity and the Global Transnational. He subsequently published an essay in issue 15 of the Pavilion Journal for Politics and Culture, entitled: Imaginary Radicalisms: Notes on the Libertarianism of Contemporary Art.]
- 'Adorno and the metaphysics of modernism: the problem of a "postmodern" art', in Andrew Benjamin (ed.), The Problem of Modernity: Adorno and Benjamin (London: Routledge, 1989), 23-48; 'Torn Halves: Avant-Garde and Popular Culture in the 1980s', News from Nowhere, 7, issue on 'The Politics of Modernism'; Aesthetic Autonomy and the Crisis of Theory: Greenberg, Adorno, and the Problem of Postmodernism in the Visual Arts, new formations No. 9 Winter 1989.
- Gest: Laboratory of Synthesis 1, edited by Robert Garnett & Andrew Hunt, Bookworks (2008), p38, p37.
- Osborne, Peter: Marx and the philosophy of time. Radical philosophy(147), pp. 15–22. ISSN (print) 0300-211X
- Osborne, Peter: (9 July 2010) Contemporary art is post-conceptual art, Public Lecture, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Villa Sucota, Como
- Osborne, Peter and Alliez, Eric: (2008) "Philosophy and contemporary art after Adorno and Deleuze: an Exchange" in Garnett, Robert and Hunt, Andrew, (eds.) Gest: laboratory of synthesis #1, London, Book Works, pp. 35–64.
- Osborne, Peter: (2013), Anywhere Or Not At All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, Verso Books, London
- Osborne, Peter: (2010), El arte más allá de la estética. Ensayos filosóficos sobre arte contemporáneo, trans. Yaiza Hernández Velázquez, Murcia, Cendeac.
- Osborne, Peter: (2005) How to read Marx, London, U.K. : Granta, (How to read) ISBN 1-86207-771-1
- Osborne, Peter: (2002) Conceptual Art, London, Phaidon Press Ltd, 304p ISBN 0-7148-3930-2
- Osborne, Peter: (2000) Philosophy in Cultural Theory, London, U.K. : Routledge. 146p. ISBN 0415238013
- Osborne, Peter: (1995) The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-garde, London, U.K. : Verso Books. 272p. ISBN 0-86091-652-9
Research Congress: Expect the Unexpected: Once more on the Horizon of Expectation (discussion)
- Contemporaneity and Crisis: Reflections on the Temporalities of Social Change, Grad Center : http://globalization.gc.cuny.edu/2012/11/videopodcast-peter-osborne-on-contemporaneity-and-crisis/
- It's About Time, Frieze Art Foundation: http://www.friezefoundation.org/talks/detail/its_about_time/
- From Structure to Rhizome Transdisciplinarity in French thought, 1945 to the present: histories, concepts, constructions, The French Institute: http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2010/04/from-structure-to-rhizome/
- 'An interminable avalanche of categories': conceptual issues in the work of Robert Smithson (or, once more, against 'sculpture'), Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art: http://www.wdw.nl/event.php?act_id=142%20
- The Fiction of the Contemporary: Speculative Collectivity and the Global Transnational, Pavilion, 28 January 2010: http://vimeo.com/9087032