I’m excited and honored to be participating in this tomorrow — err, today. But 9am?! My brain’s typically open for business from noon to 3am or so. Let’s see if I can do this…
This one-day workshop in NYU’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication will consider emergent approaches to media, materiality, and infrastructure. It is inspired by the recent expansion in research on the materiality of media and communication, undertaken in diverse scholarly lineages ranging from material culture, to urban studies, to German media-theory inspired media archaeology. The workshop will explore questions such as: how are new forms of material assemblage affecting mediation? What new forms of agency, sociality, and connectivity are at play? What kinds of materialist approaches are necessary to come to grips with the shifts in media infrastructure? It is our hope that the session will serve as a forum to foreground critical questions on media and materiality, and to connect and advance projects on these topics.
Simon Evans, The Skin of the Earth is a Blue Blouse (detail), 2013
I keep a list on my iPhone of all the current and upcoming exhibitions I want to see. I learn about some of these shows through ads in Artforum or other art magazines, through reviews in the Times or the New Yorker or other periodicals, through blogs, through friends, etc. Sometimes I’m familiar with the artists; sometimes I’m not. Sometimes it’s a photo of the work that piques my interest, sometimes it’s a review or a description in a press release, sometimes it’s the reputation of the gallery, and sometimes it’s merely the exhibition title. More often than not, I don’t know what I’m in for. I’d say my gallery itineraries are 30% predictable; 70% crapshoot.
I consider myself lucky that yesterday’s Chelsea excursion yielded at least a 75% hit rate. Really good stuff. And I’m a little freaked out by the striking similarities between the 15 shows I saw. Of course I gravitate toward any art grappling with language and text and the “aesthetics of administration” and “institutional critique” — but I really can’t explain how nearly every piece I saw yesterday hit all those buttons. Totally weird, and totally awesome.
The bot-powered book storage area in the University of Chicago’s Mansueto Library
Next week I’m giving two talks — one on “the future of the library” in a colleague’s undergraduate “intro to media studies” lecture class, and another on “Conceptual Units: How Our Knowledge Institutions Materialize Intellectual and Cultural Values” for the “Media, Materiality, Infrastructure” workshop convened by Nicole Starosielski and Arjun Appadurai at NYU. I ultimately realized that I couldn’t create two separate presentations on top of all my regular class prep and meetings — so I wrote a talk that’ll serve both purposes. I’m calling it “Intellectual Furnishings”: it proposes that we think about the literal furniture of our knowledge institutions — and how those material objects inform how we organize our media, structure our thoughts, and cultivate our values. I’ll post my slides immediately below, and the text — with all my slide-change cues — below that.
Next weekend I’m participating in a workshop, jointly organized by colleagues at The New School and NYU, on “Zonal Logics of Modernity” — or the special economic zone as a socio-cultural space, one we can perhaps better understand through the lenses of the humanities. Some of the key concerns we’ll be addressing include: whether there’s a particular connection between Asian modernity and the SEZ (given the spatial form’s early arrival and contemporary predominance in Asia); what role aesthetics and materiality play in the marketing and design of the zone; how the zone configures the urban subject and/or citizen; how “zonal logics” impact cultural production; and what epistemologies and ontologies of urbanity are embodied in the zone.
On February 18 I’ll be leading a faculty workshop, hosted by the “Democratizing the Archives” working group (of which I’m a part) and funded by a Civic Engagement Grant, on “Working with WordPress.” As our call for participants indicated, ”This workshop will explore how we can use WordPress, the highly customizable open-source blogging platform and content management system, to support our research, practice, and teaching. We’ll examine WordPress sites used as portfolios for individual scholars/practitioners, as hubs for collaborative research and design projects, and as “nerve centers” for classes — and we’ll work through the steps of setting up a WordPress site and making basic design decisions.”
In Tuesday’s session of my Digital Archives class, we’re meeting with two of The New School’s archivists, the fabulous Wendy Scheir and Liza Harrell-Edge, to talk about the past, present, and future of the university’s archives, including especially their ongoing collaboration with Collective Access in creating a new collection management system. Then, for the second half of the class, we’re meeting with Kit Laybourne and Peter Haratonik, two of the founding faculty of our Media Studies program — and of its precursor, the Center for Understanding Media.
