Debating Visual Knowledge

The University of Pittsburgh's Debating Visual Knowledge Graduate Student Symposium was held October 3rd-5th, 2014. This was a multi-disciplinary conference, organized by the graduate students of the History of Art and Architecture Department and the Information Sciences Department. Our symposium challenged interdisciplinary boundaries and created a "visual knowledge" lab with workshops, round-table discussions, and presentations.

Our keynote speakers were Dr. Patrick Jagoda of University of Chicago and Dr. Simone Osthoff of Pennsylvania State University.

Debating Visual Knowledge was organized by Ryan Champagne, Nicole Coffineau, Rae Di Cicco, Annika Johnson, Jocelyn Monahan, Colleen O'Reilly, Nicole Scalissi, and Elizabeth Self.


Debating Visual Knowledge


    Laura Giudici

    Graduated in art history at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), Laura Giudici is a PhD candidate working for the Art & Science doctoral program launched by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her PhD. project – “Identités fluides: la représentation du corps intersexué de la naissance de la photographie à nos jours” – is related to the chair of Modern and Contemporary Art History of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and is under the direction of Prof. Victor I. Stoichita.

    “The representation of intersex bodies in Klonaris/Thomadaki’s multimedia practice”


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    Friday, October 3rd, 2014

    12:30 pm            Museum Tour

    Location: In front of the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater.

    A tour of Sebastian Errazuriz: Look Again, with Lucy Stewart, Assistant Curator of Education, and exhibition designers and curators. In keeping with some of the themes that will be discussed during the symposium, the tour will focus on the development of the spatial and architectural design of the exhibition, and on the process of translating artistic and curatorial ideas into reality.

    2:00 pm            Opening remarks

    2:15-3:45 pm    Panel 1: Knowledge Production

    Moderated by Dr. Paolo Palmieri (History and Philosophy of Science), University of Pittsburgh

    Matthew Allen (History of Architecture), Harvard University, "Equivocating Diagrams: The many epistemic virtues in C.H. Waddington's images and arguments"
    Catherine Falls, (Art History and Information Science), University of Toronto, "The Thick Black Line: Image and Objectivity in Roman Ondak's ‘Measuring the Universe’"
    Chloe Hansen, (Communication), University of Pittsburgh, "Visual Agnotology: Visual Production and Maintenance of Ignorance"

    5:00 - 6:00 pm     Trip to Wood Street Galleries

    Location: Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Pittsburgh, PA

    Viewing of Finnbogi Petursson exhibition SECOND/SECOND, and Q&A with Curator Murray Horne

    6:30 - 7:30 pm      Screening the Ethnographic Sensorium

    Location: Wood Street gallery's annex (937 Liberty Ave).

    Media and performance curated by Ben Ogrodnik, History of Art and Architecture and Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh. Refreshments will be served.

    Saturday October 4th, 2014

    9:00 - 11:00 am     Panel 2: The Politics of Space

    Moderated by Dr. John Twyning (Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies), University of Pittsburgh.

    Jeff Richmond-Moll, (Art History), University of Delaware, "'Divine Truths Photographed Upon the Soul': The Holy Land through the Stereoscope"
    Patricia Guiley, (Art History), University of Utah, "The World, as it is Written on the Wall"
    Caroline Pirri, (English), Rutgers University, "'Which long their longings urged their eyes to see':
    Jocelyn Monahan (Information Science) and Jeffrey Curran, University of Pittsburgh, “Instant Interferences”

    11:30 - 1:00 pm      Panel 3: Multimedia and (Re)mediation

    Moderated by Dr. Mark Paterson (Communication), University of Pittsburgh

    Laura Giudici, (Art History/Art and Science), University of Fribourg, "The representation of intersex bodies in Klonaris/Thomadaki's multimedia practice"
    Juliet Sperling, (Art History), University of Pennsylvania, "Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America"
    Alicia Puglionesi, (History of Medicine), Johns Hopkins University, "Drawings from the Other side"

    1:00 - 2:00 pm         Lunch

    2:00 - 3:00 pm         Keynote Presentation: Dr. Patrick Jagoda, Professor of English, University of Chicago, "Network Aesthetics (or: How to See Anything When Everything is Interconnected)"

    3:30 - 4:30 pm        "Curatorial Practice as Production of Visual & Spatial Knowledge"

    A panel discussion with Dan Byers, Richard Armstrong curator of contemporary art, Carnegie Museum of Art; Dr. Alison Langmead, Director, Visual Media Workshop, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, and Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Cynthia Morton, Associate Curator of Botany, Carnegie Museum of Natural History; and Dr. Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Pittsburgh, moderated by Nicole Scalissi, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh.

