December 1, 2012
Presenters 2013

Presenters are listed under their respective sessions / panels

SESSION 1:
Artwork / Network
Respondent: Alexandra Nicolaides (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Kurt Ralske (Museum of Fine Arts Boston Faculty)

John A. Tyson || Emory University, Art History, PhD Candidate (ABD)
Afterlives of “Systems Esthetics”

In his essay “Systems Esthetics” (Arforum, September 1968) the critc Jack Burnham suggests that avant-garde artworks in the form of systems, which create couplings between spectators and institutions, reflect a shift” from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented society. While Burnham’s notions were immensely important in the late 60s and 70s, the critic’s writings had largely faded from view by the 90s. In the last decade, art world interest in “systems esthetics” has been renewed — reflected in criticism, scholarship, and exhibitions like The Ghost in the Machine. Our lives are increasingly mediated and linked into systems; hence, perhaps explaining its appeal, Burnham’s rubric resonates with conditions today even more than those of c. 1968. This paper will consider the subsequent “lives” of Burnham’s ideas and analyze contemporary creators’ (Allora and Calzadilla, Sam Lewib, or Ryan Gander’s) engagements with, and updates of, “systems esthetics.”
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Jonathan Frey and Amanda Sepanski || Pratt Institute, Graphic Design, 2nd year MFA
Transformation Design

We propose to co-present our Transformation Design projects dealing with the themes of public/private space and participatory design. Both projects take a critical look at the semi-public space of the Pratt Brooklyn Campus and the impact of the campus’s gate in relationship to the surrounding community. Jonathan’s project, Pratt Free Library: Book Exchange reevaluates the Pratt Brooklyn Library’s history, noting that it was originally created as a public lending library, but has since been privatized. His design solution creates a community annex that is housed on the private grounds of the institution, but faces the gate so it is only accessible from the public space outside. The neighboring community can donate and take books free of charge, but to do so they must reach through the bars of the gate. Amanda’s project, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? poses this question by fastening large pink letters to campus gate. Members of the community are encouraged to participate by conversing and publicly writing their responses to this question. Our presentation would consist of our design process, and an evaluation of our final installations and community impact.
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Elizabeth S. Hawley || City University of New York: Graduate Center, Art History, Level II PhD
Art, Activism, and Media Manipulation: WochenKlausur’s Social Interventions

Since 1993, the activist art group WochenKlausur has staged socio-political interventions, using the infrastructure of cultural institutions to stage problem-solving measures in the societies surrounding the institutions. WochenKlausur’s involvement is transient, but their intention is to stimulate longer-lasting initiatives. By performatively drawing attention to social problems, they create a media focus on issues that are left unaddressed by mainstream outlets. WochenKlausur’s interventions in such social situations allow politicians to address issues that might have made them politically unpopular had they broached them themselves. The production of these projects, frameworks surrounding them, and results they attain point to the changing conception of art paired with activism, and this paper considers such works in the context of art’s autonomy, the necessity of the institution, media, and legal system in determining success, and the changing terms of reception regarding art that purports to enact social change rather than participate in entrenched aesthetic epistemologies.

SESSION 1:
The Aesthetics of the Sentient Object
Respondent: Sabrina Mandanici (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Nancy Princenthal (SVA Faculty)

Simon Belak || University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Philosophy Department Student
New Sensuality

New Sensuality explores poetry within the production of a-logical discourses, which not only subvert the dominant network of signifiers and power, but also enables one to “think” outside that order. In addition to offering theoretical justification for avant-garde practices such as Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, New Sensuality also proposes a philosophical challenge by other means. One of the key tenets of 20th century theatre is revolt against the “tyranny of text.” I argue the same is needed for philosophy. While there have been a number of such projects (mysticism, Nietzsche’s poetical writings, Žižek’s use of paradoxes), all were rooted in an intuitive need for expression stemming from an inadequacy of language, rather than critical reflection. Accordingly, New Sensuality is an exploration of media in which the critical impetus is primarily produced by sensual experiences.

