Meet me at the Mason Dixon Line

A conversation about artistic practice and complex geographies of disunion, war, and reconciliation


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Memory

Organizing Institutions



Jean-Michel Rabaté


Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "Meet me at the Mason Dixon," a conversation on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 from 6:30-8pm between artist Lisa Blas and art historian Thierry de Duve. The event will be introduced by Jean-Michel Rabaté and takes place on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Civil War.

Since the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the "Mason's and Dixon's Line" has functioned and symbolized as a legal and cultural boundary between the Northeastern United States and the Southern United States, and has been often associated with questions concerning the legality and legacy of slavery. Today, what does it mean to speak about this divide, and to situate one's artistic or art historical practice within this complex geography of disunion, total war, and reconciliation? Although the Civil War technically ended in 1865 with the cessation of fighting, for many the unresolved tensions between the North and South persist, and the political and social challenges of reconstruction are still unresolved.

With these considerations in mind, this conversation will consider questions such as: In what sense can one say that the Civil War ever ended? Does anything historic ever end? What does it mean to address history in the twenty-first century, and who is one addressing in that regard? What is the function of a confederate or union monument? What does it mean to re-visit the American Civil War era today, not as a historian but as an artist?

This event has been organized on the occasion of Lisa Blas's installation at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA (on view through October 7, 2011), which features images and objects from museum archives that have been excavated for their narratives about the American nineteenth century. Research and travel to locations such as Antietam National Battlefield, the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia have served as departure points for Blas's investigations into national identity, cultural myths, and American history.

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Thierry de Duve is an art theorist and historian. Professor at the Université de Lille 3, France.Getty fellow in 2008-2009; Clark fellow in the Fall of 2009; in 2010, Getty distinguished visiting professor at J. Nehru University, Delhi, India, and visiting professor at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. His books available in English include Pictorial Nominalism (1991), Kant after Duchamp (1996), Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (1996, reissued 2010), and Look — 100 Years of Contemporary Art (2001). De Duve is currently finishing a book entitled Aesthetics in the Expanded Field.

Lisa Blas is a visual artist/visiting professor from Los Angeles, California, currently based in Brussels, Belgium. She utilizes portraiture, still life and site-specificity to reflect upon the visual culture and social history of past and present. In 2003, she moved to Washington, D.C. and began a long-term project in photography, painting and installation on various constructions of the "American experience." Traveling extensively throughout the southern, mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, she examined commemorative sites, historical archives and museum collections from the nineteenth and twentieth century, locating material for such projects. Since her relocation to Brussels, she has commenced working with archives within the library of the Département Arts Plastiques, Université de Lille 3, at the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in Brussels, at the Imperial War Museum in London, and archives circa World War I at the Mairie d'Ors, in the north of France, in conjunction with the Wilfred Owen Association, France.