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.

@debatingvk

Debating Visual Knowledge

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    Patricia K. Guiley

    Patricia K. Guiley is a graduate student in the Department of Art History at the University of Utah. Ms. Guiley’s thesis focuses on graffiti art in the 21st century with an emphasis on graffiti’s subculture. Ms. Guiley has presented papers on graffiti at both the University of Nevada and the University of Arizona’s symposiums in the winter of 2014 and will be presenting a paper at the International Conference on Street Art & Urban Creativity in Lisbon Portugal, July 2014.

    "The World, as it is Written on the Wall"

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    Alicia Puglionesi

    Alicia Puglionesi is completing her doctoral dissertation in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at Johns Hopkins University. Her project, 'The Astonishment of Experience: Americans and Psychical Research, 1885-1935,' deals with the emerging boundaries between professionals and amateurs engaged in the study of the mind around the turn of the twentieth century.

    "Drawings from the Other side" 

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    Juliet Sperling

    Juliet Sperling is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2014-2015, she is a Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she is at work on her dissertation, 'Animating Flatness: Seeing Moving Images in American Painting and Mass Visual Culture, 1820-1895.'

    https://upenn.academia.edu/JulietSperling 

    "Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America"

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    "Post-studio Sublime: Southern California Art and Technology after Earthrise" by Ginger Elliott Smith

    “Post-studio Sublime: Southern California Art and Technology after Earthrise
    Ginger Elliott Smith

    In December 1968, the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to complete a lunar orbit. During that momentous voyage, William Anders captured the iconic photograph, Earthrise (fig. 1), which significantly expanded visual knowledge of the expanse, scale, and sublimity of outer space. The Last Whole Earth Catalog opined, “Earthrise established our planetary facthood and beauty and rareness [. . .] and began to bend human consciousness.”[1] Culled from “Chapter 4” of my dissertation, this paper positions Earthrise as a vector for post-studio art/technology practices in Southern California after 1968.

    My dissertation, “Practicing Big Science: Art, Technology, and Institutions in 1960s and 1970s Southern California,” examines the ways in which high-technology growth in Los Angeles during the postwar years spurred many artists to experiment directly with industrial processes and innovative materials. In the studio, artists independently researched, appropriated, and became self-taught experts on discrete technologies. Beyond the studio their methods operated more divergently by applying physical (e.g., industrial lighting schematics) and/or theoretical (e.g., neurophenomenology) technologies to art. This paper connects the paradigmatic shifts that 3 instigated with a contemporaneous program launched at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The initiative, “Art and Technology,” paired each artist with prominent technology corporations during the late 1960s, culminating with an exhibition and catalog in 1971. I treat the collaborative experiments conducted by physiological psychologist Dr. Edward Wortz and artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell at Garrett Corporation as exemplars of the post-studio paradigm. My analysis attends to the necessary movements enacted by viewers and the ways in which these psychological environments relied on Ganzfeld and anechoic research conducted by NASA, Garrett, and others, in preparation for human space exploration. I term this embodied experience “mobile opticality”—the metacognitive awareness of vision or “seeing yourself seeing.”

    [1] The Last Whole Earth Catalog (Menlo Park, CA: Whole Earth Catalog, 1971).

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    "The Representation of Intersex Bodies in Klonaris/Thomadaki's Multimedia Practice" by Laura Giudici

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

    The core of my research is centered on the body, identity and visual representations of intersexuality. Where medicine and art meet, this topic is inevitably involved in delicate philosophical, social and cultural issues. These images are challenging to the art historian, opening a wide spectrum of methodological questions. From which perspective should these pictures be analyzed? How is it possible to develop a suitable interdisciplinary approach?

    The multimedia practice of the duo artists Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki is a very good example of how these issues can be integrated. Two series of works – Cycle des Hermaphrodites (1982‐1990) and Cycle de l’Ange (1985‐2003) –, are focused on intersexuality, both of which question in different ways the problem of the migration of images and ideas. The starting point for the first series was the famous sculpture of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite and, for the second, an anonymous medical photograph of an intersex person. Using different media approaches, the artists metamorphosed these pictures in many ways, combining them with other elements to create immersive visual and sound environments, thereby evoking links between the past and the present, as well as imagination and reality. The result is a work which not only addresses concerns of gender and (post‐)identity, but also technological, intermedia and interdisciplinary issues related to artistic practices. Another interesting aspect of Klonaris/Thomadaki’s projects is their reflection on an alternative understanding of performance and perception.

