“The contemplation of the artwork: on the interfusion of image and language.” An interaction between students at Leiden University and the Lectorate Art Theory & Practice at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.

Presentation 'Seeing and Naming', KABK gallery, 2010

Organised in cooperation with Leiden University.

The course focuses on the contemplation of the artwork and the verbal articulation of that experience. The work of art cannot exist outside language: it only exists in and through active and conscious consideration. Looking is something to be learned, just as articulating and analysing what is viewed. Issues covered during the course include: What kind of knowledge and insight does the artwork generate? What does art mean to contemporary society? What is the role of art in our post-modern visual culture?

The aim of concentrated looking is to penetrate into the various layers of the work, in a technical and material sense as well as a content-related one. Contemplation is movement; it is a continuous going back and forth between the observer and the work. Afterwards, the artwork remains as an intellectual creation in the memory of the observer, and becomes part of the observer’s worldview. The combination of observing and articulating is essential to understanding the artwork. This is true for both the creator of the artwork and its viewers. The artist is the first observer of the work. Translating the visual experience into language and analysing the production process is essential for the advancement of the artistic process.

Students train their skills in observing, speaking and writing, and relating these to each other. The issue is how each individual student utilises language. This is a subjective activity; everyone takes his/her own approach. The objective of the course is to create and stimulate the awareness of the thinking and observing process. Students learn to not only comprehend the artwork, but the surrounding world as well. The focus of the course is on stimulating critical thinking about ideas, experiences and themes in contemporary culture.

This takes place through a synergy of four disciplines: art criticism, art research, philosophy and art practice. Representatives from these four disciplines teach the course, each from their own approach. The synergy also takes place on the student level, some of whom are enrolled at the university and others at the academy.

Practical Information


The course location alternates between the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and Leiden University, as well as on location at various art exhibitions.

For whom?

The course is intended for second and third year Bachelor students in art history, philosophy and literature, and for third and fourth year Bachelor students of the Royal Academy in The Hague.


For the Art Research Programme a small number of highly motivated students will be selected.


Second semester, 14 meetings on Fridays (14.00-17.00) from February to May. The course will be completed with a presentation of the results in the gallery at the Royal Academy in The Hague.


The course ‘Seeing and Naming’ is organised by Kitty Zijlmans and Janneke Wesseling. In 2010 the course was co-taught by Herman Siemens and the Uqbar Foundation. In 2009 the course was co-taught by Gerard Visser and Falke Pisano. Maaike Gouwenberg curated the final presentation.

is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the School of Art History, Leiden University. Her main interests are contemporary art, theory and methodology. In her work she also focuses on the particular contribution of women to art and culture, as well as on processes of globalisation and the increasing role of intercultural dimensions in art and the art world. Her publications include World Art Studies. Exploring Concepts and Approaches, Amsterdam: Valiz 2008 (co-edited with Wilfried van Damme); CO-OPs. Interterritoriale verkenningen in kunst en wetenschap / Exploring new territories in art and science, Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 2007 (co-edited with Rob Zwijnenberg and Krien Clevis); Site-Seeing. Places in Culture, Time and Space, Leiden: CNWS Publications, 2007 (ed.).

is professor in Art and Research at the University of the Arts, The Hague, and co-director of PhDArts at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts at Leiden University. Since 1983 she has been writing as art critic for NRC Handelsblad. In addition, Wesseling publishes regularly in contemporary art in magazines and catalogues in the Netherlands and abroad. She has also published a number of independent studies and books, including See it Again, Say it Again. The Artist as Researcher. Ed. Janneke Wesseling. Amsterdam, Valiz, 2011; Het museum dat niet bestond. Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 2004 and Schoonhoven, beeldend kunstenaar. The Hague /Amsterdam, SDU publishers/Openbaar Kunstbezit, 1990. Wesseling is working on a dissertation on reception aesthetics and contemporary art.

is lecturer in modern philosophy at Leiden University and specialises in the philosophy of Nietzsche. Siemens studied philosophy in London, Berlin and Essex. Since 1998 he has collaborated with other researchers at the Nietzsche Nietzsche dictionary. Moreover, he investigated the role that conflict plays in contemporary democracies.

was initiated by artists Irene Kopelman and Mariana Castillo Deball in 2006. It aims to generate a platform for interdisciplinary practice and discussion, creating a dialogue among artists, scientists, and institutions, and developing new ways of collaboration with different areas of knowledge, individuals and institutions such as museums, universities, archives and libraries. Their projects include ‘Philosophical transactions at the historical observatory’ in Cordoba, Argentina; ‘A for Alibi’, a long term project in the collection of scientific instruments at the University Museum in Utrecht, including an exhibition at De Appel in Amsterdam and a publication; and participation in the ‘Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge’ in Istanbul.

teaches Philosophy of Culture and Society at Leiden University. He wrote a dissertation on Nietzsche en Heidegger: Een confrontatie (1989). His main research themes are the essence of the affective and the relation between art and truth. In 1998 he published De druk van de beleving, about the primacy of lived experience (Erlebnis, sensation) in philosophy and art at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century and in the modern experience-society. Since then he has been working on a trilogy on the theme of release or detachment (Gelassenheit). The first outcome is a book on the mystical thought of Master Eckhart, published in Dutch under the title: Gelatenheid. Gemoed en hart bij Meister Eckhart (2008).

studied at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht and Jan van Eijck Academy, Maastricht. Pisano‘s work is based on an obsession with modernist sculpture and language structures. Her works take the form of video conferences or lecture-performances in which the artist explores topics such as abstraction, the practice of theory, and linguistics. She exhibits internationally. Previous exhibitions of her work include ‘The Body in Crisis’, De Vleeshal (Middelburg, 2012); ‘Performing Abstraction’, Luciana Brito Gallery, Sao Paulo (2012), ‘Abstract Possible’, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2012), ‘Desert Solitaire’, Benoît Maire & Falke Pisano, CAC, Vilnius (2011), ‘7 little mistakes’, Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2010).

studied Fine Arts at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht and attended the Curatorial Programme at the Appel Art Centre. She (co-)curated ‘If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution’, ‘Flat Station’ and ‘Expodium’. Currently she is the director of A.P.E. (Art Projects Era), curator at W139 and De Zaak MG and programme advisor at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, among others.