Nancy Um is chairing a research panel at the conference “Art and Architecture in the Long Eighteenth Century: HECAA at 25,” November 1-4, 2018, held at Southern Methodist University, and currently accepting proposals for presentations. See the panel abstract and submission details below.
This Saturday, October 27, Jeffrey West Kirkwood will participate in the symposium The Quality of Quantity: The German Critical Tradition in the Age of Datafication at New York University. His paper is titled “An Alternative History of Facts: From Ernst Mach to Kellyanne Conway”:
During a January 22, 2017 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, introduced a phrase that would gain almost instant notoriety: “alternative facts.” Conway was responding to the heavy criticisms of White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer’s claims that the crowd in attendance for Trump’s inauguration “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” On the one hand, Chuck Todd claimed that for Spicer aerial photographs “tell the story,” implying that they documented a reality that was self-evident. On the other, Spicer and Conway also contended that satellite and overhead images were rigged by mass media outlets to indicate a lackluster turnout when compared to previous inaugurations. The images were thus seen simultaneously as proof per se of what they depicted and likewise treated as highly manipulable instruments of deception whose truth was tied to protocols of fact production.
What the dust-up recalls is an overlooked artifact of earlier discourses about the possibilities for multiple, legitimate, counterfactual states tied to mechanical image-making technologies. Namely, it calls to mind the matter of what are called “counterfactuals.” As the paper contends, counterfactuals, and specifically counterfactual thought experiments, were a centerpiece of epistemologies rooted in optical technologies that reached their apex at the beginning of the twentieth century. From Galileo to Ernst Mach (who coined the term “thought experiment”), optical technologies did not merely provide positive evidence for real states, but also introduced methods for dealing with states that did not or could not exist.
On September 28, Associate Professor and Chair of Art History Tom McDonough joined artist Vincent Meesen for a discussion of the latter’s work under the auspices of Concordia University’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery, Montréal, Québec (Canada).
The subject of their conversation was Meesen’s video One.Two.Three. A musical and historical dérive set to a Congolese rumba, this film explores the participation of Congolese intellectuals in the Situationist International movement and the unfinished work of decolonization from 1968 to today.
Commissioned for the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, One.Two.Three circumvents the trap of Situationist mythology by way of a protest song composed by Congolese Situationist Joseph M’Belolo Ya M’Piku in May 1968, its lyrics long folded away in the archives of Belgian Situationist Raoul Vaneigem. Shot in and around the legendary Kinshasa nightclub, Un. Deux. Trois, Meessen worked with M’Belolo and a group of young female musicians to produce a new rendition of the song. In the course of the band’s perambulations through the club and their attunements to one another the venue becomes an echo chamber for the impasses of history and the unfinished promises of revolutionary theory.
More information available at http://ellengallery.concordia.ca/evenement/one-two-three/?lang=en.
On October 14, Na’ama Klorman-Eraqi (PhD 2013) presented a paper, titled “Feminist Graffiti as Reclaiming Urban Space,” at the 2017 Conference of the Universities Art Association of Canada at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Na’ama is currently a lecturer in the Art History Department at Tel Aviv University.
In the project Incited Blazo Kovacevic explores images, events and scenarios in which illegal immigrants are screened and mistreated. The work focuses on the human body as an obscure form, devalued into an abstraction that is rapidly losing physical properties in the context of today’s world viewed through the lens of technology. The concept of a disregard for individual life is integrated into the installation, which addresses the following notions:
• The end of privacy—exemplified by security inspections, body scans, and X-rays of personal possessions in both everyday life and time of unrest.
• Human trafficking—where the body becomes an abundant commodity that can be exploited by providing transport across state borders without using standard entry points or types of transportation.
• The body as a weapon—used as means for terrorism inflicted upon civilians in order to generate chaos and implement a strategic military and/or political advantage in a newly created social-political vacuum.
• The body as a source of pandemic disease – creating threats for humanity especially associated with current global migration patterns.
Ever-evolving geo-political conflicts produce incongruous social conditions and threats that often justify unprecedented actions supported by various groups and governments toward civilians including invasive searches, deportation, violations of human rights and privacy. Kovacevic’s work provides a visual platform characterized by a use of cutting edge technologies to emphasize these issues of dehumanization in simulated situations. The austere digital aesthetic contrasts with the raw reality of social conflict and upheaval.
On Friday, October 13, 2017, Nancy Um will present a paper entitled, “Maritime Containers for Aromatic Gifts: The Material Conditions of Travel and Exchange in the late 17th and early 18th C Indian Ocean” at the American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University.