The Harder You Look. A Symposium on Collections (20 – 23 Nov 2013)

The Harder You Look is a temporary art institute that takes inspiration from and follows the procedures of scientific research as a tool for thinking and producing collaboratively. Students and specialists meet in London to discuss the specificity of perception in its relation to contemporary artworks.
 What are the parameters that come into play when looking at a work of art? What does instigate or affect its reading? How and when does the work reveal itself? What does its context or history bring? What about its location or its position as part of a collection? What is it that we have in front of our eyes and what happens when we look harder?
 The Harder You Look focuses on the various aspects of the context that generates a work and traces its relation back to the viewer.


Collecting Matters is a partnership between three Foundations that marks a collective commitment to encouraging new ways of thinking, sharing and producing knowledge about collections. Founded in 2012 by the Kadist Art Foundation (Paris), Nomas Foundation (Rome) and David Roberts Art Foundation (London), Collecting Matters wishes to develop an exchange on notions of collection/collecting through an interdisciplinary curatorial fellowship.

Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders (CAHF) is a research environment and knowledge platform built around the collections of the 4 leading contemporary art museums in Flanders, Belgium: S.M.A.K. (Ghent), Mu.ZEE (Ostend), M HKA & Middelheimmuseum (Antwerp). Through a series of projects and actions (workshops, symposia, publications, exhibitions) CAHF both questions and strengthens the institutional practice of collecting, by accommodating dialogue and collaboration between its 4 partner museums and an international community of art professionals.

The Harder You Look is curated by Nicoletta Lambertucci (DRAF) & Pieternel Vermoortel (CAHF) in collaboration with the participating institutions.




We will start the evening with a composition for percussion and voice by the American composer Frederic Rzewski, To The Earth, from 1985, performed by George Barton. It will be followed by case studies from the participating institutions, which will each address issues of responsibility to artworks within a collection. The panel will discuss amongst other concerns, de-collecting, lost works, and the tension between domestic and public spaces.


The format of this evening will consist of a 45 minute discussion between philosopher Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield and artist Ian Kiaer. It will be followed by a question and answer session. The guests will present, with examples from their work the back-and-forth between object and theory.


An investigation into how critical discourse is constructed, conducted and presented in relation to the works of Marcel Broodthaers and Félix González-Torres featured in Orpheus Twice (the current exhibition at DRAF).


Ossian Ward discusses the ideas behind his new book (tentatively titled Ways of Looking: Contemporary Art Explained, published 2014) with an introduction to the seminal book by John Berger: Ways of Seeing from 1972.



Running parallel to these events The Harder You Look also incorporates a timetabled series of events for a selected group of 25 students and specialists from Belgium, France, Italy and the UK. Each day will focus on a binary structure: image/work, conservation/restoration, presentation/representation.

21 November 2013
The first day is dedicated to the investigation of the distinction between the work and its image. What is that image that we create in our mind when thinking about a work of art? How does this image corresponds to its physical reality?
 The highlights of the day include a presentation by artist Manon de Boer, a lecture by artist Mark Leckey, and novelist Tom McCarthy in conversation with Pieternel Vermoortel.

22 November 2013
What does constitute the work, when does it reveal itself and what elements need to be in place for it to be able to be perceived. Be it through interpretation, through conservation, through memory, through reenactment. What is it that makes the work perceptible and what readings should be preserved.
 The programme of the day features a video interview with artist Artie Vierkant and presentations by curator Claire Louise Staunton, and a lecture by critic Camiel van Winkel.

23 November 2013
As we continously try to come closer to the actual work we look at what the context brings to it, and when representation potentially merges with its presentation. The programme of the day includes a video interview with artist Matthew Day Jackson, presentations by curator Lisa Le Feuvre, and a lecture by artist Marie Lund.


Percussionist George Barton has studied at Oxford University and the St Petersburg Conservatoire, and is currently enrolled on the Artist Diploma course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. A Britten-Pears Young Artist, he has worked with the Colin Currie Group and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group among other ensembles. Recent projects include Morton Feldman’s 4-hour trio For Philip Guston at the David Roberts Art Foundation, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontakte as the headline act of Nonclassical’s “Pioneers of Electronic Music” festival, and Iannis Xenakis’s Psappha at the Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise festival.

