Faculty Work

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    CFP, Contemporaneity Edition 8: “Yesterday’s Contemporaneity: Finding Temporality In The Past”

    Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture

    CFP, Edition 8: “Yesterday’s Contemporaneity: Finding Temporality In The Past” 

    In recent decades art historians across the discipline have offered new insights into how communities in the global past understood their own positions in time. For example, Marvin Trachtenberg has made the case that twelfth- and thirteenth-century European architecture articulated a form of medieval modernism. Conversely Paul Binski has argued for how the same material could be understood as not only innovative, but also firmly historicist in nature. Studies of eschatology in artworks ranging from Renaissance wall paintings in Italy to Pure Land Buddhist Mandalas in Japan have highlighted how people in the past used theology to conceptualize their own place in time in the face of an uncertain but infinite future beyond their death. Meanwhile, studies of the visual cultures that emerged under different eras of imperialism and colonialism have illuminated how local and foreign definitions of time, history, and contemporaneity could directly shape the identities of both conquered and conquering peoples.  

    Contemporaneity asks what it means to be contemporary. The term is often invoked in reference to the current lives of citizens of today’s world, but this edition seeks to highlight contemporaneity across a wider variety of historical contexts. The aim is to uncover how cultures throughout the global past have negotiated temporalities, modernities, and historicisms, to come to terms with what it means to be present in their own moment. How can both history and modernity be visualized, contextualized, or conceptualized to create a sense of contemporaneity? How have institutions created temporalities for the cultures they study, and how can a historical object or space shape a person’s perception of an entire culture’s identity or agency? What is at stake in defining a work of art’s place in time? 

    Submissions on all topics will be considered. Potential topics may include, but are not limited to: 

    -modernism, medievalism, and historicism 

    -modernity and history in a global context 

    -anachronisms, futurisms, and revisionist histories  

    -Orientalism and other uses of the temporal in cross-cultural exchange 

    -spoliation, re-use, and/or appropriation 

    -museums, the ethics of collecting and “Grand narratives” 

    -traditional or historical art and crafts and the preservation of style 

    -contemporary interventions on historical objects or sites  

    -creation myths, apocalypses, beginnings and end times 

    The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2018. Manuscripts (circa 6,000 words) should include an abstract, 3-5 keywords, and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style. To make a submission, visit http://contemporaneity.pitt.edu, click Register and create an author profile to get started. Proposals for book and exhibition reviews, interviews, or other scholarly contributions will also be considered, and we recognize that these submissions may take many forms.

    Proposals and questions can be directed to the editors at contemporaneityjournal@gmail.com

    Contemporaneity is a peer-reviewed online journal organized by the History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Visit http://contemporaneity.pitt.edu for more information.

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Temporalities
    • Current Projects
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    From the Carnegie International to the Airport

    Author: Alex J. Taylor

    Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture

    When the Carnegie Museum of Art asked Alexander Calder to design a mobile for the 1958 Carnegie International, they hoped for something spectacular, ‘like a tremendous chandelier in an opera house.’ I rather fancy the idea of mobiles as a kind of modernist chandelier, and do not think it is such a stretch to understand the airport where this work ended up as the architectural heir to the opera house. The fate of this work has not been, however, quite as decorous as such comparisons would suggest. This fascinating and sometimes troubled history was the subject of a talk I recently gave to staff and visitors at the Pittsburgh International Airport, organized by the Office of Public Art.

    Donated to the Allegheny County by Pittsburgh industrialist and collector G. David Thompson, the idea to install the work at the airport seems to have originated with museum staff, perhaps inspired by Calder’s mobile recently commissioned for the International Arrivals Building in New York. But once installed in Pittsburgh’s old airport terminal in 1959, the difficulties began almost immediately. Concerned that the work ‘might give the impression of a whirling saw that might decapitate travellers’, airport administrators urged Calder to allow modifications to the work. Calder refused, but they altered the work anyway – weighing the form down with weights to limit its mobility, and most alarmingly, repainting the sculpture in the county colors of yellow and green.

    With Calder’s approval, the work was repainted red in 1960, but this paint job was also a problem, turning out rather more pink than expected. According to the memory of one attendee of my talk, the result was a muted shade of ‘salmon’. After Calder’s death in 1976, mounting criticisms of the condition of the work culminated in a series of impassioned articles by University of Pittsburgh student Diana Rose. Returned to the Carnegie Museum of Art for the 1979 Carnegie International, the work was restored to its original black and white scheme, and finally reinstalled in the new airport terminal in 1992.

