José Emilio Burucúa

Like a Bird, Hope Flies

Tuesday, 17 and Wednesday, 18 March 2020 - 11am and 7pm
Seminar: free, with prior registration / Master lecture: free, with prior ticket collection until full capacity is reached
Nouvel Building, Study Centre and Auditorium 200

Seminar: free, with prior registration by filling out an online form (capacity: 40 people)
Master lecture: gfree, with prior ticket collection at the Museo Ticket Offices and on the Museo Reina Sofía website from Friday 13 March. Maximum of two tickets per person

Education programme developed with the sponsorship of the Banco Santander Foundation

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía
Juan Antonio Ramírez Chair
Kazimir Malévich, Athletes, 1930-31. Russian Museum Collection, Malaga
Kazimir Malévich, Athletes, 1930-31. Russian Museum Collection, Malaga

Activity postponed until further notice.

The Museo Reina Sofía’s Juan Antonio Ramírez Chair invites art historian José Emilio Burucúa (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1946) to participate in its programme of master lectures. Burucúa has served as a professor of Modern History and Art History at the University of Buenos Aires and the University of San Martín (Argentina), and has been a research fellow at the Institutes for Advanced Study in Berlin and Nantes. In 2017, his books Excesos lectores, austeridades iconográficas (Reader Excesses, Iconographic Austerities), and Historia natural y mítica de los elefantes (The Natural and Mythical History of Elephants), in collaboration with Nicolás Kwiatkowski, were both published by Ampersand in Buenos Aires; 2017 was also the year his work was recognised in the field of literature as he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts in Argentina. More recently, the publishing house Periférica reissued his wide-ranging project Enciclopedia B-S in Spain.     

In this programme, via a seminar and a lecture, Burucúa, a tireless advocate of the humanities and with a perspective that is as erudite as it is imaginative, seeks to recover an historical discourse capable of revealing the way in which the core principles of civilisations — humanity, truth, finitude, justice – are transmitted, not just through words and their logical, philosophical and scientific developments, but also on account of the visual, sound and linguistic objects that the arts have fabricated as symbolic-emotional conglomerates since prehistory. 

Under the title Like a Bird, Hope Flies, Burucúa elicits a delineation of an aesthetic history of hope in the West and a critical endeavour around the concept of civilisation: Will we be able to discover the common traits of civilisations and recognise a certain kind of human universalism without abolishing idiosyncrasies? Will we be able to advance towards a convergence of multiple projects that pull us away from the violence between peoples and nations, that allow us to alter the role of war as a focal point of history?


Tuesday, 17 and Wednesday, 18 March 2020 – 11am / Nouvel Building, Study Centre

Seminar by José Emilio Burucúa
Notes for an Aesthetic History of Hope in the West

Three twentieth-century masters supply the tools to explore the possibilities of writing an aesthetic history of certain general ideas: Ítalo Calvino, Hannah Arendt and Ernst Bloch. Through these three figures, Burucúa plunges into the search for a discourse which is able to shed light on the way in which artistic manifestations — visual, sound, linguistic — transmit, over time, the cornerstones determining diverse societies. With a view to addressing their symbolic-emotional values, he takes as a frame of reference Pathosformeln (the pathos formula), a term coined by Aby Warburg.

The seminar sets out from the idea of hope, as a field of experience, analysed through visual forms that artistic imagination associates with it. Through a study methodology based on classifying the signs put forward by Charles Pierce (icon, index, symbol), and focusing on detecting metaphors and diagrams, Burucúa parses a repertoire that starts from ancient Mediterranean thought, arriving at the work of artists like Michelangelo, and the non finito of his sculptures, and concludes with the expectations convened by Malevich’s Suprematism and American abstract painting from the 1950s and 1960s.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020 – 7pm / Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Master lecture by José Emilio Burucúa
Civilisation or Civilisations? Humanity’s Conflicts and Common Work

With a presentation by Aurora Fernández Polanco, art critic, researcher and head professor of the Department of Contemporary Art Theory and History at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Today, the concept of civilisation is, from the optics of social sciences and anthropology, associated with a series of negative connotations stemming from a chiefly violent history of different peoples. Would reinventing such a notion to create a new taxonomy around the cultural units that co-exist on the planet make sense? Would it help us to overcome the tendency to resort to confrontation, fostering instead approaches, exchanges and reciprocal collaborations? In short, a better understanding that gives rise to the collective enrichment of humanity. And if the latter were possible, would creating an economic system aimed at dismantling the abuse caused by bygone capitalism be feasible?  

Burucúa seeks to answer these questions at the crossroads of three disparate theories on the global development of humanity: the system of the “curialization of warriors” by sociologist Norbert Elias; the research of anthropologist Jack Goody on the superfluous in the culture of flowers, gastronomy and lyric poetry; and the centrality of translation as a vital and legitimate phenomena of cultural universality by philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne.     

Education programme developed with the sponsorship of the Santander Fundación