Amanda L. Cachia || University of California at San Diego, Department of Visual Arts; PhD Candidate
Cannibalizing Sound: Deaf Performance as a Site of Trespass

Deaf artists Aaron Williamson and Christine Sun Kim use their voices violently, subversively and radically as a guerilla tactic to re-claim or take ownership over sound – to “cannibalize” it. Williamson and Kim “write the body” through the eruption of speaking, murmuring, sound distortion, noise, poly-vocality, silence and especially screams within media-based performances. Williamson uses voice recognition software to generate a text that becomes the focal point. While Williamson cannot hear his own voice, the computer is the interpreter for his screaming and moaning sounds. Kim uses her voice to generate sounds as the basis for drawings that are created from the ink and powder-drenched quills, nails and cogs that dance across boards to the vibrations from subwoofers and speakers beneath. Kim and Williamson’s “aural violence” or “sound trespass” offers a transformative yet uncomfortable politicized space where the “other” can resist their peripheral positions and new ways of listening can be developed.
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Chelsea Haines || City University of New York: The Graduate Center, Department of Art History, Research Fellow
What Makes Paint Political?

Within the history of socially and politically engaged art, painting rarely comes into focus beyond the brief utopian avant-garde movements of the 20th century. This paper is engaged with re-framing a discussion of the political implications of painting through an analysis of the history and materiality of paint. It examines paint as a medium not only through the history of painting but also through the history of paint itself—its technology, social history, and relationship to modernization. As anthropologist Michael Taussig has noted, the birth of paint manufacturing in the 19th century replaced the handmade pigment of the artist’s studio with easily available materials that facilitated a broader practice of painting. This technological development portended the birth of both the modern avant-garde and amateur painters amongst all classes in society. “What makes paint political?” offers the history of paint, rather than painting, as an entry point and methodological framework for understanding broadening societal interest and increase in reception and consumption of visual art.

Milan DelVecchio || School of Visual Arts, Computer Arts, MFA
We Archipelago: A Productive Reaction to the Collective Unconscious, in a Conscious State

By tapping into the collective unconscious, can one attempt to make decisions more akin to one’s personal values? This research explores intuition as a valid decision-making process by examining Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious theory, Australian Aboriginal dreamtime beliefs and art, and the relationship between the author and her father. The underlying themes encourage other creative people to reflect thoughtfully before engaging in the creative process – trusting their insight as a universal reservoir, rather than using already-established ideas as a crutch that ultimately paralyzes the growth of human evolution on a micro and macro scale.
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SESSION 2:
Of the Word
Respondent: Egor Sofronov (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Alan Gilbert (SVA Faculty)

Clarinda MacLow || City College of New York, Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice Program, MFA Candidate
Free the Orphans

The phenomenon of the “orphan work” – an artwork whose maker is impossible to identify, making it difficult to gain permission for distribution or use – exposes the paradox between the current ease of digital distribution and the existing regime of long-term copyright and granular control. Because of legislation that for the most part protects the intellectual property of content providers, a huge chunk of artwork from the 20th century is difficult to access or distribute, eliminated from the cultural conversation. This practice mirrors the increasing privatization of all knowledge, and further erodes an already damaged cultural commons. Meanwhile, an explosion of creative acts that use collage and found materials to create new work is flooding the Internet, spilling over into corporeal life and threatening existing ideas of authorship and creative control. I suggest that we seek out these “orphan” prisoners and “free” them, bringing them back into circulation.
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Anita Paz|| University of Oxford, History of Art and Visual Culture, MSt
In Search of Meaning: The Written Word in the Age of Google

In Search of Meaning: The Written Word in the Age of Google intends to be a short theoretical elaboration of the ideas raised by Boris Groys in Google: Words Beyond Grammar from a LIS point of view. Through the use of critical tools such as Manovich’s theory of the database and Wittgenstein’s writings on meaning and context, the author delineates a double partial characteristic of the search conducted by Google in terms of quality (the Google algorithm is partial towards results claimed to appertain the user’s interests) and in terms of quantity (the Google interface will only allow the user partial access to the search results). The author then re-reads Groy’s claim of Google turning deconstruction upside down, suggesting the mere substitution of a classical Derridean deconstruction defined by the unboundedness of meaning possibilities, with a new deconstruction caused by the impossibility of discovering the integral meaning of a word.
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Ignas Petronis || Geneva University of Art and Design, Critical Curatorial Cybermedia Department, Masters Student
How to interpret politically? Hermeneutic study of feminist artists-activists’ civil disobedience in Serbia

