Art as Knowledge: Sovereign Power, Death, and Monuments
This lecture considers two ancient Mesopotamian monuments, the stele of Naramsin and the Law Code of Hammurabi. Combining archaeological and formal analyses of these monuments with the perspective of philosophy and critical theory via the writings of Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Derrida, Bahrani turns to the larger theoretical question of the life span of images and the efficacy of works of art. Rather than taking the two monuments as antiquities isolated in space and time from their own cultural context, Bahrani argues that they are also timeless works of art that reflect on the relationship of law and the state of exception, and the very ancient tie between absolute political power and biopolitics. The respondent for the lecture was Beate Pongratz-Leisten, Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. The lecture is part of the Art as Knowledge series, which features talks by leading art historians on the subject of how art develops and conveys knowledge.