    The concept of “Nachleben” as investigated by Aby Warburg and the anthropological approach theorized by Hans Belting seem to offer efficient instruments for analyzing these two series of works. It is nevertheless necessary to combine them with other methodological points of view and the theoretical assertions made by the artists themselves to arrive at a thorough comprehension of their visual world.

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    "Drawings from the Other Side" by Alicia Puglionesi

    “Drawings from the other side”
    Alicia Puglionesi


    Researchers in psychology and the cognitive sciences often look to the production and analysis of drawings to reveal the mental processes of their subjects. This talk presents three episodes that trace the emergence of drawing as an instrumental practice in the study of the mind. Between 1870 and 1950, the drawings of psychological subjects gained currency as a form of scientific evidence – as stable, reproducible signals from a hidden interior.

    This story begins with the use of drawings as data in the child-study movement, established by G. Stanley Hall in the 1870s, which aimed to produce an “inventory of the child mind.” It then moves to the telepathic transmission of drawings in psychical research, which adapted Hall's simple drawing activity as a tool for the scientific investigation of telepathy. Psychical researchers hoped to determine whether “impressions from the minds of those about us [can reach] our own minds by channels distinct from those of the senses.” Finally, I link this practice with the development of drawing as an experimental tool for studying neurological impairment. Drawings elicited from neuropsychiatric patients in the mid-twentieth century were understood to reveal particular breakdowns in the internal communication pathways of the brain. When the drawings of brain-injured patients appeared as figures in the scientific literature, they formed a taxonomy of lesions and a topology of communication failure.

    Thus, in the twentieth century, the same drawing exercises that once illustrated the universality of concepts and the porous boundaries of the self had become a tool for diagnosing the fragmentation of individual cognitive functions. In exploring these three cases, I link the role of drawing in investigations of the mind to the rhetoric of scientific images: where and how visual information can travel depends on our understanding of the seeing, thinking, and representing self.

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    "Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America" by Juliet Sperling

    “Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America”
    Juliet Sperling

    The visual culture of 1840s Philadelphia was teeming with dissected bodies: sliced open, disassembled, and peeled apart layer by layer. As a popular anatomy craze swept the United States, crowds of thousands swarmed to public dissection lectures that featured life-size papier- mâché manikins. In emerging medical museums, visitors watched more delicate demonstrations on the lifelike wax forms of imported Anatomical Venuses. At home, curious viewers rehearsed their own procedures with “dissected plate” anatomy books, illustrated with intricately layered flaps that opened to reveal the body’s hidden depths. Movement dominated these new visions of the body—a soulless animation that living forms could never sustain, marked by excavations, expansions, and penetrations.

    This paper explores how these seemingly discrete aesthetic experiences converged on the stage of an emerging mass visual culture. I argue that movement—witnessed, remembered, and reenacted—was the crucial common feature that allowed audiences to suture otherwise disconnected perceptual experiences. In order to reconstruct these imaginative processes, I examine the intersection of two types of mass engagement with movable images of the human form: first, America’s first public exhibitions of lecture manikins and Anatomical Venuses, life-size demountable beauties with medical knowledge hidden beneath their wax flesh; and second, anatomy books with movable “dissected plate” illustrations, printed and distributed widely in the United States beginning in 1846. By tracing how visual knowledge was transmitted between separate media encounters, I identify an important shift in understanding bodily surfaces as increasingly unreliable sites of empirical knowledge.

    https://upenn.academia.edu/JulietSperling 

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    "'Divine Truths Photographed Upon the Soul': The Holy Land through the Stereoscope (1900)" by Jeff Richmond-Moll

    ““Divine Truths Photographed Upon the Soul”: The Holy Land through the Stereoscope (1900)”
    Jeff Richmond-Moll

    In 1900, America’s leading stereograph firm, Underwood & Underwood, called upon Jesse Lyman Hurlbut of the Methodist Sunday School Union to create Traveling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope, a “travel guide” that would carry the viewer-turned-pilgrim across the biblical landscape using Bert  Underwood’s 1897 stereoviews. Previous studies identify the nationalist and gendered worldview of this Palestine set; however, this paper examines less what the views capture and more how they operate technologically and conceptually. For, despite the often fraught relationship in scholarship between vision and Protestant faith – and despite a frequent emphasis on stereography’s “haptic” (sculptural) qualities, which seem antithetical to the noncorporeal nature of Protestantism – the optical mechanisms of the stereograph were instrumental to Hurlbut’s efforts to promote biblical truth.

