Agency

Art objects, makers, and users all have agency, the capability to do and undo, to transform their worlds.  Here we investigate art as a system of action. Agency in all its many variations mediates between the interests or intentions of an individual, group, or other form of organized social life and an audience, viewership, or community. Areas of inquiry include artistic patronage, collecting and cataloging, propaganda, idolatry and iconoclasm, cult and ritual, and performative spaces.

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Agency

    Desk set of mementoes from Gettysburg sold to the tourist trade, late 19th century.

     

    Hyperobject: Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Pittsburgh

    Some examples of the objects on display at S&S, objects within a hyper- or encompassing object that is itself part of a larger set of phenomena and practices that both transfer and transform individual objects and give them efficacy and power.

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    Hyperobject: Nanook of the North (reenactment)

     

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    Just Weather

    Shane Pickett, Medicine grounds that become ready during Bunuroo, 2008 acrylic on linen 183 x 153 cm

    For the sake of clarity, I should probably note that Bunuroo (often spelled Bunuru) is the Noongar word for the season occuring around Feburary-March. It is the hottest time of the year. According to Pickett, "Bunuru is the season where many adolescents become adults and the songs of marriage and responsibilities are of importance."

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    • Agency
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    Hyperobject: Gold

    6, 1959. MoMA

    Mathias Goeritz (German, active Mexico City), Message No. 7B, Eccles. VII:6, 1959. MoMA

     

    Alberto Burri, Sackcloth and Gold, 1953. Fondazione Burri

    Alberto Burri (Italy), Sacco e oro (Sackcloth and Gold), 1953. Fondazione Burri, Castello. 

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    Reading chart

    I took the idea of creating a reading chart exercise from an essay on team-based learning at arthistoryteachingresources.org.  I assigned the first three chapters of Assmann's Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, an accessible but challenging text, for my 1010 course.  I created the chart (attached) and asked them all to fill it out and bring two copies to class.  The class broke into three groups and discussed their charts in the groups, each one facilitated by an undergrad TA (who had also filled out the chart).  I created a "script" for the TAs to lead discussion through the charts.

    The basic idea of the chart was to have them extract two key points from each chapter and then to find an example (of a practice or an object in the contemporary world) to which they could connect one or both of the key points.  So the goal was to help them extract useful insights from the reading and apply those insights to actual examples from a different time and place.

    After giving them time to get started without me, I came back into the classroom and circulated among the groups.  Overall I was happy with the quality of the discussion.  Certainly they were focused, much more so than in a free-floating discussion.  They had all read the text and were very engaged with it.  Asking them to apply the reading to examples of their own choosing also really got them focused.

    One surprise, and slight disappointment, was that their key points were very similar to each other's, as if they had all gone for the most readily understandable points.  By contrast their examples were more diverse.  If I were to tweak the exercise I might ask them to choose for their second key point something that was interesting but not entirely clear to them.  

    I see this technique as very promising.  The chart prompts a more searching, purpose-driven reading of the text.  Discussion in class builds easily on the preparation done before class.  A learning process seems to be set in motion.  It is time-consuming though.  This exercise took an entire class period of one hour and fifteen minutes.  But learning is time-consuming.  My own conviction is that if we are going to assign meaningful and challenging texts, we need to give the students the tools and time to really learn something from those texts.

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    • Undergraduate Work
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  • Kirsten, Kaley, Karen, and Sara.

     

    At the Flight 93 Memorial

    I took four undergrads to the Flight 93 Memorial today, three of them TAs in my 1010 course and one of them my daughter. The fields were full of goldenrod under a scintillating sky. The site is a huge strip of over 2000 acres located on an old surface coal mine, with wind power turbines turning in the distance.  The landscape plan incorporates coal's "scar" into its design, suggesting in a very subtle way the hidden layers of history and violence that culminated in the attack of September 11.  There is much to ponder here about agency -- the agency of the passengers on the flight, who organized themselves and brought the plane down, and whose remains are still there mostly unrecovered; that of the terrorists, who are unnamed and effectively expunged from the site; and that of the visitors, who are led through the memorial in a tightly choreographed pattern and barred from most of the site by gates, barriers, signs, and rangers.  At the same time visitors are enabled to leave objects and post comment cards, which often follow patterns but are sometimes highly idosyncratic and obscure in their meaning -- windows into other minds.  

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    • Agency
    • Environment
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Faculty Work
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    The Rite of Spring

    ...with cups. For the beginning of term.

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    • VMW
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  • periodic table of visualization methods

    Image Credit: Colby Stuart, "periodic table of visualization methods," https://flic.kr/p/xbFB1.

     

    PhD Seminar in the Digital Humanities, Fall 2014

    I will be teaching a PhD seminar this fall in the digital humanities at the iSchool here at Pitt. The draft syllabus is done for those who might be interested in seeing what is going on...check out the PDF attached at the bottom of the post.

    There will be balanced focus on the theoretical and practical aspects of producing digitally-inflected work in the humanities and social sciences, and students can expect to leave the course having built something that furthers their own research. Do be in touch if you have any questions or would like any further information (contact information).

    ETA: Class will be held on Mondays from 12-3pm in the School of Information Sciences.

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    • Agency
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • Old Media, New Media Image

    Old Media and New Media. Image Credit: Flickr user mermaid, london street art: what are these?.

     

    New Media Preservation Strategies

    Cornell University Library has started a project. funded by the NEH, to investigate how best to preserve born-digital art objects. Their preliminary findings (survey-based) have just been published as "Interactive Digital Media Art Survey: Key Findings and Observations." The eventual goal is to publish generalizable best practices in this area. Those of you interested in such things should certainly head over there.

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    • Agency
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Faculty Work
    • VMW
  • Image of an Optical Toy

    https://flic.kr/p/fqFKH9. Image from the The Laura Hayes and John Wileman collection of pre-20th century optical toys and illusionary devices. Donated to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics by Dr. Ralph Wileman. To learn more about this collection visit www.dlt.ncssm.edu/collections/toys/.

     

    "Digital Art Historian's Toolkit" from UCLA and The Getty

    This summer has seen any number of "digital art history" institutes going on, from Middlebury to UCLA. Miriam Posner, from UCLA, has just posted a very nice summary of current tools that might be of interest to any or all of you http://www.humanities.ucla.edu/getty/index.php/resources/the-digital-art-historians-toolkit/!

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