Episode 70: James Elkins

December 31, 2006 · Print This Article

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Duncan and Terri talk to James Elkins about his books, criticism and more! Mike Benedetto provides an utterly hilarious movie review and public service announcement.

From Mr. Elkins’ web site: James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, separated from Cornell University by a quarter-mile of woods once owned by the naturalist Laurence Palmer.

He stayed on in Ithaca long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History), with summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989. (All from the University of Chicago.) Since then he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism. He also teaches in the Department of Visual and Critical Studies, and is Head of History of Art at the University College Cork, Ireland.

His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes).

Current projects include a book called Success and Failure in Twentieth-Century Painting, another called Writing about the World’s Art, and several edited books: a series called “The Art Seminar,” one called “Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Art.,” and edited books on W.G. Sebald, representations of pain in art, and the university-wide study of images.

He married Margaret MacNamidhe in 1994 on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, off the West coast of Ireland. Margaret is also an art historian, with a specialty in Delacroix. His interests include freshwater microscopy (with a Zeiss Nomarski differential interference microscope), optics (he owns an ophthalmologist’s slit-lamp microscope), stereo photography (with a Realist camera), playing piano, and winter ocean diving

James Elkins
Mark Rothko
Clement Greenberg
Jerry Saltz
Michael Friedman
Rosalind Krauss
Charles Baudelaire
Denis Diderot
Artforum
Rick Moody
New York Times
Abigail Solomon-Godeau
MOMA
Oscar Wilde
András Szántó
Michael Kimmelman
Peter Schjeldahl
New Criterion
Benjamin Buchloh
Gerhard Richter
Chicago Tribune
Simon Anderson
Bard College
Michael Newman
Kathryn Hixson
Francis Bacon
October Magazine
Dave Hickey
Centre Pompidou
James Panero
Jacques Derrida
Anselm Kiefer
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Tim Clark
John Updike
Suzi Gablik
Richard Kearney
I Am a Sex Addict
Caveh Zahedi

Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_70_James_Elkins.mp3

18 Responses to “Episode 70: James Elkins”

  1. Happy New Year everybody!

    From your pals at Bad at Sports.

  2. oh thank goodness
    bas – you have started my year off perfectly!
    i shall enjoy my day off drawing and listening!

  3. The last 4 seconds of this show are the funniest in the history of the show IMHO.

    R

  4. William Conger Says:

    An excellent interview with James Elkins. He is an astonishingly agile and informed thinker who vexes the usual outlooks of art history by questioning the assumptions of visuality and art scholarship. Some part of his unusual ability may be credited to his being a painter as well as an art historian/art theorist. I’ve read most of his many books. My favorite is The Domain of Images (Cornell, 1999) but any of them is instructive, provocative, and articulate. Despite my wondering what the hell he was doing in his What Painting Is, Routlege, 1999, I’m always eager for whatever he publishes. And he keeps his scholar peers on edge!

    ,

  5. [...] Is out, but it has no Canadian, no Quebec, nor any Montreal content. As a consequence I can’t listen to the latest Bad at Sports podcast. In the email that they send out informing people of the latest Bad at Sports podcast they write that they namedrop the following people, places and things: Mark Rothko [Latvia/USA], Clement Greenberg [USA], Jerry Saltz [USA], Michael Friedman (one, two, three) [all USA], Rosalind Krauss, Charles Baudelaire [France], Denis Diderot [France], Artforum [USA], Rick Moody [USA], New York Times [USA], Abigail Solomon-Godeau [USA], MOMA [USA], Oscar Wilde [Ireland/England/France], Andrs Sznt [USA], Michael Kimmelman, Peter Schjeldahl [USA], New Criterion [USA], Benjamin Buchloh [Germany/USA], Gerhard Richter [Germany], Chicago Tribune [USA], Simon Anderson [Australia], Bard College [USA], Michael Newman [USA], Kathryn Hixson [USA], Francis Bacon [Ireland/England], October Magazine [USA], Dave Hickey [USA], Centre Pompidou [France], James Panero [USA], Jacques Derrida [Algeria/France], Anselm Kiefer [Germany/France], Christo and Jeanne-Claude [Bulgaria/France/Morocco/USA], Tim Clark [England/USA], John Updike [USA], Suzi Gablik [USA/England], Richard Kearney [Ireland/England/France/USA], I am a Sex Addict [USA], Caveh Zahedi [Iran/USA] [...]

