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.

What kinds of spiritual, political and environmental worlds can art-making and literary practice reveal and create? What kinds of knowledges and actions do these forms distinctly make possible? And how can we develop those knowledges and actions collectively in our art-making, writing, scholarship, and social practices?  How are the “revealed knowledges” of art-making distinctly able to address and transform the hidden and not-so-hidden crises that suffuse our social life-worlds? How can form be used or thought through in ways that move beneath (or, like a spirit, above) the radar of familiar frameworks of sense-making, and how can this be connected to social and political remaking, individually and collectively?

These are some of the questions which I was interested in pursuing when I founded VISION LAB in late fall 2017, and which we have been pursuing collectively over the last year and a half, through public workshops, residencies, presentations, collaborations of art and literary work, and experiential retreats, held last year in Vision Lab’s residence at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, this year through performative engagements with the Radcliffe Gallery Series, and next year in upcoming partnerships with other Harvard and MIT Institutes and the larger Boston arts community. We are currently growing and open to new members and collaborative ideas and venues for 2019/20; anyone in CMP is welcome to participate. Please feel free to contact Kythe Heller with ideas and questions.

“Earth Chance” a performance by Kythe Heller and Meghan McNealy

WHAT IS VISION LAB? VISION LAB is an experimental lab in the future of the human spirit, based at Harvard Divinity School and hosting events, performances, and collaborations combining radically imaginative cross-disciplinary conversations and experiential practices spanning the areas of contemporary spirituality, social and environmental justice, and literary and artistic practice. (more…)

On March 7-8, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study hosted an accelerator workshop organized by CMP Faculty Co-Director Peter Galison, CMP Administrative Director Julie Mallozzi, and Sensate Journal editor Julia Yezbick (also a CMP alumna).

The workshop brought together programmers/coders, anthropologists, artists working with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, media studies scholars, science and technology studies scholars, and neuroscientists to critically engage with each other around the themes described in the workshop’s executive summary:

From ethnography and other field methodologies to emergent media, immersive practices hold grand promises. Advances in immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality raise new questions about what it means to witness an event or to have an experience, prompting us to ask: what is the relationship of our sensorial experiences to reality? What politics of narrative and representation do we need to consider when consuming the commoditized package of narrative, media, and branding that virtual or augmented realities present? What are the ethical, political, social, and aesthetic implications of virtual immersive experiences?

The gathering gave us the chance to begin developing critical cross-disciplinary discourse and generating working strategies for the use of immersive media projects in the interstitial spaces between art and academia. We documented our process and conversations in order to create some ancillary content and a developed a curatorial direction for a special collection in Sensate Journal around the theme of immersion/immersive media to be published in the coming year.  Stay tuned!

 

CMP student, Lina Verchery, was recently interviewed by Tricycle Magazine about her work in film, Buddhist Studies and ethnography. Her short film, “In Ordinary Life” (produced in the Sensory Ethnography Lab), will be featured in Tricycle’s upcoming Buddhist Shorts Film Festival in New York City.

Inserting my body into historical research has been the main concern of my CMP work. The traces left behind by dead human bodies that is the archive; the negative space of those archives for all the traces that weren’t left. Both together – still do not sum up to the embodied understanding of those somas, their way of being in the world.

Lurking, echoing a distant past, hiding in the corners of evolving structures, surviving through the fabric of progress – some epistemes of these bodies persisted. However faint the echo, with which mode of attention must I listen to hear the resonance of this embedded history?

Roots Harmonic performance in Djerassi, California: Opening, with found object percussive wearable (Anya Yermakova) and body covered in Andrey Bely’s life line printed on fabric (Dasha Lavrennikov)

At a recent art-science residency in Djerassi, California, I experimented with methods that could bring me closer to this multi-modal way of listening. I was joined by astrophysicist and musician Sebastián Pérez and by dancer and philosopher Dasha Lavrennikov. Our collective hybrid ways of being were central to the collaboration.

We situated our experiment among the exposed roots of redwood tree stumps. We dressed (literally) in 100-year-old musings on functional analysis, and played with emergent rhythms (visual and sonic) of found objects. All this, to bring me closer to the thought experiments – the hypotheticals that might have passed through these distant bodies. To empathize with the somatic experience of the early 20th century scholars of the Russian Empire experimenting with, embracing – contradictions, polyrhythmy, and flux.

Roots Harmonic performance in Djerassi, California: Closing improvisation of emergent sounds, with Sebastián Pérez, Dasha Lavrennikov, Kevin Kelsey, Anya Yermakova

The video below is a micro summary of this endeavor, and another experiment towards defining this method of artscience for historiography. Perhaps the most important finding from this artistic research in Djerassi was that art-science is most useful not actually as a connection between art and science. It is most useful when understood as an artistic invitation for flow between “human sciences” and “hard sciences.” In my particular case it is a body-centered performance, between critical history and mathematical logic.

Roots Harmonic from Anya Yermakova on Vimeo.