Graduate student activities: Yuri Chang in Toronto and Rotem Rozental in London

Nam June Paik, The More the Better, 1988.

Doctoral student Rotem Rozental will participate in the symposium Beyond Representation: Photography, Humans & Computers, held at the Centre for Media & Culture Research at London South Bank University in association with the journal Philosophy of Photography this coming May. Rotem’s talk is titled “Silence of the Lost Object.”

Doctoral student Yuri Chang presented a paper at Deception, the 12th Annual East Asian Studies Graduate Student Conference at the University of Toronto in March. Her talk, “Olympic and Nam June Paik: The Imagined Future of Korea as the Spectacle of Deception,” addressed a section of her ongoing dissertation research.

Call for Papers: Society of Architectural Historians, 2013–Modern Architecture and the Book

Assistant Professor Julia Walker will be co-chairing a panel at the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in Buffalo next year. Please see below for the call for papers. Full submission information can be found here.

Modern Architecture and the Book

Describing Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionary of French Architecture from the 11th to the 16th Century, Frank Lloyd Wright wrote, “That book was enough to keep, in spite of architects, one’s faith alive in architecture.” Yet what was the nature of the architectural books produced in Wright’s own time, when faiths of all kinds were put to the test and when conventional media were under assault? How did architects and theorists reconcile the traditions of architectural literature with what they perceived as a wholly new social landscape, demanding both innovative built forms and novel modes of communication? What visual experience did they believe inhered in the form of the book that made it indispensable to the development of the new architecture?

This panel will investigate the use of the book to document, describe, promote, and critique modern architecture from its inception at the end of the nineteenth century to its alleged death in the late twentieth century. Despite the apparent conflict between modern design and the conservative traditions of bookmaking, publications from Antonio Sant’Elia’s Futurist Architecture to Nicolas Pevsner’s Pioneers of the Modern Movement to the Bauhausbücher sought to capture the dynamism of the modern visual experience. Making use of incipient visual technologies—in particular, photography—and new principles of typography and graphic design, these books not only taught their readers what counted as modern architecture, but also instructed them in how to look at it. Papers may address the ways in which authors transform the book format; how such publications experiment with the visual and cognitive processes of viewing a book; or the nature of the audiences they sought to reach.

Please send proposals/abstracts to:

Julia Walker, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Binghamton University;; and Pepper Stetler, Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Miami University;

Proposals for papers due to session chairs by June 1, 2012.

Next VizCult: Julia Walker, Binghamton University

“Theater of Doubt: The Palast der Republik’s Architectural Unconscious”

Wednesday, May 2, 5:15 pm

FA 218

After the Palast der Republik (built between 1973 and 1976 to house the German Democratic Republic’s parliament in Berlin) was doomed to demolition in 2003, a burst of artistic activity occurred within the building’s flamboyant marble-and-glass walls. Figures such as Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson, and Tacita Dean contributed meditations on the Palast’s short, tragic life, frequently in the form of trenchant critiques aimed at the German government’s ongoing repression of the city’s Soviet past. While often invoked in analyses of Berlin’s politics of reunification and in discussions of contemporary art practices, these projects in fact provide a surprisingly thorough (if unconscious) analysis of the modernist architecture that frames them. Staged in what Khadija Carroll La has called the “demolition theater” of the Palast der Republik, these works expose more than just the memory politics that dominated aesthetic discourse in post-Wende Berlin; they also reveal the contradictions of modern architecture at the very site of its own spectacular failure.

Julia Walker is Assistant Professor of Art History at Binghamton University.

Next week: “Conversations in Career Opportunities: How to Get into Urban Rehabilitation and Historic Preservation”

“Conversations in Career Opportunities: How to Get into Urban Rehabilitation and Historic Preservation”

Wednesday, May 2, 3:00-4:30 p.m., FA 258

Please join us for a conversation with five professionals in the city of Binghamton who will share personal stories about how they were drawn to urban renewal and historic preservation from different career paths.  Organized in conjunction with Associate Professor Karen Barzman‘s ARTH 496, this is an opportunity for students to explore how they might use their own skills and background in art history and architecture to create exciting career opportunities in a variety of urban settings.  Q&A will follow the presentations.  Light refreshments will be served.

Panel Speakers:

Joel Boyd
Assistant Director of Economic Development
City of Binghamton

H. Peter L’Orange
Historic Preservation Planner
City of Binghamton

Roger Luther
President, P.A.S.T.
Preservation Association of the Southern Tier

Gerald R. Smith
Broome County Historian
Broome County Public Library

Sarah Grace Cambell, Esq.
Special Counsel – Zoning, Land Use, Development
Hinman, Howard & Kattell L.L.P.
Binghamton, New York

Marcia Focht at the Visual Resources Association

Last week Marcia Focht, Curator of Visual Resources, attended the Visual Resources Association’s Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in her role as Secretary of the Executive Board of the Association.  While there, Focht was recognized at the Annual Business Meeting for thirteen years of service as the Association’s Mentor Program Coordinator.

