by Shireen Hamza

I wasn’t really sure what the Flaherty seminar was, beyond a large group of people gathering to watch and discuss films, three times a day for seven days. I knew about the principle of non-predisposition, that I would be walking into each day’s three programs without knowing what I would be watching beforehand. But before arriving and speaking with some of the participants who had attended previous seminars, I did not know of the many significant changes that the organizers of Flaherty have made over the last few years. Though the seminar has a long history of being a place for international film, the organizers have of-late been choosing programmers who could uniquely center communities of artists whose work is marginalized in, and not widely accessible in, the US.

In 2018, the programmers were African American artists Kevin Jerome Everson & Greg de Cuir Jr., and next year’s programmer will be Professor Janaína Oliveira, a Brazilian scholar and programmer focused on Black filmmakers across Latin America. And organizers have responded to the call by Sky Hopinka and others to change the logo, which used to be an objectionable representation of an Inuit character from the eponymous Robert Flaherty’s famous film, Nanook of the North.

I had been so drawn to the description of this year’s seminar — Action! — and interested in what kind of films might be programmed by Shai Heredia, an organizer of India’s first experimental film festival, that I had not reflected on the broader shifts that this specific seminar was a part of at The Flaherty. Entering this art space, which centered artists from across Asia, I was also pleased to see that there were many attendees (and fellows, specifically) from Asia, and of various Asian diasporas, as well as artists and curators of other historically marginalized identities within the US. (more…)

The ‘Italian Council’ is the main program promoted by the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, established in 2017 with the aim of funding the creation of high-budget art projects and increasing the collections of Italian public museums.

Italian artist Emilio Vavarella, currently a PhD candidate in AFVS and CMP at Harvard, is among the winners of the 2019 edition of the Italian Council with a project entitled “rs548049170_1_69869_TT”. The project will benefit from a 178,000.00 euros production budget and revolves around the idea of translating the artist’s genome into a large textile, using commercial genotyping techniques available in Mountain View, California, and a 19th century Jacquard loom (one of the first ‘computing machines’), still active in Southern Italy.

Vavarella’s project aims to conjugate tradition and modernity by intertwining the genetic and cultural histories of the artist and his mother, (who is a tailor), and topics such as the digitalization of biological life, technical reproducibility, and the intersection between artisanal textile manufacturing and contemporary techno-scientific possibilities.

An integral part of the project will be a series of collateral events and initiatives aimed at expanding the project’s theoretical implications and produced with the support of cultural partners in Italy, the United States and China, including: Ramdom, a cultural association in Puglia and leading partner of Vavarella’s project; Arthub Asia, a Shanghai-based platform devoted to contemporary art creation and diffusion; the Film Study Center at Harvard University; and MAMbo, the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna.

Learn more about Vavarella’s work here:


Introduction to Critical Media Practice class had a show of its final projects in Vanserg Hall last night, with projects including multichannel video pieces about managed forests in Ontario (GSD), more coming soon.

Check out the CMP Capstone Exhibition in the Harvard Gazette.

It takes countless hours to pull together a traditional doctoral thesis, a cogent case laid out on the page based on reasoned argument primed with examples. But the printed word, Harvard scholars know, is only one way to demonstrate what you’ve learned about the world. Continued…


On April 25, the Critical Media Practice secondary field opened its inaugural Capstone Exhibition entitled “Into Place.”  The exhibition, comprised of a cinema program and a group gallery show, presented a range of works from sound projects and short videos to multi-channel installations and performances. This show was the first time graduate students from across the University have collectively exhibited their CMP work, which tackles scholarly inquiry through visual, aural, tactile, performative, and interactive means. 

CMP students who participated in the show represented a variety of disciplines including Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Music, and Visual and Environmental Studies. Several alumni of the CMP program were invited to present past projects alongside current students; it was exciting to see the work side-by-side while also creating a dialogue between CMP students and the alumni, who now hold teaching and professional positions and could share advice and experience for the graduating students. We look forward to inviting alumni back to present their work in future exhibitions.

In addition to the experience of creating the capstone projects, CMP Administrative Director Julie Mallozzi highlighted the value of mounting an exhibition from scratch: “It’s a great opportunity for the students to learn how to install the work, to see how the audience interacts with their projects, and to create professional documentation.  It is all part of the learning experience.” With a packed opening night, the exhibition also served as a wonderful way to spread the word about the CMP program.

The gallery show of “Into Place” was held in the ArtLab Annex in the Sackler Building

CMP student Lindsey Lodhie (Visual and Environmental Studies ’20) participated in the gallery show with her installation “Artificial Tears,” which explores the aesthetic interface where research protocols, performance reenactment, and genre film intersect in laboratory studies of emotion.  Taking the ostensible substance of affect—tears—as a concrete site of symbolic and material investigation, “Artificial Tears” seeks to unravel what Bruno Latour has described as the “scenography of empiricism.”

Lindsey Lodhie, “Artificial Tears,” 2019, two-channel video, mixed media

Joseph Pomp (Comparative Literature ’20) created a sculptural installation which outlined the city of Manhattan in a personal atlas of the movies. He drew inspiration from works by Juan Downey and Thom Andersen that use video to question prevailing (mis-)conceptions of geography. “Manhattan Video” restitutes film clips to their shooting locations and, in so doing, detects how the specificities of place bear their imprint across wildly divergent works.

Joseph Pomp, “Manhattan Video,” 2019, multi-channel video installation

T. Brandon Evans (Visual and Environmental Studies ’20) presented a perforative installation titled “Tāli/Khāli (Empty Beat.” Brandon aka Bunty Singh uses a concept of rhythm (tāla) from Hindustani classical music and Sikh music traditions as an operation on the dynamics of live performance and vernacular media in the Punjabi and diasporic Sikh community. The conspicuous absence of the performer is articulated in the operation of media transmission. Absence emphasizes the notion that creative processes are not, as in Sikh religious thought and in process philosophy, the products of human agency, but rather inflorescences of the Divine.

T. Brandon Evans, “Tali/Khali (Empty Beat),” 2019, smartphones, 3 video/audio loops (each approx. 10 min.),
harmonium, cloth, shoe rack, microphone PA system, doorbell, found objects

Benny Shaffer (Anthropology ’20) presented his 9-channel installation “Elsewhere” in the Lightbox Gallery at the Harvard Art Museums. “Elsewhere,” depicts the floating life of a Uyghur tightrope walker as he performs on the margins of China’s entertainment industry. The precarity of his work points to a broader context in which Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority, are continually subjected to discriminatory policies under the Chinese government. This video installation reflects on the relationship between spectacle, surveillance, and mediation in contemporary China.

Benny Shaffer, “Elsewhere,” 2019, video installation

Argyro Nicolaou (Comparative Literature ’18) presented both a performative lecture in the cinema program and a complimentary installation in the gallery show titled “History Lesson.” In “History Lesson” Nicolaou proposes an alternative history curriculum for Cyprus based entirely on film productions shot on the island before its division in 1974.

Argyro Nicolaou, “History Lesson,” 2018/19, stacks of exercise books, video, and accompanying lecture performance

With the success of “Into Place” we look forward to organizing future events, exhibitions, and opportunities for students in Critical Media Practice to share their works with the Harvard community and beyond.

CMP faculty and staff with students and alumni participating in the exhibition at the opening reception on April 26, 2019.