In preparation for class, the students will have read a few published articles on New School history (most of which make use of archival material); and several representative archival documents from key moments in TNS history — the university’s founding in 1919; the addition of the University in Exile in 1933; the mid-70s, when the Center for Understanding Media was integrated into The New School, etc.
It always hurts to cut laboriously researched, thoughtfully constructed, meticulously polished chunks of prose (yeah, I’m milking this) from essays and articles. Sometimes the pruning is necessary because the piece is longer than permissible or necessary — or because, after a few days or weeks of critical distance from the composition, you look back at certain sections and say to yourself, “Man, what the hell was I thinking? As expendable as the “fluff” might be to the published work, I’m still reluctant to erase it entirely. That’s why I’m lucky to have this here website, where I can post all the outtakes. So all that hard labor need not be for naught.
Li Huasheng, 0669, 2005
So this was another tough week. Dammit, love, you jerk. Do you hate me or something?
When matters of the heart get me down, I get my ass to Chelsea. Embraced by those pristinely white walls, comforted by that warm gallery light and that construction-site-meets-parfumery-scented air, delighted or challenged by all the fantastic or awful stuff hanging on the walls and nested in vitrines, I can reassure myself: ”Well, at least you guys are still here for me.” TMI, I know. But what’s the use of pretending that my professional endeavors, which are ostensibly the focus of this website, are hermetically sealed off from the rest of my “being”? As if one’s intellectual pursuits are divorced from affect.
I always seem to find, retroactively, a theme for all my gallery tours. Today’s was “reconstruction.” Gee, I wonder why. Aside from my obvious personal motivations for finding messages of “rebuilding” in the work I saw today, most of it actually was, in some way or another, addressing the construction of space and/or meaning — with ink, paint, text, sound, etc.
November 11, 2013
For the past five years my office has been on the 13th floor at 2 West 13th Street in New York. The elevators in our building don’t go up past twelve. And some of the security guards will tell you that the building has only twelve floors. But it’s true that four of us live up on the Malkovichian 13th floor. To reach us, you have to take one particular set of elevators — the ones in the NE corner of the building, near 5th Avenue — up to the 12th floor, hang a left, then another left in order to take the staircase opposite room 1213 up to the 13th floor. Once you’re there, you pass through the copy room to reach our office in the back.
While we do occasionally feel rather marginalized in our secret garret, we also take great pleasure in its lack of foot traffic, its calm and quiet. I’ve been fortunate to have a desk along the west wall, and beside that desk a window facing southwest. The predominance of low-rise development in Greenwich Village and the West Village means that I’ve enjoyed a relatively unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan and New Jersey. Over the past few years I’ve watched One World Trade Center rise to fill a void in the southern skyline. And because we typically teach in the late afternoons and evenings, I’ve seen many fantastically vivid sunsets through that window.
Classes begin next week, and I’ve nearly finalized the syllabi and websites for both my “Digital Archives” studio and the “Sound and Space” studio I’m co-teaching with my colleague Barry Salmon.
I’ve got lots of exciting things planned for the Archives class: we’re meeting regularly with The New School’s archivists — Wendy Scheir, Liza Harrell-Edge, and Jenny Swadosh — as well as with some of the founding faculty from my program (since one of our goals is to highlight the history of media study and media-making at TNS). We’ll also be visited by Thomas Lannon, Assistant Curator of Manuscripts and Archives at the NYPL and Ben Vershbow, Manager of NYPL Labs; Seth Kaufman and Julie Weist from Collective Access; and designer Jane Pirone, who’ll lead us through a user-testing workshop. We’re doing interface critiques; developing finding aids for imaginary collections; taking a field trip to ArtStor; and hosting a pecha kucha to solicit mid-semester feedback from external critics — Orit Halpern, Peter Asaro, and Alex Kelly — on our semester projects. I think we have the makings of a great semester!