Department of Philosophy

Home / Beamer-Schneider Professorship / Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics

Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics


there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in*

–from Anthem by Leonard Cohen

The 2015 biennial Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics & Civics

A public lecture & discussion by Michael Rakowitz–––
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015, 6 PM in Clark Hall 309
All are welcome

Artist Michael Rakowitz will discuss his work in the context of hope and antagonism, and at the intersection of problem-solving and trouble-making. He will also introduce his new project in the city of Cleveland on racism and police brutality.


Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Borrelli has described Rakowitz as one of the most influential conceptual artists of the moment, a “deeply politically minded soul whose work, posed between agitprop and performance, has accomplished the remarkable: He has figured out a way to make conceptual art less…Conceptual. And more accessible.”

Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is an artist living and working in Chicago. In 1998 he initiated paraSITE, an ongoing project in which the artist custom builds inflatable shelters for homeless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th Istanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, and Transmediale 05. He has had solo exhibitions at Tate Modern in London, Lombard Freid Gallery in New York, Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea in Torino, and Kunstraum Innsbruck. His public project, Return, was presented by Creative Time in New York in 2006. He is the recipient of a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. His work features in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Van Abbemuseum, Endhoven, Netherlands; The British Museum; Kabul National Museum, Afghanistan; and UNESCO, Paris. His solo exhibition, The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own was on view at Tate Modern in London in 2010. A new commission for SALT in Istanbul premiered in November 2011. Rakowitz was commissioned by Creative Time in 2011 for his project, Spoils, a culinary intervention at New York City’s Park Avenue restaurant that invited diners to eat off of plates looted from Saddam Huseein’s palaces. The project culminated in the repatriation of the former Iraqi President’s flatware to the Republic of Iraq at the behest of current Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki on December 15, 2011—the date Coalition Forces left Iraq. In 2012, his Enemy Kitchen food truck served Iraqi food to Chicago’s hungry public, served by veterans of the Iraq War working under Iraqi refugee chefs, and will soon return to the streets. Another recent project, The Breakup, was first presented by Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem in October 2010, and was exhibited at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago in 2014. He is currently working on a new commission fort he 14th Istanbul Biennial. Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.

If you would like to be on the mailing list, please contact Jeremy Bendik-Keymer at

This event is co-sponsored by the Beamer-Schneider Professorship in Ethics, the Social Justice Institute, and the Department of Philosophy.

Beamer-Schneider Lecture

As part of its commitment to develop the ethos of Case Western Reserve University and its relationship to its larger community, the Beamer-Schneider Professorship will present every two years a lecture and workshop by a world-class public intellectual, ethicist, or thinker of politics on a matter concerning the intersection of ethics and civics. The idea is to advance our thinking in these domains, to push us to deal with a difficult area of our lives theoretically or philosophically, to make us uncomfortable, albeit excited.

Protesting highschoolers in Rouen, France, April 1989

Protesting highschoolers in Rouen, France, April 1989

The inaugural lecture was given in April of 2011 by Simon Critchley of the New School University in New York City. His lecture was called “The Powerless Power of the Call of Conscience” and ranged between anarchic politics, social conscience, and the capacity of schools to problematize authority. His workshop, given the day before, was on Apollinaire’s great poem “Zone” and examined the intersection of the personal and the political in Apollinaire’s apparent autobiography of a despondent city-dweller of Paris in the first decades of the 20th century. Professor Critchley also worked with the SAGES class vocation & Life which had read his 2006 book Infinitely Demanding.

Beamer-Schneider Lecture

Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin, gave the second biennial Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics in April, 2013. Her lecture, “Learning from the Germans: Tarantino, Spielberg, and American Crimes,” examined how 60 years of German attempts to deal with its Nazi past produced a template for confronting national evils. In American culture, such confrontations are rare. Neiman reflected on how Americans can begin to think about forging an identity in the face of our own torturous past. Her workshop the following day was on her novel, Time Heals, tracing the lives of nine people – including writers and barkeepers, bureaucrats and punks, Germans and Jews – as they were affected by the consequences of World War II in postwar Berlin. Neiman also participated in an upper level ethics seminar on Kant and the banality of evil which had read her Evil in Modern Thought.