As acts of civil disobedience, social activism and political resistance usually find their support in artistic field, their affectivity and potentiality might be questioned by the means, similar to aesthetic analysis, especially based on the theory of understanding and interpretation due to their social character. The research carried out in Geneva University of Art and Design seeks to shape a conceptual model for political interpretation of such happenings of our times by bringing together theories of hermeneutic scholars as Martin Heidegger, Hans Georg Gadamer and Gianni Vattimo, and Frankfurt School thinkers as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. For the Critical Information conference, a part of this research will be presented that will give a critical hermeneutic perspective upon feminist artistic and political activities of the Women in Black collective, based in Serbia and dealing with issues of historical memory and existing social tensions.
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Tatiane Schilaro Santa Rosa || School of Visual Arts, Art Criticism & Writing, MFA Candidate
Breaking with Fluency: Irreconcilability of Words and Worlds in Contemporary Art

The thesis tracks the contradictions that emerge from cultural exchanges by tracing a parallel between artworks dealing with postcolonialism, otherness and translation. It investigates the void of errors of communication, the lost meanings of language and the failure of cross-cultural exchanging in relation to contemporary art. Taking the postcolonial discourse as a starting point, two modes of cultural relationships – irreconcilability and hospitality – are used to reveal how, within artworks, a broken fluency of language can modify hierarchical bounds of multiculturalism.
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SESSION 2:
Indented Margins
Respondent: Eric Sutphin (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Susan Bee (SVA Faculty)

Ayanna Serenity Dozier || New York University, Media, Culture, and Communication, MA
Oh. Beep Yeah!: Performing Posthuman Sexuality and the Pornokitsch Aesthetic in the Visual Arts

I will examine the transgressive performances of posthuman sexuality through the cyborg and the subsequent use of the pornokitsch aesthetic in science fiction art. In particular, I will evaluate how contemporary female performance artists use these elements to transgress the values of traditional/conservative “female” sexuality. From Mariko Mori’s cyborg performance in Play With Me to Shu Lea Cheang’s SF pornographic film, I.K.U, both represent the cyborg as sexually available and autonomous, albeit with “garish” decorative elements that make the performance explicitly (porno)kitsch. Pornokitsch, as defined Ugo Volli, refers to the negation of the sensual to the point of decontextualization. This aesthetic negation reduces any eroticism associated with sexuality and redirects the attention from the female (sexual) object to subject. Addressing the relationship between the female cyborg and the posthumanities I will take into consideration the influential work of Donna Haraway and N. Katherine Hayles as a point of departure to further expand upon my own insight of posthuman sexuality and (gender) performance.

Jason Derouin || Texas Tech University, Fine Arts, specializing in Critical Studies and Artistic Practice, PhD Candidate
Bachelor Culture Spectacle

During the mid-twentieth century, magazines such as Escapade, Playboy and Rogue created features about modern living that reassured men that a dwelling with style would facilitate intimacy. However, on television and in films, the carefully composed space of the bachelor was frequently interpreted as vulgar. Parodies show him luring a woman to his lair where he performs a dance to seduce her. He whirls around, pressing buttons to tune his space to the right romantic level: Art is specially lit, a bookcase revolves to reveal a bar, a fireplace is ignited automatically, and a round rotating bed starts to turn. “Bachelor Culture Spectacle” is a research project that engages modern mediated imagery and re-presents the experience of bachelorhood as a performance. This paper, which supports ongoing creative practice, is focused on the ambitions and failures of male singleness pictured in American men’s magazines from the 1950s and 60s.