Manon de Boer (born 1966 in Kodaicanal, India) completed her artistic education at the Akademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, Rotterdam, and at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Using personal narration and musical interpretation as both method and subject, de Boer explores the relationship between language, time, and truth claims to produce a series of portrait films in which the film medium itself is continuously interrogated. Her work has been exhibited internationally, at the Venice Biennial (2007), Berlin Biennial (2008), Sao Paolo Biennial (2010), Documenta (2012) and has also been included in numerous film festivals in Hong Kong, Marseille, Rotterdam and Vienna. Her work has been the subject of monographic exhibitions at Witte de With in Rotterdam (2008), Frankfurter Kunstverein (2008), London South Gallery (2010), Index in Stockholm (2011), Contemporary Art Museum of St Louis (2011) and Museum of Art Philadelphia (2012), among others. De Boer currently teaches at the School of Arts in Ghent and ERG in Brussels. She lives and works in Brussels.

Louisa Buck MA Cantab, MA Courtauld Institute, is a writer and broadcaster on contemporary art. Since 1997 she has been London Contemporary Art Columnist for The Art Newspaper, and is a regular reviewer on BBC radio and TV, including Front Row, Nightwaves and BBC World Service.
Other outlets include Vogue, Art Quarterly, Sotheby’s Magazine, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph and she is the author of a number of catalogue essays for institutions including Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, ICA London and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Her  books include Relative Values or What’s Art Worth? (co-authored with Philip Dodd) (BBC Books 1991); Moving Targets 2: A User’s Guide to British Art Now (Tate 2000); Market Matters: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Art Market (Arts Council England 2004) and Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector’s Handbook (co-authored with Judith Greer) (Cultureshock Media 2006) Her latest book, Commissioning Contemporary Art : A Handbook for Curators, Collectors and Artists was published by Thames & Hudson in October 2012.
Louisa was a judge for the 2005 Turner Prize.

Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield is a philosopher and, if there is such a thing, an artist-philosopher. He has published widely in continental philosophy of art, ethics, responsibility, on Derrida, Deleuze, Rancière, Nancy, Lyotard, Heidegger, Nietzsche and Kant; and at the same time he has given many readings of what he calls performative texts in galleries, including Wilkinson (‘Where narrative stops’), Focal Point (‘Goldmine ten theses on music’), Stroom (‘The swerve of freedom after Spinoza’), and Extra City (‘Philosophers enowning that there be no own’); and he collaborates with artists, notably Ian Kiaer, Benoît Maire, and Gregory Maass & Nayoungim. Dronsfield is Reader in Theory and Philosophy of Art at the University of Reading, and sits on the board of the Forum for European Philosophy at the LSE.

Martin Germann is senior curator at S.M.A.K., the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent since autumn 2012. At least he organised various collection presentations as well as solo shows with Rachel Harrison and Jordan Wolfson.
From 2008 and 2011 he has been curator at kestnergesellschaft Hanover, where he worked on exhibitions and publications with artists like Michaël Borremans, Michael Sailstorfer, Elke Krystufek, Larry Sultan, Aaron Curry, Julian Göthe, or Joachim Koester. He was also part of the curatorial team for ‘Made in Germany Zwei’, a survey show of young international art at kestnergesellschaft, Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum (2012). Prior to his position at Buero Friedrich, Berlin (2006-7) he was responsible for the programme of Gagosian Gallery, Berlin, a project space of the 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2005-6). At the 3rd Berlin Biennial (2003-4) he coordinated five thematic spaces within the Biennial.
He regularly publishes in books, exhibition catalogues and magazines, and has written on artists such as Kai Althoff, Dirk Braeckman, or Mathias Poledna. He is also a visiting lecturer at HISK – The Higher Institute of Arts, Ghent.