More information at

Annual Ferber Lecture: Anthony Cutler, Pennsylvania State University

Please join us for the annual Ferber Lecture this Thursday, April 26 from 5:30-7:00 in the Anderson Center Reception Room. Anthony Cutler, Evan Pugh Professor of Art History, Pennsylvania State University, will speak on “The Empire of Things: Gifts and Gift Exchange Across Byzantium, Early Islam, and the Medieval West.” Free and open to the public; reception at 4:30. Co-sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Art History Department, the Fernand Braudel Center and the History Department. Contact Barbara Knighton, CEMERS, at 607-777-2730 or

 The art historian faces a dilemma: we possess scores of medieval objects supposed by their curators/historians to have been gifts and, conversely, hundreds of references (usually quite unspecific) in Arabic, Greek and Latin literature to things (artifactual, human, and zoological) transmitted either domestically or “internationally.” Can and should these categories be related to each other? In the face of a huge body of secondary literature on gift theory written in the wake of Marcel Mauss’s Essai sur le don, I propose to restore to surviving objects some of the quiddity that they possess and, at the same time, to see how, in part or in whole, they conform to or strain the theoretical structures that have been erected upon and about them on material and textual bases. Clearly, nonetheless, the quiddity of things is something that has to be transcended. If such things are culturally shaped, how and under what circumstances is it possible to posit a “shared culture of objects”?

Scenes from 192 Books

Thanks to all who joined us for Assisant Professor Kevin Hatch’s book launch at 192 Books in New York! Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge.

REMINDER: External grants and proposal writing workshop TOMORROW

Please take note of the following professional development workshop for art history graduate students:

External Grants and Proposal Writing Workshop, offered by Nancy Um and Janice McDonald, Office of External Scholarships

Wednesday, April 18, 5:15 pm, FA 218

In this workshop, we will discuss the process of applying to external fellowships. It will also give tips on grant proposal writing. Please note, in order to be eligible for a number of internal fellowships, such as the Dissertation Year Fellowship and the Dissertation Award for Primary Source and Field Research in Art History, applicants must show that they have made a good faith effort to secure outside funding. So, in essence, all advanced graduate students should be applying to outside grants yearly. All students are welcome, particularly those who are seeking outside funding for the academic year 2013-14.

Julia Walker at the Society of Architectural Historians

Assistant Professor Julia Walker will be presenting a paper this Friday, April 20, at the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in Detroit. Follow the link for time and location.

Upon winning the commission to master plan Berlin’s new government district, Axel Schultes remarked, “the challenge posed by the competition was to coax the soul out of the Spreebogen, the genius loci, to pour its historical and spatial dimensions into the mold of a new architectural allegory.” Schultes and his partner, Charlotte Frank, had generated public enthusiasm with a design anchored by a Band des Bundes (or “ribbon of federal buildings”) spanning the Spree twice and traversing the former boundary between east and west. Supporters saw the plan as symbolically repairing the rent urban fabric and suturing together the formerly divided city. Indeed, Schultes and Frank’s design thematized the Spreebogen’s status as a frontier in need of rehabilitation—a historical zone of rupture, movement, and surveillance, from the course of the Berlin Wall along the Spree to the spectral presence of Albert Speer’s imposing north-south boulevard.

Yet it is in Schultes’s reflection that the Spreebogen’s vexed history must be refigured as a “new architectural allegory” that the complexity of the project is unexpectedly revealed. This paper finds its theoretical foothold in Walter Benjamin’s discussion of allegory, a mode that he believed to emerge at moments of political disturbance. According to Benjamin, allegory is noteworthy for its fragmentation and lack of unity; that is, “Allegory is in the realm of thought what ruins are in the realm of things.” In Schultes and Frank’s plan, unity (whether political, historical, or urban) manifests as a desire rather than a reality; the band of federal buildings does not represent a mythical post-Wende German state, but rather invokes the yearning subtending the very idea of unification. Read allegorically, the Spreebogen frontier emerges as a zone not of fixed significance, but rather of migration, transit, and motion, of meaning that is continuously contingent, deferred, or absent.

John Tagg in Warsaw

Papers from the 2011 Warsaw conference “Archiwum jako projekt/The Archive as Project” have now been published in English and Polish by the Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii, edited by Krzystof Pijarski. The impressive collection includes Professor John Tagg‘s contribution, “The Archiving Machine/Maszyna archiwizacyjna.” His presentation at the conference can be found at this link: :

It seems that “archive” is having its turn as one of those words, like “the body,” “visuality,” “hybridity,” “the aesthetic” and so on, that surge suddenly and sometimes surprisingly into fashion as the must-have accessory of the moment. This may be reason enough to try to go back to recover something of the edge and point of arguments made thirty years ago about the historical relationship between photography and the archive. The issues can hardly be said to be less pressing now. So perhaps, before we try to distance the effects of the archive as endlessly fraught by melancholy and the uncanny, we should try to encounter its machinery in the full force and confidence of its operation as an apparatus of rationalization and social management––an archiving machine that, in grasping and appropriating photography, subsumed the camera and its peripherals within the non-mimetic system of its composite assemblage, radically complicating our sense of what can be said to constitute the photographic apparatus, to say nothing of the questionable status of the photograph as index.