I Organized a Speaker Series. Hope You Like It.


So this is how I’ve spent a huge portion of the past eight months of my life: organizing the School of Media Studies’s 2014-15 Lecture Series. Here’s more info — including bios, abstracts, and additional resources, for each Monday event. All events are free and open to the public; you should totally come!

The weekly series was a new undertaking for this year, so I had to figure out a whole bunch of logistics and build an infrastructure that will make it easier for my successors to take on the challenge in years to come. All the little moving parts — Holy Mary, Mother of God!

Speaking of saints, I also have to acknowledge the wonderful folks who helped me: Dale MacDonald and Rosalie McManis and our A/V team are overseeing the weekly live-streaming (Dale also put me in contact with the Major League Baseball folks), Tracy Varites helped with honorarium and rights-clearance paperwork, Liana Bailey is helping with publicity, Chad Phillips is creating our awesome posters, and our Dean, Anne Balsamo, offered funding and moral support. I’m also teaching a class that’s built around the lecture series; Ari Spool helped build our course website (with some support from Dale), Sherbano Javeri is handling the weekly video-recording, and Lauren Gary is helping me to corral all the students.

I’m super-excited to announce our line-up for the spring [pdf here; more info here]:

  • February 9: Garnet Hertz, Canada Research Chair in Design and Media Arts, Emily Carr University of Art + Design: “Critical Making: Foundations and Processes of Critically Engaged Design Practice”
  • February 23: Dragan Espenschied, Digital Conservator, Media Artist, Home Computer Folk Musician: “Understanding the Creation of Artifacts of Digital Culture” and  Ben Vershbow, Director, New York Public Library Labs: “Time Machines, Community Gardens, and Other Metaphors for Libraries” 
  • March 2: Jeanne Liotta, Artist and Filmmaker, University of Colorado Boulder Film Studies and the Bard MFA Program: “The Real World at Last Becomes a Myth: Ruminations on Art and Science” 
  • March 9: Brian Larkin, Barnard College, Columbia University: “Techniques of Inattention: Religion and the Mediality of Loudspeakers in Nigeria”
  • March 16: Joe Inzerillo, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, MLB (Major League Baseball) Advanced Media: “Mathematical Interplay of Accelerated Bodies: Or, How I Learned Not to Slide Into First Base”
  • March 30: Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture; Director, Spatial Information Design Lab, Columbia University: “Seeing Through Data” 
  • April 6: Chi-hui Yang, Film Curator: “Curating Media: Idea Combustion as Knowledge Production”
  • April 13: Melissa Gregg, Principal Engineer, Intel Corporation: “This Productive Life” 
  • April 20: Stephanie Boluk, Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute: “Welcome to Flatland: Money, Metagames, and Valve’s Digital Economy”
  • April 27: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Artist, PhD Candidate and Lecturer, Forensic Audio Investigator: “Aural Contract : The Voice Before the Law” (Co-organized with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics)
  • May 4: Jim Paradis, Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing and Comparative Media Studies, MIT; Visiting Researcher, The New School: “Reflections on the Cultural History of Surveillance”
  • May 11: Nick Montfort, Associate Professor of Digital Media, MIT; Visiting Researcher and Part-Time Lecturer, The New School: “Computer Programming for Developing a Better Society” 


We had an equally great roster for the fall. There were a few fewer lecturers because we also hosted a number of panel discussions — on “creative methods,” modes of publicizing one’s work, and career trajectories — with alums and advanced students. Our fall guests included:

  • Mary Flanagan, Artist, Writer, Game Designer + Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities @ Dartmouth College: “Changing the World Through Values at Play”
  • Caitlin Burns, Transmedia Producer: “Lessons from the Story Business”
  • Susa Pop, Managing Director, Public Art Lab, Berlin: “Urban Screens as Community Platforms”
  • Mary Wareham and Jody Williams, with Peter Asaro: “Media Advocacy for Humanitarian Disarmament: From Landmines to Killer Robots”
  • Benjamen Walker, Host, Public Radio Exchange’s “Theory of Everything”: “A Resounding Theory of Everything”
  • Jill Godmilow, Independent Filmmaker, Emeritus Professor @ University of Notre Dame: “Staying Out of the Torture Room: The Post-Realist Documentary” (with Deirdre Boyle)
  • Andrew Uroskie, Associate Professor of Modern Art History and Criticism, SUNY Stony Brook: “Selma Last Year (1966): Site-Specificity and the Origins of Expanded Cinema”
  • Anne Balsamo, Dean, School of Media Studies: “Digital Memorials and Media Art Activism: Designing Digital Experiences for the AIDS Memorial Quilt”

