Presentation Abstracts

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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.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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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! http://contemporaneity.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/contemporaneity/article/view/150

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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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

     

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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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.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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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.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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    "'Which long their longings urged their eyes to see': Emblematic Perspectives in the Early Stuart Masque" by Caroline Pirri

    “Which long their longings urged their eyes to see:” Emblematic Perspectives in the Early Stuart Masque

    Caroline Pirri

    Historians of the Jacobean court masque have emphasized the importance of its formal structure, rightly noting that the masque’s scenic backdrop - painted in single-point perspective - would have been clearly visible only from the king’s position at the center of the hall. While the centrality of the perspective schema was a critical feature of the masque’s reception, the crisp geometric lines that converged on the king’s seat were also intersected by a host of other perspectival frameworks. This paper will claim that in Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones’s court masques, emblematic tableaux and poetic emblems functioned as miniaturized perspective schemas; they opened out the centralized perspective of the main scene to the spectators ringing the borders of the hall. The masque’s use of popular emblems lent it a didactic function, providing Jonson with a visual scaffold on which to hang his poetry to “make the spectators understanders.” But Jonson and Jones did not simply reproduce popular emblems; they reinvented them, resisting transparency and legibility to create forms that were “not […] hieroglyphickes, emblemes, or impreses, but a mixed character partaking somewhat of all, and peculiarly adapted to these most magnificent inventions.”  To Jonson and Jones, the effectiveness of the masque as a political and didactic tool relied on the spectator’s ability to make sense of the experience.  And after the spectators were invited to shift their focus from the main scene to the emblems, they were detained in that unenlightened position. Their perspective was purposefully and continually frustrated so that they could be directed gradually – through the masque’s poetry – to the larger argument. Thus, the conflict between linear and emblematic perspective turned the spectator’s desire for visual and interpretive clarity into a motive force for political self-fashioning. Masque attendants were compelled to submit their understanding to Jonson’s poetry, and to James I’s position as sovereign viewer, in order to become ideal subjects. 

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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    "Visual Agnotology: Visual Production and Maintenance of Ignorance" by Chloe Hansen

    “Visual Agnotology: Visual Production and Maintenance of Ignorance”

    Chloe Hansen

    Relationships between knowledge and the visual continue to receive scholarly attention and deservedly so in our image-driven age. However, the flipside of those relations – the relationships between ignorance or not-knowing and the visual – has not been as explicitly addressed. This visual rhetoric and visual culture project draws on the concept of agnotology – the study of the social construction and maintenance of ignorance – to examine the roles of images in producing and perpetuating the absence of knowledges. Considering the three forms of ignorance explored in existing agnotology scholarship – recognized gaps in knowledge that we work to fill; overlooked or forgotten areas of knowledge; and areas of knowledge foreclosed by strategic plot – I examine some of the ways artifacts give visual form to the unknown or unknowable, specifically focusing on Colin Powell’s 2003 address to the UN Security Council. My goal is to begin to address a dearth in visual rhetoric literature on ignorance by demonstrating that visuals play a central role in constituting “unknowability,” thus limiting the conditions of possibility for knowledge. By considering not only what is made known or knowable via images but also what is erased, marginalized, denied, or otherwise made unknowable through visual representation, this exploration of visual agnotology works to expand understandings of visual rhetoric and conceptions of the knowledge work done by visuals more broadly.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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    "The Thick Black Line: Image and Objectivity in Roman Ondak's 'Measuring the Universe'" by Catherine Falls

    “The Thick Black Line: Image and Objectivity in Roman Ondák's Measuring the Universe

    Catherine MacArthur Falls

    As discussed by historians of science Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, visual representations—including, for example, anatomical and botanical illustrations—have for centuries been integral to the production of scientific knowledge. Believed since the nineteenth century to be a more direct and 'objective' way to represent scientific phenomena than the potentially flawed realm of language, such visualizations, they suggest, have historically helped construct generalized 'objective truths' about the complex individual subjects they represent.1 In his 2007 participatory installation work, Measuring the Universe, Slovakian artist Roman Ondák critically and playfully engages with this longstanding relationship between art, statistical or scientific visualization, and human subjectivity. In a gesture mimicking both biological data collection and the quaint measurement of a child in the home, Ondák traced the heights of all exhibition visitors on the walls of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, repeating this action until a unified visualization—a thick black line at the average height of all visitors— emerged from the accumulated measurements. This 20-minute talk will explore how this and other similar contemporary works foreground or interrogate the often-obscured process by which idiosyncratic and infinitely complex subjectivities, and their intermediary data, are converted into clean, finalized visual representations of objective, authoritative scientific knowledge. It aims to demonstrate how, in a subversion of the historical relationship that artists have had to scientific knowledge production, such works reveal the process by which statistical and scientific visualizations construct not only truths about human subjects, but also human subjects themselves. It will argue that the exposure of this process and its role in subjectivity construction are increasingly necessary at a time characterized by a proliferation of infographics and other forms of often unquestioned data visualization.

     

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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    "To Trust or Not to Trust: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage" by Vivian Appler

     “To Trust or Not to Trust: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage”

    Vivian Appler

    Galileo Galilei’s Siderius Nuncius (1610) announced to early modern Europe the introduction of a new machine to the labor of astronomy: the telescope. This manuscript made claims about the topography of the moon and announced the discovery of three new stars, which Galileo named after his benefactors, the Medicis. Galileo’s claims would be transformed into fodder for theatrical satire well into the end of the seventeenth century. Early modern philosophers of science were the first to incorporate machines into the process of re-visioning the contents of outer space, which caused a rift in the European academy. The debate over such machines, and the reliability of the information derived from them, quickly became the subject of popular plays and performances of the time. The seventeenth century stage was teeming with telescopes.

    Giambattista della Porta, who claimed to have invented the telescope before Galileo, also wrote the commedia erudita, Lo Astrologo, in 1606. Della Porta’s play soon became a primary source for Thomas Tomkis’s English farce, Albumazar (1615), which pokes fun at the idea of mechanical instruments constructed to enhance human perception. Aphra Behn’s comedy, The Emperor of the Moon (1687 – also based on an Italian commedia) raises questions about knowledge gained through the medium of the telescope and mocks the characters who value such information. The seventeenth century was a time, in England and in Italy, during which the distinction between the sciences and the arts were not as fixed as they might seem today, a disciplinary fuzziness which may have contributed to a cultural rejection of empiricism. This paper considers the reasons why the visual information presented through the lens of the telescope was suspect, and what role theatrical performances had in perpetuating and/or challenging such a culture of mistrust.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
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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).

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge

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