Ilaria Gianni is a curator and writer based in Rome. Since 2009 she has been co-director of Nomas Foundation, along with Cecilia Canziani. She holds the position of Adjunct Professor of Art at the John Cabot University, Rome and is lecturer on the Master of Art at the University Luiss Guido Carli, Rome. In 2008 she co-founded the art publishing collective Impress (active until 2011), and since 2009 she is member of the collective Art at Work. She has curated a number of exhibitions, and independent research based projects, coordinated a series of exhibitions and symposiums for museums, and has contributed with texts to various art catalogues. Ilaria Gianni collaborates with magazines such as «NERO», «Lo Specchio+», «Circa», «Flash Art», «Arte e Critica», and is one of the Italian contributors for

Vincent Honoré is a curator and writer based in Paris and London. A former curator at the Palais de Tokyo and Tate Modern, he is the curator and director of David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) in London and the co-founder and chief editor of Drawing Room Confessions.

Matthew Day Jackson (born 1974) is an American artist whose multifaceted practice encompasses sculpture, painting, collage, photography,drawing, video, performance and installation. Since graduating with an MFA from Rutgers University in 2001, following his BFA from the University of Washington in Seattle, he has had numerous solo exhibitions. His work has been shown at MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna in Bologna, Italy; Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Boulder, Colorado; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA; the Portland Museum of Art Biennial in Portland, Maine; and the Whitney Biennial Day for Night in New York.

Ian Kiaer is an artist who has exhibited internationally since 2000, with solo exhibitions at institutions including Kunstverein München, Tate Britain, London; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin;and Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice. He has also exhibited at the Venice Biennale (50th), Istanbul Biennale (10th), Berlin Biennale (4th), Lyon Bienniale (10th) and Manifesta 3.  He is developing a critique of painting as a ‘minor form’ informed by notions of the model and the fragment both in studio practice and writing. This research is also explored through teaching on the doctoral programme at the RCA. His next exhibition entitled “Tooth House” will be in March, 2014 at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.

Nicoletta Lambertucci is assistant curator at David Roberts Art Foundation. Graduate of Philosophy and Art Theory, she has been a Research Fellow at Goldsmiths College on Michael Foucault. She contributes to Cura Magazine and has written for catalogues and artist books.

Lisa Le Feuvre is Head of Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Institute, a centre for the study of sculpture that she has led since November 2010. The Henry Moore Institute is an award-winning exhibitions venue, research centre, library and sculpture archive. The Institute hosts a year-round programme of exhibitions, conferences and lectures, as well as developing research and publications, to expand the understanding and scholarship of historical and contemporary sculpture. It is a part of The Henry Moore Foundation, which was set up by Moore in 1977 to encourage appreciation of the visual arts, especially sculpture. The Institute’s role within the Foundation is to place sculpture right at the centre of the writing of art history, and to develop scholarship around works of art.
In 2010-2011 Le Feuvre was co-curator, with Tom Morton, of British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet. Between 2005 and 2009 she directed the contemporary art programme at the National Maritime Museum. Le Feuvre’s other curatorial projects have been staged in spaces across the UK and she regularly contributes to journals, publications and exhibition catalogues, including the 2010 edited publication Failure published by Whitechapel Art Gallery/MIT Press. Between 2004 and 2010 she taught on the postgraduate Curatorial Programme in the Department of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London

Desire and transformation are key motifs in Mark Leckey‘s work, returning repeatedly in a variety of manifestations. His own state of being – an artist in London, a participant in contemporary culture, and a man who grew up in the 1980s in the north of England – is used as a construct through which he can investigate these forces. His wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary practice combines sculpture, film, sound and performance.

Marie Lund (born 1976 Copenhagen) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004, and lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Back Pack at Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City, Handstand, IMO, Copenhagen, Clickety Click, Croy Nielsen, Berlin, and Turtles at Laura Bartlett Gallery, London and The Object Lessons at Mudam, Luxembourg. Her work has also been featured in exhibitions in Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Sorø Kunstmuseum, Denmark, Cologne Kunstverein, Kunsthalle Mulhousse, De Vleeshal, Middelburg, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, Nomas Foundation, Rome, David Roberts Foundation, London, Braunschweig Kunstverein, The Swiss Institute, New York, CCA Wattis, San Francisco amongst others.

Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, Remainder, which deals with questions of trauma and repetition, won the 2008 Believer Book Award and is currently being adapted for cinema. His second novel, Men in Space, set in a Central Europe rapidly disintegrating after the collapse of communism, was published in 2007 in the UK and 2012 in the US. His third, C, which explores the relationship between melancholia and technological media, was a finalist in the 2010 Booker Prize. McCarthy is also author of the 2006 non-fiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature, an exploration of the themes and patterns of Hergé’s comic books; and of numerous essays that have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. In addition, he is founder and General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network of writers, philosophers and artists whose work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Palais de Tokyo Paris, Tate Britain and Moderna Museet Stockholm.

Léna Monnier is a curator and a writer. She is in charge of the collection and of communications at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris since 2010. Kadist Art Foundation encourages the contribution of the arts to society, conducting programs primarily with artists represented in its collection to promote their role as cultural agents. Kadist’s collections and productions reflect the global scope of contemporary art, and its programs develop collaborations between Kadist’s local contexts (Paris, San Francisco) and artists, curators and art institutions worldwide.

Iris Paschalidis studied Painting at Sint-Lukas (Brussels and Ghent) and Art History at the University of Ghent. As the head of the contemporary art collection at S.M.A.K. she is on a daily basis challenged by the research, archival, presentation and conservations problematics this particular collection brings. Before joining S.M.A.K. Paschalidis worked for the Flemish Community Art Collection at the department collection management and conservation. She further has vast experience as a researcher for institutions a.o. Richard Foncke Gallery, The Jan Van Eyck Academy (Maastricht) and the contemporary art and theory magazine De Witte Raaf.

Michele Robecchi is a writer and curator based in London, where he serves as Commissioning Editor at Phaidon Press and Visiting Lecturer at Christie’s Education.

Skye Sherwin is an arts writer living in London. She is a regular contributor to The Guardian and former Deputy Editor of Art Review.

Els Silvrants-Barclay holds a Masters Degree in Chinese Studies. During her studies, she was elected president of the Student Culture Council of the University of Leuven based in the STUK Arts Centre in Leuven, with whom she organized a series of emerging artist projects (2003-2004). In 2004 she moved to Beijing to work as the program coordinator and performance curator for the Dashanzi International Art Festival (DIAF) (2004-2008). She was involved in festivals, projects and organizations in China such as the Convergence satellite exhibit of the Beijing Biennale (curator, 2005), the Platform China Contemporary Art Institute (artistic director, 2005-2006) and the Borderline Moving Images festival (co-founder and co-director, 2007-2008). In 2005, she founded Theatre in Motion, renamed as the Institute for Provocation (IFP) in 2010, a Beijing-based workspace for artists and architects. In 2009, she co-founded Natural Born Architects with Miguel Steel Lebre and started Louiza, consulting artists, organizations and governments on their cultural policy with China. From 2010-2012, she coordinated the Advanced Masters in Theatre Studies at the University of Antwerp and taught a course in Dance Theory. Since November 2012, she is in charge of Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders. She has edited the Making of Meeting (with Defne Ayas & Davide Quadrio) and Everything Beautiful is Far Away (with Jean Bernard Koeman). She is also part of SPIN, an artist-run production platform and discursive environment with the artists Diederik Peeters, Hans Bryssinck and Kate McIntosh.

Claire Louise Staunton is Curator/Director of Flat Time House an institute, gallery and archive in the former home and studio of artist, John Latham. Claire Louise is also Curator with Inheritance Projects, a curatorial group working with artists and writers in collaboration with institutions on critically informed research-led projects.