Faculty for “Archive Futures” @ Bauhaus-Universität / Fellowship @ Leuphana this Summer

Anni Albers Design for Tablecloth

I’m honored and super-stoked to have been invited to serve as a faculty member for the Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar this June. This year’s theme is “Archive Futures: Operations: Time Objects, Collectives” — right up my alley! — and my fellow faculty include Gleb Albert and Monika Dommann (Zürich), Eva von Engelberg (Weimar), Lorenz Engell (Weimar), Stephan Gregory (Weimar), Mark Hansen (Duke), Thomas Levin (Princeton), Michael Jennings (Princeton), and Lynn Spigel (Northwestern). So excited!

And, while I’m in Germany, I’ll be doing a two-week residency at the DCRL Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. We’ve been trying to make this happen for quite some time, and I’m glad we’re finally able to make it work!

Now I need to learn German. Ich hasse geschlechtsspezifischen Substantive!


Scripts + Scores, Or Texts + Tones, Or Some Other AudioVisual Alliteration


I’ve seen a few exhibitions over the past few weeks, and a number of connecting threads have emerged: scripts + reading, scores + sound, navigation, and science fiction. (For some reason I seem to have had no sense of humor when writing this post. Apologies for my uncharacteristic stodginess.)

I began with the fantastically overwhelming “Learn to Read: A Surviving History of Printed Matter” at NYU’s 80WSE. The sheer volume of texts — all of Printed Matter’s printed matter — attests to the continuing vibrancy in the world of (small) publishing, and suggests that, despite the ascendance of the e-reader, words-on-paper still have their place. As the gallery explains:

The exhibition presents a transparent timeline of Printed Matter’s recovered archive, including administrative documents, programming ephemera, and publishing projects, the exhibition presents a cumulative biographical portrait of the struggles of an organization committed to meeting the ever-changing need for alternative art economies, modes of production, presentation, and dissemination. These historical materials are framed by two additional major components of the exhibition: a satellite location of their bookstore and a fully equipped print shop, housed within the gallery, which will serve as the site for artist publishing residencies by artists Mary Ellen Carroll, Jesse Hlebo / Swill Children, Juliana Huxtable, Red76, Research and Destroy New York City, and Josh Smith & Friends.



Martha Rosler advocating that PM become a “little less boutique”


I moved on, then, to Dutch photographer Reinier Gerritsen’s “The Last Book” — photos of public, analog reading — at Julie Saul. His photos show people suspended between two worlds: the crowded, smelly, bodily cacophony of the subway; and the visual, tactile, and imaginative universe of the page. With more and more commuters toting e-readers and obliviously lost in their screens, perhaps, he seems to be suggesting through his exhibition title, these analog readers are an endangered species.



Then, at Hasted Krautler, I enjoyed the work of another Dutch photographer, Erwin Olaf, who explores endangered rituals. His “Waiting” series examines the various psychological conditions — anticipation, disappointment, boredom — associated with the liminal state of “waiting.” As Olaf explains, waiting is an “odd place in-between two emotions” — yet now that “everybody…has a phone or an iPad that connects them to the world,” the wait has become an endangered place. As the gallery states, eloquently, “it is here, in the moments where nothing explicitly ‘happens,’ that the majority of life takes place.”


Meanwhile, Cy Twombly’s “Treatise on the Veil (Second Version)” at the Morgan Library creates a visual and textual landscape that, thanks to its scale, can’t help but absorb the viewer; one has to walk along the piece, whose left and right edges are “signposted” with scribbled directions: “in” and “out.” Twombly conceives of the work as a “timeline without time.” The 33-foot piece was supposedly inspired by “The Veil of Orpheus,” a musique concrète composition by Pierre Henry that features the sound of cloth being torn; and by a Muybridge photo of a veiled woman. Muybridge was, of course, known for his studies of movement via stop-action photography. Also on display are a series of drawings and collages, studies for the larger piece that themselves embody an array of tears and sutures and modalities of concrete composition. Hyperallergic has a substantial post about the exhibition.

Via Gagosian (photos weren't permitted in the gallery)
Via Gagosian (photos weren’t permitted in the gallery)


Susan Philipsz’s “Part File Score” @ Tanya Bonakdar likewise integrates sonic and graphic inspirations. The installation features a 12-channel audio composition for solo violin, based on Hans Eisler’s compositions for film. Eisler fled Germany for the U.S. to escape the Nazis, and, while in LA, was blacklisted and eventually deported. The audio piece is accompanied by a series of prints featuring Eisler’s hand-edited scores, onto which are superimposed his FBI files, which are themselves “edited” via redaction. These themes of loss and exile and echoed in the solo violin, a single part extracted from larger compositions.