    5:00 - 6:00                Keynote Presentation: Dr. Simone Osthoff, Professor of Art and Critical Studies, Pennsylvania State University/Playing the Archive, "The 1959 Neoconcrete Manifesto: Data Mining, Visualization, and Sonic Immersion"

    Sunday October 5th, 2014

    10:00 - 12:00 am      Breakout sessions (Registration required)

    All three options take place from 10 am - 12 pm on Sunday, October 5th.

    1. Paper Workshops:

    Location: Third floor of the iSchool building (see Venues page for more information.)

    Chloe Hansen and Matthew Allen, two contributors to the symposium, have volunteered to share projects-in-progress with a working group in order to receive constructive feedback and spark a discussion (click on names for an abstract of the relevant papers). As part of the broader goal of the symposium to foster open ended conversations between scholars of varied backgrounds, these workshops are intended to provide a space in which to share ideas across disciplinary boundaries and assist authors in moving papers towards publication. The workshops will be led by Prof. Josh Ellenbogen (History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh). If you are interested in reading one (or both) of these papers and attending the workshop, please email Colleen.

    2. Creativity & Academia Roundtable:

    Location: Third floor of the iSchool building.

    Jocelyn Monahan and Aisling Quigley (PhD Candidates, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh) will be holding a workshop in which participants can discuss their creative and academic work, the relationship between the two, and issues such as credibility and legibility when doing creative work as an academic. If you are interested in participating in this conversation, please email Jocelyn.

    3. Curator's Tour of Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia

    Location: University Art Gallery, Frick Fine Arts building.

    This is an exhibition currently on view at the University Art Gallery that deals with images in knowledge-making contexts such as history, anatomy, architecture and physics. Prof. Drew Armstrong (History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh) will give a tour and lead a discussion. For more information click here.

    12:00 - 1:00 pm        Lunch

    1:00 - 3:00 pm          Panel 4: Tooling the Visual

    Moderated by Dr. Alison Langmead (History of Art an Architecture & School of Information Sciences), University of Pittsburgh

    Tim Fessenden, (Biology), University of Chicago, “Visualizing Cell Behavior in 3D: A Tour of Biology Reseach Praxis”
    Ginger Elliott Smith, (Art History), Boston University, "Post-Studio Sublime: Southern California Art and Technology after Earthrise"
    Dr. Christopher Warren, (English), and Dr. Raja Sooriamurthi, Ivy Chung, Sama Kanbour, Angela Qiu, and Chanamon Ratanalert, (Information Systems), Carnegie Mellon University, "Six Degrees of Francis Bacon: History, Networks, Knowledge"
    Vivian Appler, (Theatre), University of Pittsburgh, "To Trust or Not to Trust: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage"

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    Sponsors and Supporters

    • Debating Visual Knowledge

    The DVK CFP (April 2014)

    Debating Visual Knowledge: a symposium organized by graduate students in Information Science and History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh

    Call for Participants

    Visual knowledge and visual literacy have become pressing concerns across a variety of academic disciplines and areas of creative production. These concerns are shaped by the fluid definitions of “visual knowledge” and the multiple ways in which it manifests. Many forms of visual knowledge have capabilities that are not shared by language. This knowledge is produced, mediated, and distributed by a number of different objects, tools, media, and technologies. This symposium seeks to broaden understandings of intellectual and creative work by interrogating the theorization, production, use, and historicization of visual knowledge. We envision the event as an exploratory lab, comprising scholarly and creative projects that engage with these questions.

    Presentations might relate to (but are not limited to) topics such as:

    • Digital humanities
    • Cognition, intellectual history, interpretation
    • Photography, printmaking, engraving
    • “The spatial turn,” GIS, maps, mapping
    • The body, performance
    • Data visualizations, modeling, categories and groups
    • Law and policy
    • Media theory, historiography, ecology
    • Exhibition design, curating
    • Network analysis, grids, graphs, timelines
    • Interfaces, constructed/built environments, design
    • Astronomy, physics, mathematics, botany, medicine

    The symposium will include traditional academic papers, posters, and keynote sessions, as well as presentations of creative works, roundtables, praxis sessions, screenings, and performances. Participants may be invited to take part in curated roundtables, seminars or workshops. We also welcome submissions of projects that could be workshopped or collaborated on in the context of the symposium.