    Hurlbut’s background in Methodism, which often stressed visual experience as a means to the divine, may explain his insistence on the stereograph’s ability to lead viewers from sight to belief. Perhaps inspired by the repeated progression of “come”-“see”-“believe” throughout the New Testament, Hurlbut invited his viewers to “come” with him to Palestine, “see” the earth on which the Bible unfolded, and “believe” in Christianity’s veracity. Moreover, Hurlbut thematized the concept of vision throughout his text, whether describing the views as if one sees “through the eyes of” biblical characters themselves (the view of Jerusalem that Jesus wept over [Fig. 1]) or frequently identifying holy sites in relation to stories of vision (Christ’s miraculous [dis]apparition at Emmaus [Fig. 2]). Joining contemporary scientists and even Methodist theologians, Hurlbut envisioned the stereographic eye as a transparent, camera-like aperture, capable of “photographing” divine truths directly upon a viewer’s soul. Ultimately, however, Hurlbut – and his audience –struggled to distinguish between staring upon and seeing through these tactile, stereoscopic images. Like Jesus with his earliest disciples, Hurlbut called the viewer to “come and see”; but, like Doubting Thomases, viewers instead reached out into the stereographic plane as if to touch Christ’s wound and thereby connect with and confirm the veracity of their vision.

    Image is by Underwood and Underwood, The Village of Amwas (Emmaus), Palestine (St. Luke xxiv: 13-31)
, 1900
, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

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  • Six Degrees of Francis Bacon
     

    "Six Degrees of Francis Bacon: History, Networks, Knowledge"

    “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon: History, Networks, Knowledge”
    Dr. Christopher Warren, Dr.
 Raja Sooriamurthi, 
Ivy Chung, 
Sama Kanbour,
 Angela Qiu, 
Chanamon Ratanalert

    http://sixdegreesoffrancisbacon.com/

    This poster presentation will introduce a web interface for Six Degrees of Francis Bacon (SDFB), a collaborative, multidisciplinary, visual humanities project with wide utility for several subfields in early modern studies. Historians, literary critics, musicologists, art historians, and others have long studied the way that early modern people associated with each other and participated in various kinds of formal and informal groups. Yet their scholarship, published in countless books and articles, is scattered and unsynthesized. By data-mining existing scholarship that describes relationships between early modern persons, SDFB is creating unified, systematized representations of the way people in early modern Britain were connected.

    In seeking to characterize early modern social networks in previous work, scholars have of course relied primarily on their most cherished medium, prose. Yet it is far from obvious that prose, or rather prose alone, is the most appropriate medium for representing social networks. Most editions of Shakespeare’s works implicitly acknowledge the limitations of prose when they choose to display the genealogy of English kings in the form of a family tree. The visual image of the tree conveys relationships with a clarity and succinctness that even the best prose stylists would be hard pressed to match. Yet it is not only for reasons of clarity and succinctness that a digital medium is superior to prose alone in representing the complexities of the early modern social network. Unlike published prose, our web interface is extensible, collaborative, and interoperable: extensible in that affiliations can always be added, modified, developed, or, removed; collaborative in that it synthesizes the work of many scholars; and interoperable in that new work on the network is put into immediate relation to previously mapped relationships.

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    "The World, as it is Written on the Wall" by Patricia K. Guiley

    “The World, as it is Written on the Wall”
    Patricia K. Guiley

    Throughout history artists have incorporated or used graffiti as a mode of social expression and artistic exhibition. When analyzing graffiti, from the earliest inception of cave drawings spanning up to current graffiti works, it is necessary for the viewer to conceptualize graffiti as a body which can assume two forms, that of text and that of image. Graffiti art frequently employs depictions of obscured text in effort to communicate a social message and illustrate artistic prowess creating a synergistic bridge between text and image vocalizing the rebellious spirit involved in much of its production.

    In the 20th and 21st centuries, graffiti writers have employed various techniques in order to communicate dense social messages with their art. These techniques frequently involve appropriation of existing images and maintain staunch social messages. While examining the social messages conveyed in both the text and pictorial images in graffiti, some of the world’s most prolific (sanctioned and non-sanctioned) graffiti art of the past two decades, will be outlined and used as examples. Included in this lineup will be works from: Banksy, Obey, Gajin Fujita, Princess Hijab, and Blu. It will be illustrated that intensely controversial social messages are communicated in a fluidly artistic manner uniquely found in graffiti’s voice, which reaches further than language alone.

    The final argument will show that these works are the platform for uncensored global conversations and serve as the only form of free speech in many parts of the world, thusly maintaining a unique and sharp historical perspective on political and social climates within the cities in which they appear.

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