Samantha Fein || Maryland Institute College of Art, Mount Royal School of Art, MA
Reframing Haitian Narratives through Artistic Expression of Afro-Caribbean Spirituality

Haiti is a nation represented by Western media through the single narrative of degradation and victimhood. Yet such a reductive viewpoint does not account for the island’s rich breadth of artistic production —which has persevered despite the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. This research explores the ways in which Haitian artists direct their creative practice to reconstruct alternate narratives of the county’s identity. Specifically, I focus on the use of spiritual iconography from the Afro-Caribbean belief system of Vodou. From Pierrot Barra’s “mojo boards” to the Grand Rue sculpture collective, Haitian artists draw upon Vodou spirit entities (known as lwa) to create pieces that express and interpret the lived experience in Haiti. I conclude by exploring the implications
of non-Haitian artists entering the country to complete creative projects, using the example of French street artist JR.
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Jessica A. Martin || York University, Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, PhD Candidate
The Evolution of Online Pornography: Sex, Technology and Conceptual Frameworks

Pornography’s expansion online has led to fundamental changes in its content, reiterations, and volume of production. Technologies such as e-commerce payment systems and webcams have made porn more readily available, leading to both an explosion in its production, and a greater diversity of pornographic representations. And as new technologies are developed, the ways in which pornography is consumed continues to shift and change. Unfortunately, contemporary porn studies has failed to evolve with these changes. I will provide an in-depth look at the ways porn has changed as it has proliferated online, and argue that if we are to learn anything about the shifting relationships our culture has with porn we must develop ways to study it that recognize its heterogeneity, and make room for its various potential effects and incarnations. I propose that what is needed is a conceptual framework that is as fluid and adaptive as the genre itself.
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SESSION 3:
Identity: Construction, Transmission, Rejection
Respondent: Victoria Potucek (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Ann Lauterbach (SVA Faculty)

Chris Cheng (Crissian Chen) || Maryland Institute College of Art, Photographic and Electronic Media, MFA
The Beer Commercial and the Paradox of Masculinity

In our hyper-capitalistic society, advertisements have an unconscious affect on our perception of identity. They have proliferated in forms un-imagined by previous distribution systems and create a powerful form of presence hard to escape. Masculinity in particular has been defined by the imagery of commercials, web-zines, streaming media, and a deepening link between targeted advertising, profiling, and programming that have become almost indistinguishable. As Judith Butler has suggested, identity is now acted out as performance.

This paper will investigate how forms of ‘social design’ have emerged and proliferated in commercialism directed towards men, and how they have defined (or redefined) Masculinity and perpetuated stereotypes of gender identity and sexual orientation. This conundrum has further been complicated by imagery that becomes an ideal perception of the male identity and behavior that does not truly reflect reality. Despite the complication that this new sphere engenders in regards to masculinity, Gilles Deleuze offers us a counter-position that can help resolve this paradox by challenging these ideals.
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Jordan Reznick || University of California at Santa Cruz, History of Art & Visual Culture, Visual Studies PhD Candidate
Imperceptible Politics: The Photograph and The Aesthetic Experience

Photographer Taryn Simon’s series, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, utilizes aesthetic tactics to address the problematic relationship between images and meaning. Many photographs reinforce normative understandings of the world, while Simon’s constitute a clash, disrupting their own role in the daily flow of information. Because photographs are offered to the public unsolicited in multiple spheres of life as if they were visual vessels for facts that explain the world, the unfastening of the photograph from its assured relationship with meaning is a critical component of visual activism. When an encounter with a photograph alters the ordinary relationship between the visual and meaning, it makes possible new forms of perception.

This project draws upon the philosophical discourse of aesthetics and critical theory to show how the experience of photographs can disrupt the contemporary ordering of knowledge. Through close visual readings of Taryn Simon’s photographs, this essay examines the way that the aesthetic experience of photographs offers a kind of apprehension that is different from what systems of didactic representation offer. This aesthetic mode of apprehension enables new possibilities for configuring the human community during the unfolding of a complexly tangled global history, for if sincere political change requires forging alternative relationships to each other and the world around us, then it must somehow become evident that our way of knowing the world is not the only way of knowing the world.
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Susan Mellender || Hunter College, Art History, MA
The Body as Medium: Gender-nonconforming in Contemporary Performance Art