Pieternel Vermoortel is an independent curator and co-founder/director of FormContent, a curatorial programme. Her most recent programme at FormContent It’s moving from I to It uses fiction as its main tool to reflect upon cultural production. Currently Vermoortel teaches Exhibitions and Cultural Productions at TEBEAC, Ghent and is a visiting lecturer at the BA Fine Art and the MFA Curating at Goldsmiths University London. She has taught on various MFA and curatorial training programmes, such as LUCA Brussels, MFA Fine Arts Sint Lucas Antwerp, HISK Ghent, Doctoral Research Programme in Fine Art and Curating Goldsmiths University London and wrote for various catalogues and magazines such as the Venice Biennial Catalogue 2011 and Metropolis M. She edited various publications such as a.o. Out of the Studio, 2008 and The Responsive Subject, 2011

Artie Vierkant (born 1986) received an MFA from the University of California San Diego in 2011 and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009.  He has shown his work internationally, including exhibitions at New Galerie, Paris; Higher Pictures, New York; Exile, Berlin; Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; China Art Objects, Los Angeles; and in a variety of noninstitutional contexts on the Internet.  His work has been featured in Artforum, the UbuWeb archive, Rethinking Photography (Routledge), and more.  He is represented by New Galerie in Paris, and teaches at New York University. He lives and works in New York.

Ossian Ward is Head of Content at Lisson Gallery and a writer on contemporary art. Until 2013, he was the chief art critic and Visual Arts Editor for Time Out London for over six years and previously contributed to magazines such as Art in America, Art + Auction, World of Interiors, Esquire, The News Statesman and Wallpaper, as well as newspapers including the Evening Standard, The Guardian, the Observer, The Times and The Independent on Sunday. Formerly editor of ArtReview and the V&A Magazine, he has also worked at The Art Newspaper and edited a biennial publication, The Artists’ Yearbook, for Thames & Hudson from 2005-2010. His book, tentatively titled Ways of Looking is due to be published in 2014 by Laurence King.

Sara Weyns (born 1979) has been working as a freelance publicist and curator since 2002. In 2005, she joined the team of the Middelheim Museum, an open air museum for modern and contemporary sculpture, as senior curator. As such, she has specialised in spatially oriented art, the subset between sculpture and architecture, art in open air and– by extension – art in public space. Via extensive and close collaborations with artists such as Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy and Carsten Höller new monumental artworks or groups of works are made in situ for the occasion of the exhibition project. Since October 2012 Sara Weyns has been acting director of the Middelheim Museum.

Camiel van Winkel writes on contemporary art and occasionally curates exhibitions. Based in Amsterdam, he teaches art theory and art philosophy at LUCA School of Arts / Sint-Lukas Brussels. He is advisor at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. He is the author of Moderne leegte. Over kunst en openbaarheid (1999), The Regime of Visibility (2005) and The Myth of Artisthood (2007/2013). His latest book, based on his PhD dissertation, is During the Exhibition the Gallery Will Be Closed. Contemporary Art and the Paradoxes of Conceptualism (Valiz, 2012).


The Harder You Look is supported using public funding by the  National Lottery through Arts Council England

  • Marie Lund, Clickety Click, 2012. Courtesy Laura Bartlett Gallery, London and Croy Nielsen, Berlin
    Marie Lund, Clickety Click, 2012. Courtesy Laura Bartlett Gallery, London and Croy Nielsen, Berlin
  • The Harder You Look. Opening event
    The Harder You Look. Opening event
  • George Barton performs To the Earth, 1985 by Frederic Rzewski
    George Barton performs To the Earth, 1985 by Frederic Rzewski
  • Panel discussion chaired by Louisa Buck
    Panel discussion chaired by Louisa Buck
  • Tom McCarthy
    Tom McCarthy
  • Mark Leckey
    Mark Leckey
  • Ian Kiaer
    Ian Kiaer
  • Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield
    Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield
  • Claire Louise Staunton on Flat Time House
    Claire Louise Staunton on Flat Time House
  • Michele Robecchi an Skye Sherwin
    Michele Robecchi an Skye Sherwin
  • Lisa Le Feuvre on The Henry Moore Institute
    Lisa Le Feuvre on The Henry Moore Institute
  • Marie Lund
    Marie Lund
  • Ossian Ward 'Ways of Looking (Harder)'
    Ossian Ward 'Ways of Looking (Harder)'