At Calliccoon, Caroline Bergvall also links text and sound to trace maritime narratives. The faintly visible text pieces, barely intelligible audio tracks, and micro-script word clouds in “DRIFT” collectively convey disorientation in a fog of language.




The sea is a recurring theme, too, in apexart’s, “Foot Notes: On the Sensations of Tone,” which features a selection of sound-art pieces inspired by Hermann von Helmholz’s assertion that “a noise is accompanied by a rapid alternation of different kinds of sensations of sound.” Edgar Varèse, in 1905, declared that “Helmholtz was the first person to make me perceive music as being a mass of sounds evolving in space, rather than an ordered series of notes.” Here, in this rather underwhelming show, we hear Helmholz echoed in the work of Una Lee, Chris H. Lynn, Robert Macfarlane, Ed Osborn, David Rothenberg, and the fabulous Annea Lockwood and Chris Watson.

Meanwhile, at Fridman Gallery, Daniel Neumann and Juan Betancurth’s “One Cycle Ahead” uses the “speaker relic” as a medium to explore sound as sculptural and architectural.

I also saw Diana Thater’s “Science, Fiction” @ David Zwirner, where she examines the dung beetle’s dependence on the stars in the night sky for navigation. One room features images of the Milky Way via the Griffin Observatory; another room features a Light-and-Space-style installation from which is projected a video of the beetles’ movement. Implicit here is a critique of what is lost — the beetles lose connection to their orientation system, and we potentially forfeit the essential “janitorial” role that these beetles play in the ecosystem — with the spread of light pollution and our diminishing connection to the night sky. A beautiful installation.



Basim Magdy’s “An Absent Population Laughs at its Haunting Withdrawal” @ Art in General plays with science — the chemical treatment of photography — and fiction, too. His video, “The Everyday Ritual of Solitude Hatching Monkeys,” mixes images of historic ruins and futuristic settings, land and sea, solitude and togetherness, with a stream-of-consciousness narrative voiceover that bears little relevance to the imagery. The video, like the text piece on the opposite wall, explores the tension between progress and failure and conveys the inevitable repetition of history. Meanwhile, the photos in “The Hollow Desire to Populate Imaginary Cities” make use of different film stocks and chemical treatments, and catalog a variety of chromatics and states of decay.

Via Art in General (my photos didn't turn out terribly well)
Via Art in General (my photos didn’t turn out terribly well)



Finally, I saw Dutch artist (wow – such ample Dutchness in the galleries in recent weeks!) Jan Schoonoven’s wall reliefs and works on paper @ David Zwirner. Over the course of his career, which spanned from the 50s through the 70s, Schoonoven migrated from colorful Klee-inspired drawings to monochrome works on paper and grid-based wall reliefs. I wasn’t surprised to learn that he was a civil servant for the Dutch Postal Service; I figured he worked either for some bureaucratic entity — or for an egg-packing plant.





Educating for the Information Future

librI’m heading to Boston tomorrow to take part in a three-day workshop on “Envisioning our Information Future and How to Educate for It.” We’ll be thinking about how to best prepare librarians, archivists, and folks in related professions to adapt to an ever-evolving technological landscape. I think it’s particularly important to situate these technical concerns within a broader context — to consider how “information workers” have to respond to cultural, social and political-economic shifts; how our practices for managing “information” both reflect and shape our cultural values, etc.

I’m excited and honored to have been invited to collaborate with so many inspiring people, including folks from the American Library Association, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Digital Public Library of America, the Internet Archive, ArtStor, Mozilla, the Mellon Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives; library faculty and library directors and librarians; tech developers and tech policy people; and lots more. I’m particularly glad that designers, like Jake Barton from Local Projects and Jer Thorp from the Office for Creative Research, will be there, too. And Nicholas Negroponte. And Bethany Nowviskie!


Library Design Study Showcase, January 12

For the past year I’ve been collaborating with the fine folks at the Architectural League of New York and the Center for an Urban Future to organize a design study of New York’s branch libraries. On December the teams presented their proposals — and a bunch of civic officials and community leaders shared their thoughts — at an epic event at the Japan Society. That event was very much policy-oriented, so the design teams had only a few minutes each to present their work. We wanted to celebrate the teams’ fantastic contributions — so we’ve organized a second, more design-focused event at The New School for next Monday, January 12. The five teams will have a goodly amount of time to do their thing, and then CUF’s David Giles and I will moderate a conversation.

You can find more info on the ArchLeague’s website, where you can also RSVP.