Category Archives: Happening

Sarah Sze, “Triple Point,” 55th Venice Biennale 2013

Silentio Pathologia might be compared with Sarah Sze’s installation Triple Point at the U. S. Pavilion in the Giardini.

U.S. Pavilion, Giardini, Venice

U.S. Pavilion, Giardini, Venice

Sze has brought many thousands of things into the rooms and part of the landscape of the Pavilion. These things include cans of paint, pads of paper, mirrors, ladders, lamps, rocks, photographs, furniture, and countless other objects.


There is little that connects these objects between rooms and no sense that rooms have been transformed.


According to Sze, “[t]he title for the whole show, ‘Triple Point,’ refers to the situation where all three states of a substance—gas, liquid, and solid—can exist at once. So it’s this teetering between states, the fragility of equilibrium, and the constant desire to create stability and a sense of place that frame the narrative.” (Conversation between Sarah Sze and Rirkrit Tiravanija, “Thing Theories,” in ArtForum, summer 2013.)


In the Pavilion, the things that constitute Triple Point speak less to the “fragility of equilibrium, [a] constant desire to create stability and a sense of place,” than an attempt to turn one’s garage into a kind of sci-fi stage. Certainly, there is the “ahhh” factor – some things move, shadows are cast, objects are organized by color — but this is mostly an accumulation of stuff built up or laid out.


As an installation, Triple Point arouses a viewer’s curiosity and urges one to play with things. Silentio Pathologia, on the other hand, draws the visitor into a space wherein the physical and intellectual journeys are created by the objects, and one experiences these objects as a coherent environment.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva (Macedonia), “Silentio Pathologia,” 55th Venice Biennale 2013

The year is 1348. Europe is about to meet its worst enemy. Within a few years, nearly two-thirds of the population of the continent is dead. The cause? The Bubonic Plague. Rats were host bodies…where rats travelled, the plague followed. Cities, towns, rural areas all experienced horrific devastation and chaos. Those who survived the plague long-remembered this time as a period of sorrow, confusion, and absolute fear. In “Silentio Pathologia” the artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva considers the rapid movement of the plague in early modern Europe, and finds parallels to the transmission of viruses today.


“Silentio Pathologia” encompasses the entire interior of the Scuola dei Laneri, the former confraternity of the wool workers in Venice. One might feel claustrophobic here were it not for the natural light streaming in from the expansive windows along the entrance wall. The location was a lucky find and adds a layer of meaning to interpretations of this work. Wool was one of the many products Venetians transported across early modern Europe, unwittingly playing a significant role in the transmission of plague.


The visitor to the Scuola dei Laneri today also journeys. At the entrance of the Scuola one encounters the opening of a path marked by a metal wall about 10′ high at the left (two and a half tons of metal all told), and at the right a drape of silkworm cocoons threaded together. Here, one’s journey begins. The metal is imposing…most remains untouched but some areas show the effects of being worked in a circular motion by a grinder.


The metal surface also receives the patterned shadows cast by the threaded cocoons. The visitor walks between the wall of metal and drape of cocoons in a vaguely circular journey that leads to new walls…one made of untreated black silk threads stitched together by Elpida…


and the other wall a drape of albino rat pelts, also stitched together by the artist.



In early modern Europe, rats were carriers of disease. Today they are among the most common living creatures in research labs for the study of disease. At the center of “Silentio Pathologia” are two cages with pet rats. As the artist explained, the rats need to be held and stroked every day, preferably by the same person because the rats become familiar with one’s scent and like it; this care insures that the rats remain tamed and do not revert to their wild state. At the heart of this journey we come face to face with a dilemma…taming our fears requires embracing them.



Above:  Preston Thayer with the artist, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, at the 55th Venice Biennale, May 28, 2013, talking through the gauze of black silk thread.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva completed her MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London in 1998 and currently lives and works in Brighton, England. Her work was part of the 51st Venice Biennale in ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion.  For more on Silentio Pathologia, see the artist’s blog at:

Silentio Pathologia was curated by Ana Frangovska, curator at the National Gallery of Macedonia, Skopje.

A expanded version of this post appears in The Art Section, (summer 2013, 7/6).