Looking closely at gender normativity, this paper is an inquiry into how it is challenged by contemporary artists who use their bodies as the artistic medium and identify as gender-nonconforming. In a contemporary culture where sex and gender continue to be intertwined and binary, the gender-nonconforming performance artist turns those binaries inside out. Using texts from Irigaray, Butler, and Bishop as theoretical base points and examining the artwork of two performance artists, Tara Mateik and nyx zierhut, my own queries from research are then directly compared with personal interviews from both the artists on identity and the body as the center for performance. Furthermore, as a queer femme-identified cis-gendered white female and ally, I propose my own body is used as a point of reference as well as any viewers body. In order to suggest that when one studies artwork, personal physicality and self-identity influence how artwork is originally read, understood, in addition to being challenged by the artwork in regard the experience and meaning of embodiedness.
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SESSION 3:
Communication/Isolation/Retaliation: Our Responses to the Age of Information
Respondent: Rabia Ashfaque (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Lucy Raven (SVA Faculty)

John Ryan || Art Center College of Design, Media Design Practices, MFA
Declarations of Interdependence: Experiments in Networked Interdividualism

Declarations of Interdependence critiques the centrality of the individual in Western society, and looks particularly at how social media and human-computer interfaces reinforce this worldview.

The individual (her self-interest, self-ownership, and self-agency) has been embedded unquestioningly as the node-level building block of the systems we inhabit: interfaces, networks, nations… The Internet was to usher in a new era; creating utopian conditions for a cybernetic post-individualism. Instead, the contemporary Internet is an ideological Frankenstein: globally-connected collectivism awkwardly fused with neoliberal individualism. We are more interconnected than ever before but our interactions and experiences are discretely individual: radically tailored and meticulously bespoke.

This body of work is a series of interactive experiments and prototypes that question the assumptions of User-Centered Design, providing alternative models of interaction that are group-centered rather than user-centered.
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Anna C. Natale and Dolores Galindo || Federal University of Mato Grosso – UFMT, Brazil, MA Student and Faculty
DroneART, a Product of Surveillance Criticism

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the military acronym for drone is a war apparatus that reinforces the structure of worldwide control societies. Collecting information and setting points of attack in territories considered hostile has become a common tactics. This biopolitical apparatus intensify racism and reduces the resistance of civilians under attack, they have become pixel dots on screen.

In this new reality of “war as a game” and indifference to its effects, several artists from different backgrounds initiated DroneART. This paper will explore the work of Mahwish Chishty, James Bridle, Trevor Paglen, three artists who present their criticism in distinct ways. By provoking the audience though paintings, photos and urban interventions, they question this new surveillance military technology and the silent anxiety it suggests about the future of armed conflicts.
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Rachel Law || Parsons New School for Design, Design & Technology, MFA
The Vortex & Meshtectonics

Contemporary media theory has not yet developed a methodology to model emergent practices, behaviors and conditions of a new digital world. Therefore, I propose a new framework of practice: meshtectonics – from ‘mesh’: how networks behave, scale and shape, and ‘tectonic’: the collisions of undefined dynamic plates to produce boundaries. It is through these event boundaries that we perceive terrain contours; so one must trace these collisions to analyze networks. This offers a decisive break from cartographic or ‘mapping’ metaphors, which conflate visual representations of known static fields and cannot account for a key attribute of networks: emerging realtime data captured live. Meshtectonics asks the fundamental question: where does a network start and stop? What happens when one type of network collides against another?

This led to the development of Vortex: a data management game that allows players to swap cookies, change IPs and disguise their locations. Through play, individuals experience how their browser changes live when different cookies are equipped. Vortex is a proof-of-concept that illustrates how mesh-collisions gameplay exposes contours of a network determined by consumer behavior.

Media-mining exploits invasive technologies such as IP tracking, geo-locating and cookies to create specific advertisements targeted to individuals. Browsing is now determined by your consumer profile what you see, hear and the feeds you receive are tailored from your friends’ lists, emails, online purchases etc. The ‘Internet’ does not exist. Instead, it is many overlapping filter bubbles which selectively curate us into data objects to be consumed and purchased by advertisers.
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