Nancy Um at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Nancy Um will present the paper “Qasimi Yemen, A View from the Red Sea Coast,” at the conference, Yemeni Manuscript Collections and Zaydi Studies, on Friday, December 7, 2018. More information and the conference program can be found here:


Nancy Um and Hala Auji present at HIAA 2018

On October 27, 2018, Nancy Um (Professor and Chair, Art History) will present a paper entitled, “Yemeni Manuscripts Online: Close and Distant Readings of a Zaydi Corpus through the Portal of a Screen,” at the Historians of Islamic Art Association 2018 Biennial Symposium, held at Yale University. Binghamton alumna Hala Auji (PhD, 2013) will also present at the conference on October 26. Her paper is entitled, “Facing Pages: Author Portraits in Nineteenth-Century Arabic Publications.”
More information can be found at the conference website:

Nancy Um in the Sydney Asian Art Series

Case with nine bottles, ca. 1680–1700. Batavia (box) and Japan (bottles). Calamander wood, underglaze painted porcelain, silver, velvet. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, NG-444. Image in the public domain.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Nancy Um will speak in the Sydney Asian Art series, hosted by The Power Institute. Her talk is entitled, “Boxes Fit for Kings: Aromatic Gifts around the Late-Seventeenth- and Early-Eighteenth-Century Indian Ocean.


Faculty Activities: Julia Walker at the German Studies Association

Assistant Professor Julia Walker will be presenting a paper on Friday, September 28, as part of the panel Frank Lloyd Wright and German Architecture, Design, and Art at the annual meeting of the German Studies Association in Pittsburgh, PA:

“Form is nothing but emptiness, emptiness nothing but form”: Brigitte D’Ortschy and Frank Lloyd Wright in Germany, America, and Japan

This paper examines the understudied German architect and planner Brigitte D’Ortschy. Born in Berlin, D’Ortschy spent much of her architectural career in Munich, first at the Technische Universität and later as a founding member of the Bavarian Committee for Urban and Regional Planning. Yet in between, she came in contact with a figure in whom she would find a resonant intelligence, one who privileged the mental and spiritual in architecture and one who contemplated the powerful effects of silence, space, and absence. Her interactions with Frank Lloyd Wright, I aim to show, laid the groundwork for her later pursuit—becoming a Zen master of the Sanbo Kyodan school in Japan.

In 1950, as part of an exchange initiative sponsored by the Department of State, D’Ortschy spent several months in the United States at a professional retraining program for young architects and planners at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to the formal training provided at the university, the program also offered a cross-country tour designed to introduce trainees to the most important figures of American architecture (many of whom, like Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Ludwig Hilberseimer, were German émigrés). However, it was a lecture and meeting with Frank Wright that most captivated D’Ortschy. This initial encounter, the particulars of which are unknown, provided the ground for years of interaction to follow. After returning to Germany, D’Ortschy spearheaded an effort to bring the traveling exhibition “Sixty Years of Living Architecture: The Work of Frank Lloyd Wright” to Munich, making it the first presentation of Wright’s work in the city. In 1952, on Wright’s invitation, she traveled to Arizona to become an apprentice at Taliesin West.

It was after her period of collaboration with Wright that D’Ortschy made a decisive move to Japan to study Zen Buddhism. Through analysis of D’Ortschy’s essays, letters, talks, and photographic archives, this paper reveals her intensive engagement with Wright’s ideas—from his theory of organic architecture to his thinking about the importance of flow and continuity in architectural space. I hope to show that D’Ortschy’s developing interest in Zen and Japan, aided by Wright’s philosophy, led her to view architecture as yet another form of the ideal “emptiness” she sought in spiritual contemplation.

Marcia Focht presents at EVA 2018 Florence

Marcia Focht, Curator of Visual Resources, contributed the paper “Maximizing Metadata; Embedded Metadata Tools” at EVA (Electronic Imaging and the Visual Arts) in Florence, Italy, May 9-10.

The EVA Florence conference brought together about 100 speakers and participants to exchange ideas, spotlight initiatives, and share experiences on current trends in international arts computing and cultural heritage sector developments. Sponsored by an impressive array of Italian government, industry, foundation, and university entities–from the Associazione Beni Italiani Patrimonio Mondiale Unesco to Fratelli Alinari Idea to the Universita di Firenze–scholars and professionals came from as far afield as Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Japan, the UK, and USA, with strong representation from the various regions of Italy.  The proceedings are published in an open-access PDF.

Lavinia Ciuffa, Marcia Focht, and Spyros Koulouris

Following the conference, Marcia and another EVA presenter from the USA, Maureen Burns from Archivision, connected with Visual Resources Association International Chapter members–Lavinia Ciuffa from the American Academy in Rome and Spyros Koulouris of I Tatti in Florence–to visit the extensive and historic archives, libraries, and grounds of Bernard Berenson’s Tuscan villa (now a Harvard Research Center) and Palazzo Grifoni to see the Photothek des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz–Max Planck Institut hosted by Dr. Ute Dercks.

I Tatti

display at Photothek des Kunsthistorischen Instituts


Tom McDonough speaks at “1968: Aesthetics and Anti-aesthetics” conference at NYU-Berlin

Associate Professor Tom McDonough contributed a paper on “Cinema at a Standstill or, why didn’t Guy Debord film during May ’68” at the “1968: Aesthetic and Anti-aesthetics” conference hosted by NYU-Berlin May 25-26.
His talk examined the profound visual discretion exercised by Guy Debord and the Situationist International more generally during the crisis of May and June 1968, asking why Debord refused to produce any filmic documentation of the events, even as many others on the Left willingly did so. A careful reading of the text-based posters produced by the group at that time, however, opens the possibility for seeing their activity as a form of imageless cinema.