    First developed as a paper in a seminar for a class offered at Pitt by Professor Reinhold Heller, the pubilcation of Rose’s research turned the early history of Calder’s Pittsburgh into something of a textbook case concerning the mistreatment of public sculpture. But even after the material form of this sculpture was returned to Calder’s intention, it has endured other more immaterial interventions. Take, for instance, a 1990s flyer about the work that claimed that the work's ‘four large leaves under each other represent the four major steel industries’ and that ‘three large leaves under each other represent the three rivers’. By the time I read from this flyer, visitors to my talk were informed enough to recognize the absurdity of such symbolic claims, wholly contrary to Calder’s approach. ‘Fake news!’ exclaimed one in the audience.

    The condition of the sculpture is now exemplary, and there is no doubt that everyone responsible for its care understands the importance of this task. But the meanings of the work deserve the same attention as its material form, and tall tales of the sort included in this flyer have a way of hanging around. I am pleased to have helped debunk at least one myth about this most unwaveringly abstract of Calder’s mobiles, and shed new light on its history for staff at the airport to share with others.

    Thank you to Akemi May, Lulu Lippincott and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown at CMOA, and Rachel Klipa and Derek Reese from the Office of Public Art for assisting with my research.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Pitt + CI57: Inside the Carnegie International, 57th edition, 2018

    Authors: Erin Peters (Joint Lecturer and Assistant Curator, HAA) and Liz Park (Associate Curator, Carnegie Int’l)

    We are thrilled to announce an immersive course designed to bring students inside the Carnegie Museum of Art to learn first-hand about its highly anticipated exhibition – the 57th edition of the Carnegie International. The course develops from a multi-year collaboration of Pitt’s museum studies faculty and the International’s curatorial team. Erin Peters, Joint Lecturer and Assistant Curator, HAA, and Liz Park, Associate Curator, Carnegie Int’l, will develop and co-teach the course over the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters as an iteration of HAA 1021: Inside the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

    A major international survey of contemporary art, the upcoming Carnegie International will run from October 2018 through March 2019. Nearly spanning the academic year, the exhibition provides an ideal case study of current museum and curatorial practices. Our two-semester course will introduce general museum studies topics as well as focus on the multi-layered process of curating and interpreting a contemporary art exhibition through the International. The exhibition itself will be the classroom and the textbook for the course – students will engage different topics each week on the floor in the galleries. Our sessions will involve in-depth discussions of the artworks and their settings with guest speakers. The weekly topic will be determined by the exhibition and the featured artworks.

    We are particularly excited about the participatory feature of the course that has the students conducting group field research in the museum, interacting with the visitors in a reciprocal learning process designed to augment the experience of both the students and audiences. In addition to other course assignments, field journals will chart our progress by chronicling the students’ weekly research shifts in the galleries and changes in their understanding over the span of the course. In order to attain a fuller understanding of the International as a curatorial project, the students will be encouraged to attend related programs leading up to and throughout the run of the exhibition.

    To learn about what is already under way for the 57th edition of the Carnegie International, visit the website here

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Patricia E. Beeson, Andrew Masich, Laurence Glasco, Kirk Savage, Christel Temple and Deane Root

     

    Monuments controversy discussed by Pitt and Heinz History Center experts

    Author: Alex J. Taylor

    Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture

    On 20 November, scholars from the University of Pittsburgh and our museum partners contributed to a panel discussion titled American Memorials in the 21st Century: A Monumental Mess at Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh. Building on controversies about confederate public monuments prompted by Charlottesville protests, and more local discussions concerning the future of the Stephen Foster Memorial, the wide-ranging discussion focused on the politics of monuments on the university campus, and the ethical challenges they can present. 

    ‘As long as there have been memorials, people have been tearing down memorials,’ observed Andy Masich from the Heinz History Center in his opening remarks. Kirk Savage from History of Art and Architecture agreed, but pointed out that monuments had been removed for a wide variety of reasons (both political and practical), and often involve their own forms historical erasure in the heroes they choose to celebrate. Other speakers directly addressed their varied understandings of the meaning of the Stephen Foster Memorial, and the politics of racial difference that its imagery engaged. Conclusions and audience comments explored the challenges of solving these problems, and discussed the policies and practicalities of reinterpretation and removal.