  6. Duncan, Terri, whoa what an interview. I had to turn off my ipod just to think during the rest of work. Thank you, both. I followed your rambling ramble-query well. And found it, the last four minutes, and all else great, thought-y, and funny.

    Your bio of Elkins, however, seems to indicate that either his wife, Margaret, is a man, OR that French artist Delacroix likes oceanic diving in the winter and playing piano.

    “He married Margaret MacNamidhe in 1994 on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, off the West coast of Ireland. Margaret is also an art historian, with a specialty in Delacroix. His interests include freshwater microscopy (with a Zeiss Nomarski differential interference microscope), optics (he owns an ophthalmologist’s slit-lamp microscope), stereo photography (with a Realist camera), playing piano, and winter ocean diving”

  7. [...] Is out, but it has no Canadian, no Quebec, nor any Montreal content. As a consequence I can’t listen to the latest Bad at Sports podcast. In the email that they send out informing people of the latest Bad at Sports podcast they write that they namedrop the following people, places and things: Mark Rothko [Latvia/USA], Clement Greenberg [USA], Jerry Saltz [USA], Michael Friedman (one, two, three) [all USA], Rosalind Krauss, Charles Baudelaire [France], Denis Diderot [France], Artforum [USA], Rick Moody [USA], New York Times [USA], Abigail Solomon-Godeau [USA], MOMA [USA], Oscar Wilde [Ireland/England/France], Andrs Sznt [USA], Michael Kimmelman, Peter Schjeldahl [USA], New Criterion [USA], Benjamin Buchloh [Germany/USA], Gerhard Richter [Germany], Chicago Tribune [USA], Simon Anderson [Australia], Bard College [USA], Michael Newman [USA], Kathryn Hixson [USA], Francis Bacon [Ireland/England], October Magazine [USA], Dave Hickey [USA], Centre Pompidou [France], James Panero [USA], Jacques Derrida [Algeria/France], Anselm Kiefer [Germany/France], Christo and Jeanne-Claude [Bulgaria/France/Morocco/USA], Tim Clark [England/USA], John Updike [USA], Suzi Gablik [USA/England], Richard Kearney [Ireland/England/France/USA], I am a Sex Addict [USA], Caveh Zahedi [Iran/USA] [...]

  8. Proof positive that you shouldn’t trust anyone’s website, that was a direct lift from his.

    R

  9. What Painting Is, is one of my favourite books on art, I also thought Why art Can’t Be Taught was pretty brilliant.

  10. I loved What Painting Is.

  11. Dang comments. Please help me.

  12. J@simpleposie We will get you into some sort of treatment propgram!

  13. “go stuff a ballot box elsewhere”

    LOL

  14. I have communicated in the past back and forth with Elkins because I loved several of his books. I first wrote to him long ago after reading one of his early books, and thoroughly enjoying it, and he was nice enough to answer, although he is clearly way too busy. Congratulations on this interview. I finally had time to listen to it (while walking my dogs) and loved it. As always, Elkins was very intellectually stimulating. Several of his thoughts made me want to rush off and do certain projects, which I find to be a great indicator of the importance of an article, book or interview — making it hard to finish them because they motivate you into wanting to leap up and accomplish things.

  15. What a rewarding listen! Thanks for an excellent interview and discussion with such an important voice in contemporary criticism. Elkins can explain what seem to be very complicated connections in such simple terms. I wish I had his commentary on so many other important thinkers and works.

    I am particularly interested in the Reenchantment lectures coming up. Why is Elkins the only one to breach this topic these days? I hope that BAS can do some follow up on this event.

    Also, could an interview with the enigmatic Jerry Saltz be on the horizon? I’m sure hordes would tune in for that one! Just submitting a request…

    Thanks again!

  16. I’ve met Jerry Saltz twice, and for some reason, both times I managed to really piss him off about my perspective on whatever topic we were discussing.

    We’ll look into it.

  17. Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
    What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
    The more people that the government puts in jails, the safer we are told to think we are. The real terrorists are wherever they are, but they aren’t living in a country with bars on the windows. We are.

  18. You don’t really need or want that lifestyle, it might hurt y’all slowly more…….Just tell him you
    don’t wanna repeat something your not too proud of z7uas.

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