Vangelis Giannakakis

"Between Hardware and Aura, Probing the Limits of Materiality in Art Through Dan Flavin’s Luminous Minimalism"

Thursday, December 14 // 16.15h // JGU Fakultätssaal Philosophicum


Modern aesthetic Minimalism is neither a flight to abstract spirituality, nor an extracting
process of a primordial essence. It is concerned, rather, with the aesthetic object as
pure refiguration and the production of “concrete universality”, of form as content and
possibility of itself. This becomes especially apparent in the Minimalism of the 1960s.
The main focus of this paper will be on Dan Flavin’s luminous minimalism. The latter
is characterised by a style that, though simple in appearance, introduced a higher level
of complexity with regard to the relation between form and matter, concept and thing,
in artistic production. Neither sculptures nor paintings, Flavin’s works fall right under
Donald Judd’s category of “specific objects”. Nevertheless, his luminous creations are
not particularly specific, just as they are not strictly speaking objects. Their main material
– colour-light – is as intangible and diffuse, as its origin – the fluorescent lamp –
is commonplace and artificial. Drawing from Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory,
and Jacques Rancière’s theorisation of the regimes of art, this paper will study the lessons
that philosophy can learn from Flavin’s luminous minimalism. Flavin used to say
that an artwork “is what it is and it ain’t nothing else”, that “there is no overwhelming
spirituality you are supposed to come into contact with”. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps,
the spirit of artworks does not present itself as spirit, but instead, as Adorno once said,
“it ignites on what is opposed to it, on materiality”.

Vangelis Giannakakis is a Belgian-Greek scholar in philosophy currently living in Germany. He holds a PhD from University College Dublin, which he completed under the supervision of Professor Brian O’Connor. He also hold a MA in Philosophy from University College Dublin and a BA in Philosophy from the University of London. Mis doctoral dissertation entitled Negative Dialectics and Event proposed a comparative/ contrastive reading of Theodor Adorno’s negative dialectics and Alain Badiou’s theory of the event. More specifically, his thesis concentrated on the manner in which Adorno’s and Badiou’s philosophy is occasioned and driven by what eludes epistemological and ontological identity, namely, what appears as “nonidentity” and “event” in their respective philosophies. It also offered a juxtaposition of Adorno’s social critical theory and Badiou’s philosophical reflections on politics. Giannakakis MA thesis studied the relationship between Adorno’s negative aesthetics and aesthetic Minimalism. In it, he called attention to the philosophical aspects of Minimalism and elaborated on them through Kant’s, Hegel’s and Adorno’s reflections on art and aesthetic experience. His published work to date has been in aesthetics. He is currently writing on the notion of experience as it appears in the writings of the first generation Critical Theorists and modern French philosophy, as well as on culture and critical pedagogy.