    The discussion was hosted by Provost Patricia E. Beeson, and included contributions from Andrew Masich, CEO and President of the Heinz History Center, Kirk Savage, Dietrich Chair in the History of Art and Architecture, Laurence Glasco, Associate Professor in History, Christel Temple, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, and Deane Root, Professor, Chair and Director of the Center for American Music.

    To read more about the response of History of Art and Architecture faculty and students to the Stephen Foster Memorial see Remembering or Erasing The Past? The HAA Department Responds to Stephen Foster Memorial

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Another Year, Another K'zoo

    For the second year in a row, I had the distinct privilege of attending the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to the Medieval Congress' Twitter feed (@KzooICMS), this unique conference attracted almost 3,000 attendees this year. 

    In 2016, our brave team of researchers arrived at Western Michigan University equipped with iPads and University of Pittsburgh lanyards with the aim of conducting usability surveys (you can read more about that in my October 2016 update). Last week, Dr. Langmead and I presented at a session sponsored by the Material Collective and shared the results of these surveys and talked about personal vs. collective image collections. Here is our Swipe.to presentation, for your enjoyment. I will not repeat our survey findings here, as I've written about them before. However, I will note that our Swipe.to polls revealed the following information about the attendees at our conference session:

    First, we asked of the attendees (mostly art historians): "How long do you want your research images to last?" 

    • ~32% selected "Forever"
    • ~41% selected "Until the end of my career"
    • ~14% selected "Until the end of the research project (approx. 2-3 yrs)"
    • 0 selected "Until the end of the week"
    • <1% selected "It doesn't matter to me"
    • ~10% selected "Another option"

    Following this question, we asked: "How long do you expect your research images to last?"

    • ~18% selected "Forever"
    • ~36% selected "Until the end of my career"
    • ~23% selected "Until the end of the research project (approx. 2-3 yrs)"
    • <1% selected "Until the end of the week"
    • <1% selected "It doesn't matter to me"
    • ~23% selected "Another option"

    We then asked: "Is there a gap between your expectation and desire for image persistence, and are you concerned about it?"

    • ~43% selected "Yes"
    • ~35% selected "No"
    • ~22% selected "I don't see a gap"

    Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, we asked: "If you could store your research images communally, would you?

    • 48% selected "Yes, in a heartbeat"
    • 16% selected "Yes, I suppose"
    • 32% selected "Maybe...talk to me more"
    • 0 selected "No, it's fine"
    • 0 seleged "No way"
    • <1% selected "Other"

    Consider these as you will! 

    We also presented the attached "rogue" poster at various wine hours throughout the Congress. 

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW

    File: 

  • Exhibition poster, designed by Aisling Quigley
     

    Data (after)Lives opens tomorrow!!

    Opening Event: Thursday, September 8th, 4-6pm

    This exhibition incorporates the work and research of Rich Pell (Curator at the Center for PostNatural History), Paul Vanouse, Steve Rowell, Aaron Henderson, and Heather Dewey-Hagborg. Paulina Pardo Gaviria also reinterpets the work of Letícia Parente (1930-1991). Also co-curated by Dr. Alison Langmead, Dr. Josh Ellenbogen, and Isabelle Chartier. Design associates: Aisling Quigley and Jennifer Donnelly. 

    Categories: 
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • UAG
  • Antonio Roberts, f(Glitch), (CC BY-SA 2.0)

     

    Summer 2016 Syllabus: "Digital Humanities," MLIS Program, University of Pittsburgh

    Please find a link here and below to the most recent version of the course that I teach in the Digital Humanities to the MLIS students here at the University of Pittsburgh. This and my PhD-level course have been going through iterations over the last three years. 

    Categories: 
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • Race-ing the Museum participants, May 13, 2016, in Braddock PA (minus Marina who had to leave to catch a plane)

     

    Race-ing the Museum: Some Afterthoughts

    Our workshop ended on Friday the 13th with a beautiful day at the Carnegie Library of Braddock with the artist collective Transformazium, after a packed week of field work and intense conversation with an amazing group of graduate students and faculty from across Pitt's campus.

