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.

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

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

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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: http://blog.elpihv.co.uk/category/55th-venice-biennale/.

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).

Online exhibits and digital art history

A way of thinking about online exhibits?  “The wind of commerce hit museums harder than many universities. In some instances necessity occasioned the creation of good websites as the public face of the institution (interest logged via hits per week); in others it provoked a rethink of the mission of museums and a dumbing down to a lower common denominator, in displays, special exhibitions, and websites. Museums are in a state of flux because of computers and the Web: can/should technology be applied to these dusty mausolea of out-of-context artifacts to provide a learned, multimedia, immersive context – the nearest thing now possible to reintegrating the works with the context from which they were removed? Or is the museum of the future to be a theme park, lacking any truly educational mission, with Web displays as part of the fun? Believers in culture should hope for the former; but, as the inscription on Wren’s tomb nearly has it, Si monumentum requiris, cinumclicke.

Indeed, should we extrapolate from the existence of the Web to the decline of campus-based universities and physical museums and galleries? If galleries can only display a small proportion of their collection at any one time, should not funding go into web-based image databases?”

Michael Greenhalgh, “Art History”

In A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion/

 

Digital art history

Working now on digital art history.  Here are some resources:

Diane M. Zorich’s report to the Kress Foundation on the role of digital scholarship in art history;  “Transitioning to a Digital World:  Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship,” June 2012.

A post from Emory University’s Woodruff Library on Zorich’s report for the Kress Foundation.  Quick links here to digital art history projects cited in the report.

A post by Hasan Niyazi with references to recent discussions, December 2012.

Five participants in the Digital Art History Lab held March 5-7, 2013 at the Getty discuss the state of the field and the principles of networked scholarship:

• Hans Brandhorst, editor of the Iconclass system (http://www.iconclass.nl) and the Arkyves Web catalogue (http://www.arkyves.org/)

• Johanna Drucker, Bernard and Martin Breslauer Professor Bibliography in the Department of Information Studies and founder of the Digital Humanities program at UCLA

• Emily Pugh, Smith Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art, and Web developer for the online journal Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide

• Nuria Rodríguez Ortega, chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Málaga, Spain

• Moderator: Susan Edwards, art historian and digital humanities technologist, J. Paul Getty Trust

Digital art history

Here’s something I came across in the CAA News (May 22, 2013). “It’s time to rethink art history for the digital age,” by Nuria Rodríguez Ortega. It’s old news (March 5, 2013) from The Getty Iris, but something I need to think about now. Digital art history. Good references and questions, interesting comments. But it isn’t clear to me what “digital art history” looks like or how one does it. Anne Helmreich’s response resonates for me. “This points to another opportunity afforded by the multi-layered digital environment—that of including both one’s scholarly conclusions as well as the evidence on which these conclusions are based. This can be a daunting proposal—the equivalent, perhaps, of putting one’s file drawers out for public viewing. It also means making easily accessible a document that may have taken years of sleuthing to track down and identify. But it is also an exciting opportunity: such shared documentation can become a platform around which a robust and dynamic scholarly community can be formed. It also can help to push forward the development or adoption of intellectual argument in a more rapid (and global) fashion than was previously possible.” This is exactly the sort of thing we were discussing in the Domain workshop.

Here’s a great post on getting started in Digital Humanities by Lisa Sprio for the Journal of Digital Humanities (2011).

Diversity Academy at UMW, day 2

Diversity Academy Blog

World Cafe — questions on poster boards or on table tops.

Reflections on yesterday

Changes in student body — anti-war;  shaped by the horrors of the age;  can more easily talk about Marxism

Myth at UMW that male students only need to breathe to get in.

Syracuse U — resources on transgendered students

Veterans as a minority group at UMW

Unrecognized populations on campus

Diversity in writing

“You write the way you talk.”

The Skin that we Speak, Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom, Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy

Lee Warren, “Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom,” Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University

Writing or speaking assignment

Topic:  Focus on several images from Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration of the Negro series,” 1940-41.

Themes:  African-American experience;  experience of migrants (opportunity to relate the images to their own experiences or their family’s experience, or immigration in the news);  experience of being/feeling threatened.

Structure:  Moving from art (formal qualities of color, perspective, style) to narrative;  moving from discussing something safe (formal qualities of the image as art);  to how do formal qualities communicate emotion;  to meanings of images (to Lawrence, to student).  How do the images suggest a threat?

“Child labor and a lack of education was one of the other reasons for people wishing to leave their homes.”

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“In every home people who had not gone North met and tried to decide if they should go North or not.”

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“They also made it very difficult for migrants leaving the South. They often went to railroad stations and arrested the Negroes wholesale, which in turn made them miss their train.”

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“Among the social conditions that existed which was partly the cause of the migration was the injustice done to the Negroes in the courts.”

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Diversity Academy at UMW

What do we/I want students to know? …to think?…to do?

Intersectionality theory — for connecting race, class, age, ability;  how people are defined by different categories

Empathy — know our audience

Culture:

Objective culture — artifacts

Subjective culture — concepts and behavior

Practices and practices — symbols, heroes, rituals, values

Etics (from phonetic; culture general) and Emics (phonemic; culture specificof culture, Pike

Advising international students

-Prescriptive to developmental advising model

-Appreciative advising — disarm, discover, dream, design, deliver, don’t settle;  J. Bloom (2008)

Transgender awareness

U Mass Stonewall Centers

Disability and Diversity

No Disabilities Studies program in Virginia;  possible focus for UMW.

Are students becoming self advocates?

Frame conversations with students around learning needs, not disabilities.

Universal design — anticipating diversity and accommodation

UMD ODEC (Office of Diversity Education and Compliance, partnered with CoE)

www.provost.umd.edu/GenEdReport

Assessment of multicultural issues in classroom — rubric available

Words of Engagement — 1 to 3 credits;  different groups; course; tough subjects; intergroup dialogue

Partnership for Curriculum Development —  intensive two-week institute for faculty;  $3000-5000 per faculty member

Game Camp, day 2

Follow-up from “Settlers of Catan”:  What did we learn?  Strategizing…mix of luck and strategy.  Everybody’s turn matters.

How do we incorporate this into classes?  Examples:  urban planning

Carcasonne — game about medieval life.

Seven Wonders — game about the ancient world.

Tumblr for 115:  Ask students to find images of [xxx] and post these (daily, weekly).  Use this as an opportunity to have students identify style, artist, period, and explain how that work exhibits that style, artist, period.