    Submission Guidelines:

    • For a paper, please submit a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute talk, and a CV.
    • For a poster, please submit a 300-word abstract and a CV. A sketch of your poster is optional. If selected, posters must be printed and provided by the participants, and can be up to 30” x 40”.
    • For a creative work, please submit up to 10 images and/or a 2-minute video or sound clip, a 300-word project description, and a CV.
    • For a pre-constituted panel of up to four papers, please submit a 300-word abstract describing the panel topic, and a 150-word abstract and author’s CV for each proposed paper.
    • To propose to lead a roundtable, seminar, or praxis session, please submit a 300-word description of the topic and CVs for all proposed participants. You may also propose a topic without having chosen participants.
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    Curatorial Roundtable: "Curatorial Practice as Production of Visual & Spatial Knowledge"

    A discussion about various defintions of "curation," sensory experiences in front of museum objects and also in digital space, and bridging the divide between institutions of art and those of natural history.  

    Participants were Dan Byers, Senior Curator, ICA Boston; Dr. Alison Langmead, Director, Visual Media Workshop, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, and Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Cynthia Morton, Associate Curator of Botany, Carnegie Museum of Natural History; and Dr. Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Pittsburgh.  

    This panel was convened and moderated by Nicole Scalissi, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh.  

    The transcript of the conversation is published in Volume 4 of Contemporaneity, along with post-discussion reflections by the participants.

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    Tour of "Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia" with Faculty Curator Dr. Drew Armstrong

    In Spring and Summer of 2014, Dr. Drew Armstrong worked with a group of graduate and undergraduate students in History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh to organize an exhibition that explored relationships between images and knowledge. As part of the Debating Visual Knowledge weekend, Dr. Armstrong gave a tour.

    More on the exhibition can be found here.

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    Keynote Presenter: Dr. Patrick Jagoda (Univ. of Chicago)

    Dr. Patrick Jagoda, Professor of English, University of Chicago

    "Network Aesthetics (or: How to See Anything When Everything is Interconnected)"

    N.B.: Dr. Jagoda has published an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Network Ambivalence, from University of Chicago Press in Volume 4 of Contemporaneity!

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    Keynote Presenter: Dr. Simone Osthoff (Penn State)

    Dr. Simone Osthoff, Professor of Art and Critical Studies, Pennsylvania State University and Playing the Archive


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    "Visualizing Cell Behavior in 3D: A Tour of Biology Research Praxis" by Tim Fessenden

    “Visualizing Cell Behavior in 3D: a tour of biology research praxis” 

    Tim Fessenden

    Cells serve as unending sources of biological knowledge for the scientific community, but their behaviors remain poorly understood in many contexts. This is especially so for tissues – collectives of cells – which undergo movement and deformations during normal physiological processes as well as in disease states, such as cancer. To investigate both collective and individual cell motility behaviors, my doctoral work requires imaging cell collectives over long timescales. As such, my work relies heavily on my ability to faithfully produce and interpret images of cell collectives in 3D. This talk will first introduce the technical methodology that I use, and then will explore how acquired images are processed and interpreted to support knowledge claims about motile cell behaviors. Through this tour of data acquisition and interpretation, I aim to provide examples of the formation of a working object of scientific knowledge and the world in which it is found. I focus on the emergence of this world and its inhabitants through different spatial scales, as a collaboration among humans, non-humans, and technology.

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    "Instant Interferences" by Jeffrey Curran and Jocelyn Monahan

    “Instant Interferences”

    Jeffrey Curran and Jocelyn Monahan

    Google has recently built a number of new data centers around the United States. These structures are often discussed in terms of shifts from industrial to post-industrial labor, job loss/creation, gentrification, and other human factors. However, the topographies of these towns also change, in order to accommodate such structures. This project will use instant photography to convey the changes this transition has on the landscapes themselves, focusing specifically on the newly constructed data center located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the 2014 harvest season. Over these months, I will document new roads, subdivisions, and shopping structures, as well as capture instances of farmland before it disappears. These will then be combined with field recordings and audio from low-frequency antennas taken in the same locations to create a new visual and aural picture of a rural town in transition.

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