    Over the course of the week we met and talked with various curators, educators, and archivists at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Teenie Harris Archive, the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, the Heinz History Center, the Allegheny City Gallery on the Northside, Pitt’s special collections and multiple archives, and the Art Lending Library in Braddock.  We interacted in various ways with objects on display and brought from storage, as well as curated selections of mixed materials from larger collections, and on the last day had a chance to do some speed-curating of our own in the art lending space at the Braddock Library.  In between, we talked a lot about what we had seen and heard and about what we should do to put ideas in practice and push the conversation forward in public.

    For me personally it was a revelation to move from one radically different collection to another and to ponder the structural differences that help determine their narratives, audiences, and engagements.  Each institution has its own criteria of quality and value.  These value systems in turn create communities around them.  Some systems are inherently more exclusive than others and therefore present particular challenges for an ethic of inclusion.

    At the Hunt Institute, for example, with the help of their generous staff we spent a couple of hours examining prints and books mostly against the grain: we looked through botany books and various records of collecting expeditions by European and Anglo colonizers to see how they represented the indigenous and enslaved peoples who actually supplied much of the knowledge.  Against the hierarchy of power and knowledge communicated by the materials themselves, we worked to recover the devalued voice and expertise of the peoples at the bottom of the hierarchy. At the Teenie Harris Archive, in the Carnegie Museum of Art, with the help of their equally generous curators, we had the privilege of entering a lost world – the largely African American Hill district before the destruction wrought by urban renewal – through the eye and lens of the maker himself, a man who did not self-identify as an artist and who rarely entered the art museum where his huge collection eventually found a home.  Here the institution has the good fortune to mine the knowledge of the community, because many of them from those days are still alive and come in to talk about their pictures and their world.  And so an archive of images has also become an archive of oral memory and of written history, all deeply interwoven into a still living community fabric.  A quote my co-facilitator Shirin read to us two days later keeps returning to my mind: If one no longer has land, but has memory of land, then one can make a map.

    And in Braddock, where Shirin read that passage – one of the poorest municipalities in our region – we thought about the value system of an art lending library in the context of a community whose resources, knowledge, and creativity tend to be ignored in a racialized master narrative of blight and distress.  Here is a public library that lends original art for three weeks to anyone with a county library card – art that includes work donated by every artist represented in the 2013 Carnegie International, black arts printmakers, emerging artists, and paintings by incarcerated men in a prison art program.  All of it surrounded by books on art and society in a light-filled room with salaried art and culture facilitators from the nearby community to discuss the art and its makers and stories.  From these artworks and books we curated our own multi-media displays on various themes which had emerged here and there in our week-long conversation.

    That conversation was simultaneously challenging, contentious, draining, and energizing.  But the big question we returned to all week was what can we do?  Many interesting ideas for real projects came out over the course of the week, and some initiatives have gotten started.  We are talking about exhibitions and websites and courses and new partnerships and pedagogical initiatives.  I’m sorry I won’t get too specific at the moment, because we are in the early stages and some ideas may blossom and others may not.  But, with a little patience and some more work, we’ll start to roll out ideas and proposals and solicit advice and feedback.  We promise to keep you posted.

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    Usability Research Commences!

    This week, my advisor, three courageous graduate students, and I will be attending the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, we will be conducting interviews as part of our ongoing research on the NEH-funded Sustaining MedArt project. We are primarily interested in how users currently engage with the site (created ca. 1995), and how their interactions with the site might inform the task of creating a sustainability roadmap applicable to this project and beyond…I created this little poster to advertise the work we’ll be doing next week!

    Categories: 
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    VMW Spring 2016 Update!

    The Visual Media Workshop has continued to be a thriving hub for the department’s Graduate Students and Faculty Members. Lead by Dr. Alison Langmead and a crack team of interdisciplinary participants, the VMW (known colloquially in the department as “The Lab”) has initiated several new and exciting ventures in the Digital Humanities over the past year. Alongside our ongoing lab-centered projects (Decomposing Bodies, Itinera, Sustaining MedArt), the VMW-led workshops and discussion groups have been a near weekly occurrence. Alison and Kate Joranson, Head of the Frick Fine Arts Library, offered a VMW toolshop series to assist graduate students with thinking through their academic and research projects in the context of online digital platforms. In a two-part conversation over Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, the Computational Visual Aesthetics group brought interdisciplinary faculty and students into dialog on the topic “10 Things That Computer Scientists Need to Know about Art Historians and That Art Historians Neet to Know about Computer Scientists before Beginning a Productive Collaboration.” While these conversations were only a few of the many highlights this year (see below for more updates), the VMW is striding forward towards more cross-disciplinary dialogues between the humanities and the digital world.

