The Power Institute Reading Group

A drawing of various organic forms

A monthly reading group to discuss new books in art and visual culture. 

Leopold Kny, Botanische Wandtafeln, 1911, from the University of Sydney Library.

We meet once a month at the Power Institute offices at the University of Sydney to chat about important new texts in the fields of art and visual culture.  

Open to all!


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29 May 2024

Joan Kee on Afro Asia

"As a heuristic provocation, Afro Asia stresses a history of modernism rooted in the idea of the commons versus a history of modernism founded on identifying formal commonalities (pseudomorphologies) or even intellectual sympathies. If Afro Asia is not precisely collinear to Euro-American modernism, meaning that its constituent entities are not points on the lines drawn by Euro-American histories, how to conceptualise its domains or realms takes on additional complexity. Although subject to multiple structural pressures, the vibrant geometry of Afro Asia consists of events and artworks (points), movements and trajectories (lines), bodies and entities (solids), venues and grounds (surfaces), and other forms whose arrangement and occasionally deformation allows a wealth of possibiltities for life to emerge."

-Joan Kee



  • Joan Kee, The Geometries of Afro Asia: Art Beyond Solidarity (University of California Press, 2023) (Introduction, plus one other chapter of your choice)
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28 November 2023

David Young King on Groundwork

"Pictures fade when words end. We see what we say. Or put more accurately, we see what has already been said: it is harder to see that for which no words yet exist. Therefore, we need more than the lexicon of present-day art history to conjure the ground. We also need to dig through the historical bedrock of campo to extract and lay bare the assumptions implicit in the term’s use. As we might expect, these assumptions shape our expectations for how the Renaissance picture ought to look, and even more intriguingly, how the Renaissance picture can look."

-David Young Kim

"It pains me to say that such circumstances negate Documenta’s historic openness to a diversity of positions and its capacity for sustaining the life of the imagination in a supportive environment." 

-Ranjit Hoskote


  • David Young Kim, Groundwork: A History of the Renaissance Picture (2022):
    • Introduction
    • Chapter 1: "Words for Grounds"
  • Ranjit Hoskote, "Documenta Resignation Letter", e-flux Notes, 13 November 2023. 
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1 November 2023

Caitlin Beech on Sculpture and Slavery


"Abolition will be realized only in part through the toppling of symbols—of which statues remain one part—but effected more urgently through the refusal and dismantling of structures and systems that constitute our present world." 

-Caitlin Beech


"Failing to engage most of the relevant historiography and filled with misinformation, the book demonstrates a poor command of its subject matter. The author bases her arguments on questionably chosen primary sources without critiquing them or explaining her strategies in using them, and she exacerbates this problem with a citation method that makes tracking her sources unnecessarily difficult. There are at least a dozen places where the citations do not match the content of the book. As a result, the book is conceptually, methodologically, and factually unsound."

-George Zhijian Qiao



  • Caitlin Beech, Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery (2022): 
    • Introduction: "'Within a Few Steps of the Spot': Art in the Age of Racial Capitalism" 
    • Chapter 1: "Grasping Images: Antislavery and the Sculptural"
  • George Zhijian Qiao, "Review: Uncertainty in the Empire of Routine: The Administrative Revolution of the Eighteenth-Century Qing State", Journal of Chinese History (2023).



The cover of Caitlin Beech's book "Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery"

4 October 2023

David Getsy on Minimalism and Postminimalism


  • David Getsy, "Introduction: "New" Genders and Sculpture in the 1960s", in Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (2015)
  • David Getsy, "Introduction: Scott Burton's Queer Postminimalism" in Queer Behaviour: Scott Burton and Performance Art (2023)
The covers of David Getsy's books "Abstract Bodies" and "Queer Behaviour"