Catherine M. Soussloff, Foucault in the Contemporary Archive

soussloff_blog.jpgWhile I’m still waiting for her book, Foucault on Painting, to make it across the Atlantic, Catherine Soussloff has written a very interesting post about working on Foucault’s unpublished writings on painting to be found in the archives.

Last spring, I was in Paris as a Visiting Researcher at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, with a beautiful office just steps from the “old” Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF), newly renovated and now containing virtually the entire national collection of art books and manuscripts. I was given access to this unparalleled repository of materials on European art and culture and the privilege of a desk in the Salle Labrouste, memorable for its newly restored ironwork arches and painted landscape lunettes. It was in this reading room that Walter Benjamin had labored on the citations that he collected in The Arcades Project, writing, “nothing in the world can replace the Bibliothèque Nationale for me.” Foucault might have said the same. This place surely fulfilled the art historian’s desire for inspiration for a new research project.

Just before I left California in mid-March I had completed the copyediting of my new Minnesota book, Foucault on Painting. I thought I was prepared to begin a fresh research project concerned with “expressivity” in art over the long 20th century, a topic in which both Paris and the BnF play central roles. But unexpectedly and as it turned out, fortuitously, Foucault continued to occupy me. [continues here]

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