     

    Visiting Scholars in the Digital Humanities

    This spring, the VMW and the Digital Medial Lab in the Department of History hosted Matthew Lincoln as the inaugural Visiting Digital Graduate Scholar speaker. Lincoln’s public lecture “Continuity/Discontinuity: Network Dynamics in the Golden Age of Dutch Printmaking” discussed the importance of formal network concepts to understanding artistic print production of the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Lincoln demonstrated how multiple analytical perspectives, including both descriptive analysis, as well as some simple simulation modeling, suggest new ways of thinking about both continuity and discontinuity in our histories of printmaking. This was followed by an open workshop that examined Lincoln’s pipeline from downloading public data to finished visualization, with particular attention to the process and tools useful for cross-disciplinary projects. 

     

    Graduate and Undergraduate Activities

    The Digital Graduate Scholars Working Group began to meet in Spring 2016. This is a student-led interdisciplinary working group in which digital pedagogy and research methods are explored.

    First Experience Research students Maureen Borden and Christopher Babu spent Spring 2016 working on Decomposing Bodies (see below). After reading about the Bertillon system and its implementation in Ohio, they spent the early weeks of the semester transcribing information from the Bertillon cards into Omeka. Through the transcription process, each student became familiar with the data, and was able to develop an original research question based on their observations. The resulting research projects were presented at the Celebration of Research in Alumni Hall on April 22.

     

    Decomposing Bodies

    In November 2015, Dr. Langmead traveled for a final time to Columbus, Ohio with graduate students Aisling Quigley and Chelsea Gunn to photograph Bertillon cards at the Ohio History Connection. One of the major activities associated withDecomposing Bodies (DB) has been the continued transcription of Bertillon cards in the project’s Omeka website. As of the end of Spring 2016, just over 2,500 cards have been transcribed. Behind the scenes, extracting the dataset from Omeka and making it accessible in a more flexible spreadsheet format has been another significant task in the VMW. This process is intended to increase eventual access to the DB dataset for researchers, including First Experience Research students and students and faculty involved in the upcoming “Data (after)Lives exhibition. A public-facing DB website is currently in development, and can be found at http://sites.haa.pitt.edu/db. This website will be a resource available beyond Pitt’s campus, and will provide information about Bertillonage in general, and the work of the DB team specifically. While images and transcribed data will not be publicly hosted on the site, information about how interested parties can contact the VMW to gain access will be.

     

    Itinera

    Itinera, another of the lab-centered projects, is entering its third year of existence and continues to be a point of interdisciplinary interest. As project manager for the past year, Meredith North recorded the travels of many, many more European intellectuals. This has primarily centered around the German author and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his circle of acquaintances during his travel in Italy. Undoubtedly, Goethe’s The Italian Journey: 1786-1788 is an important work of non-fiction, but as a travelogue it is also an ideal work for Itinera data. Even though Goethe’s Italian journey represented only a fraction of his life, travels, and acquaintances, this document has provided a significant source of information for the cultural life and social relationships of the late-18th century. Agents like Angelica Kauffmann, Wilhelm Tischbein, and Jacob Philipp Hackert have emerged as important artists during this time, and their network relationships have assisted greatly in expanding Itinera’s existing connections. With the addition of some clear interface navigation instructions, Itinera has also become a little more user friendly.

     

    Sustaining MedArt

    Dr. Langmead and Aisling Quigley received an NEH Research and Development Grant in December 2015 to conduct further research on the nascent project, “Sustaining MedArt.” This project, initially presented as a poster, gained traction at iConference 2015, and has developed into a long-term study. Integral to their investigation of Images of Medieval Art and Architecture (http://www.medart.pitt.edu/), a two-decade-old “time capsule” digital humanities project, is usability testing. This term they have focused on creating a Qualtrics survey in anticipation of a forthcoming trip to the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, they will survey conference attendees on a volunteer basis in the hopes of learning more about how individuals with varying degrees of experience may engage with this unique website. 

    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • Spaces
    • VMW

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