Art History Department

Ricco, John Paul MA, PhD

Professor, Contemporary Art, Queer Theory, Aesthetics & Ethics (UT Mississauga)


My research and writing derive the majority of their content from contemporary art, architecture and film. The questions motivating my work concern relations between aesthetics, ethics and politics; sex and sexuality; bodies, anonymity and the common; loss and disappearance; extinction and the collective afterlife of things. My theoretical and conceptual approach to this content and these questions is thoroughly based in my reading of 20th-century and contemporary French philosophy, in particular the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, Roland Barthes and Giorgio Agamben, along with American thinkers Leo Bersani and William Haver. Over the past few years, I have taught graduate seminars (offered at the Centre for Comparative Literature, at the University of Toronto) on “Retreating the Aesthetic: Jean-Luc Nancy;” “Late Barthes: Photography, Neutral, Mourning;” and “Queer Ethics and Aesthetics.”

My first book, The Logic of the Lure (University of Chicago Press, 2003) is the first monograph in queer theoretical art history. In it, I combine a reading of Maurice Blanchot’s philosophy of the outside, with discussions of contemporary queer art and the anonymity, imperceptibility, itinerancy and illicitness of cruising, in order to articulate an ethics and aesthetics of social-sexual promiscuity. In my second book, The Decision Between Us: art and ethics in the time of scenes (University of Chicago Press, 2014), I pursue an extended theoretical mediation on the space of separation (i.e. decision) that is intimately shared and sustained in aesthetic and ethical social relations to everyday places and things.

Areas of Academic Interest
  • Contemporary art, architecture, and film
  • Aesthetics & Ethics
  • Queer Theory
  • Art and Extinction
  • Ph.D University of Chicago, 1998
  • MA University of Chicago, 1991
  • BA New York University, 1984
Selected Publications
  • The Decision Between Us art & ethics in the time of scenes  (Chicago, 2014).

  • The Logic of the Lure  (Chicago, 2003).

  • The Intimacy of the Outside, Not Beyond  (in progress).

  • The Collective Afterlife of Things (in progress)

  • Journal of Visual Culture, Special Issue: “Regarding Jean-Luc Nancy.” Volume 9, Number 1, April 2010 (edited with Louis Kaplan).

  • Parallax 35, Edited Issue on “Unbecoming.” Volume 11, Number 2, April-June 2005.

  • “Mourning, Melancholia, Moonlight” in The New Centennial Review, volume 19, issue, 1, spring 2019.

  • “The Commerce of Anonymity,” in Qui Parle (Duke University Press) volume 26, number 1, June 2017.

  • “Intimacy: Inseparable from Separation,” in Open Set: a journal of arts, humanities, and culture, May 2017.

  • “Showing Showing: Reading WJT Mitchell’s ‘Queer’ Metapictures,” in W.J.T. Mitchell’s Image Theory: Living Pictures, edited by Kresimir Purgar, Routledge, 2016.

  • “Pornographic Faith: Two Sources of Naked Sense at the Limits of Belief and Humiliation,” in Porn Archives, edited by Tim Dean, Duke University Press, 2015.

  • “The Separated Gesture: Partaking in the Inoperative Praxis of the Already-Unmade,” in Jean-Luc Nancy and the Political, edited by Sanja Dejanovic, Critical Connection Series, Edinburgh University Press (forthcoming, 2014).

  • “The Existence of the World is Always Unexpected: Jean-Luc Nancy in conversation with John Paul Ricco.” Art in the Anthropocene, edited by Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, Open Humanities Press, 2015.

  • “The Inoperative Praxis of the Already-Unmade,” in Transmission: Labour, Work, Action, (2013), Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK; edited by Elizabeth Legge, and others.

  • “Drool: Liquid Fore-speech of the Fore-scene,” in a special issue of the journal of queer studies, inter/Alia, edited by Michael O’Rourke, Karin Sellberg, and Kamillea Aghtan (forthcoming, 2014).

  • “Parasol, Setas, Parasite, Peasant,” in Megastructures: Juergen Mayer H. Architect, (United Asia Art & Design, Beijing, China), forthcoming, 2014.

  • “Us to-come: Francesco Vezzoli’s non-consensual futures,” Journal of Visual Culture, volume 9, number 1, April 2010; Co-Editors John Paul Ricco and Louis Kaplan, special issue: “Regarding Jean-Luc Nancy.”

  • “The Surreality of Community: Frédéric Brenner’s Diaspora: Homelands in Exile,” Culture Machine 8, 2006, “Community,” edited by Dorota Glowacka.

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