AHPT at CAA business meeting

We’re starting the business meeting with a continuation of the earlier session.  Here are some things we’re talking about:

-How to connect the different professional arts groups interested in pedagogy and technology?

-Changing learning pedagogies.

-Know what’s going on in other programs/disciplines.

-Getting engaged with pedagogy doesn’t necessarily mean you have to talk (only) with art historians.

-First CAA session on pedagogy and technology — 1997

-Teaching the survey course — revising this is a moving target!

-How do we get students to think — through writing.

-importance of assessment and learning outcomes — for every class;  planning the class as one might in K-12.

-The works we enjoy and are passionate about — focus on these.  This isn’t what our teachers did.  (I think they had the passion…but there wasn’t a place for “passion” in the classroom in those days.)

-Prezi — as a collaborative project;  students will contribute an image and THINK about why they chose that image.

-We keep coming back to the survey.

-Tell students why it’s important to[talk with Michelangelo].  The goals today are….;  halfway point:  where are we?…;  at the end:  this is where we are and these are our conclusions.

-Structure an activity:  write every week (electronic) that involves a little bit of research (not necessarily going to JSTOR).  Tell me (x) things you know about this object;  then go to a good source and add to what you thought you knew.  This involves some revision, some research, some rethinking.

-Compare:  a Cabanel nude with Britney Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone.

-Students need ownership

-What do we want students to know from a survey course?  Style;  meaning.  Post unknown works from different periods;  put students in groups;  have them analyze these — style, meaning.  have them do (some) research in class — textbook, online searches.

-The things they don’t know are the things that drive them more.

-Give them a work and tell them “You’re Manet, you’re Courbet, you’re Cabanel, and you’re Judy Chicago” — argue a point and persuade the audience.  What’s going on in this image?

-Learning experiences with creative element.

-Would we be embarrassed by anything our students say (in class)?

-Search for parody of an iconic image;  this gets across the idea that images aren’t in a vacuum.

-What has to be covered or not?  Why did we get into this?

Ideas for next year:

-Focus on the survey;  alternative pedagogical models

-Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy;;  special issue for art history

-We need to look at the bottle, not the wine.  Putting old wine into new bottles just won’t work.

-Universal design

-Content production — forthcoming

-Beginning career people

-The future of higher education

Well…it’s been quite a meeting.

more from caa

-Art History Unstuffed…what a great name.  Must look into this.  Out of Otis.  They’re the ones who gave up the survey.  That’s something to look into.

-Give students the intellectual framework.  Address why “this is important.”

-Have the students rewrite Vasari’s Lives!  I love it! (Vasari is part of my research.)


So I’m here at the College Art Association annual meeting, and the session developed by Janice Robertson, Gale Levin, and Janhavi Pakrashi (all of Pratt Institute, NYC).  This is an alternative-format session:  open for tweeting, there is also an open mic going around the room as a “talking stick.”  Interesting to see, read, and hear what others are doing to “rock the boat” in their art history classrooms. Crowdsourcing the strategies…. A few points that strike me:

-If digital becomes the norm, then tweeting will no longer be rocking the boat, reading a book will be rocking the boat.

-Do students “shut down” when technology (power point) comes on?

-Redesigning the traditional observation paper — have the student take on a persona from the period.

-What to do with technology in a large class (50 students)?

– Create debate teams in class.

-Getting students to talk to each other instead of listening to lecture.

-Have students collaborate on powerpoint in class by throwing in images student pick to illustrate a point.

-Flipping the classroom.

-Team teaching with a colleague from a different discipline art history and folklore!)

-No long art history surveys!

-Using twitter to write a short description of a work.

-Incorporate your tech-savvy librarians into your teaching, your blog, your students’ work.

-Open-ended questions

-Some may prefer to tweet than speak

-Better to be involved than back away

-Many faculty are still unwilling to be involved with technology

-Technology takes a lot of time in class

-Drafting a syllabus/format for flipping the classroom

-How might online tools allow us to alter or flip the classroom

-Get the images to the students before they come to class

-Twitter isn’t the only tool, but can be a beginning of the discussion.

more to come….