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Clark Art Institute Presents New Podcast Series
11:04AM / Saturday, August 29, 2020
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Clark Art Institute's Research and Academic Program has premiered a new podcast series this summer.

"In the Foreground: Conversations on Art & Writing" considers art's role in society, how knowledge is shared, the way histories are made, and the personal stakes of scholarship. Each episode offers a lively, in-depth look into the life and mind of a scholar or artist working with art historical or visual material. Discussions touch on guests’ current research projects, career paths, and significant texts, mentors, and experiences that have shaped their thinking. 

The first episode was Aug. 25. Ten more are planned for the first reason, which runs through November:

• Episode 2, Sept. 1, "Surfaces of Projection": Dell M. Hamilton on Performance Art and Black Embodiment: Dell M. Hamilton, an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, writer, and independent curator, discusses how her long affiliation with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research shaped her artistic perspective. Hamilton also discusses how she thinks about her artistic practice as a form of collage and the impact of literature and architectural spaces on her performances, including Blues\Blank\Black, which she presented in the galleries of the Clark Art Institute in November 2019. She reflects on the possibilities and limits of art to foment political change, particularly in light of social and institutional racism, and describes how performances can produce images of Black embodiment, in particular, the violence and police brutality faced by Black women that otherwise goes unseen.   

• Episode 3, Sept. 8, "An Archive of Exchange": C. Ondine Chavoya on Chicanx and Latinx Art History: C. Ondine Chavoya, professor of art history and Latino/a studies at Williams College, discusses what shaped his interest in Chicanx art, his role in establishing a Department of Latina/Latino Studies at Williams, and his work as a curator, most notably of the 2011 exhibit "Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987," on the Chicano performance and conceptual art group Asco. Chavoya also considers the immersive experience of building and researching from an archive and the ways those processes shape history. He reflects on his experiences of institutional racism within the discipline of art history, sharing some ways in which he hopes to move the field forward.   

• Episode 4, Sept. 15, "To Speak Across Time": Gabriele Finaldi on Museums: Art historian Gabriele Finaldi, a specialist of Renaissance and Baroque art who has served as director of the National Gallery in London since 2015, discusses his graduate studies at the Courtauld, the creative power of drawing as a medium, and why he chose to work on Jusepe de Ribera. Finaldi reflects on his role at the National Gallery in comparison to the decade he spent as deputy director of the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. More broadly, he describes the evolving roles of education and the science of conservation within modern museums and examines the limitations and possibilities for historical and collections-based museums today. 

• Episode 5, Sept. 29, "An Embodiment of Experience": Steven Nelson on African Art and Writing History: Steven Nelson, dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) and previously  professor of African and African American art history at UCLA, shares how his broad interests in design, travel, and histories of the African diaspora are reflected in his winding path toward a career in academia. He discusses how graduate education shaped his specialization in African and African American art, his writing practices, and his latest book project, which focuses on the Underground Railroad and American mythmaking. He also shares his hopes for his new position at CASVA and the future of the art history field. 

• Episode 6, Oct. 6, "A Set of Ways of Engaging": Lisa Lee on Thomas Hirschhorn and Materiality: Lisa Lee, associate professor of art history at Emory University, discusses the project she worked on as Florence Gould Foundation Fellow at the Clark in spring 2020. The project, tentatively titled "Thomas Hirschhorn’s Real Abstraction, 1984–94," focuses on a critical period in the life of the Swiss artist, known for his work in collage and monument-making, primarily with found materials, and art that grapples with the political, economic, and social conditions of contemporary life. Lee also touches on her book about Isa Genzken, a German artist known for her use of common materials in sculpture, installation, photography, and film. She recounts her interest in the tension of what she describes as work that highlights the possibility of art and its everyday political power. 

• Episode 7, Oct. 13, "An Enactment of ‘The Impersonal’": Brigid Doherty on Re-thinking Subjectivity in Art: Brigid Doherty, associate professor in the departments of Art and Archaeology and German at Princeton University, is joined by Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, associate director of the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art, who worked with Doherty as a doctoral student at Princeton. Doherty’s research focuses on the interdisciplinary study of twentieth-century art and literature, especially relationships among artistic practices and aesthetic and psychoanalytic theories. In this conversation, she describes her intellectual path toward modernism and shares her current thinking on subjectivity, "the impersonal," critical theory, and psychoanalysis as a historical object. Doherty also delves into the project she worked on as a fellow at the Clark in spring 2020: a book focused on the "Rorschach Pictures" of the German artist Rosemarie Trockel. 

• Episode 8, Oct. 20, "Looking as Knowing": Svetlana Alpers on Critical Thinking and Photography: Svetlana Alpers, specialist of Baroque painting and professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, shares how literary criticism influenced her early encounters with art and reflects on her intellectual formation at Harvard in the 1960s and her role forming the art history department at Berkeley. She reflects on the altered state of the discipline today and levels a critique of the turn toward global art history. Alpers also discusses the relation between painting and photography in light of her new book on Walker Evans and draws out parallels between this new project and her seminal book on Dutch Golden Age painting, The Art of Describing. 

• Episode 9, Nov. 3, "An Art History Yet to Come": Kirsten Scheid on Palestinian Art: Associate professor of anthropology at the American University in Beirut Kirsten Scheid discusses her research as the Clark/Oakley Humanities Fellow at the Clark Art Institute in 2019–2020. Scheid worked on an ethnography of aesthetic encounters in contemporary Palestine, building on her career-long research into and archival documentation of artmaking in Palestine and Lebanon. She discusses issues of access and ethics around archives and shares her belief in the power of archives to "hail an art history yet to come." She reflects on imagination as an ethical practice. 

• Episode 10, Nov. 10, "Can You Show Thinking?": Mieke Bal on Film & Writing: The work of cultural theorist, critic, and video artist Mieke Bal focuses on gender, migratory culture, psychoanalysis, and the critique of capitalism. Bal discusses her early influences and reflects on what drew her to filmmaking, delving into several of her video projects, including a "film about thinking" on Hubert Damisch. Bal describes the intersection between art history and the cinematic, and recounts how, for her, writing, filmmaking, and curating represent distinct modes of thinking and making.  

• Episode 11, Nov. 17, "Philosophical Grounding": Michael Ann Holly on Creating Visual Studies: Michael Ann Holly, Starr Director Emerita of the Research and Academic Program (RAP) at the Clark Art Institute, discusses what initially drew her to art history and her contributions in founding RAP. Holly describes her career trajectory, including her role as one of the founders of the first department of visual studies in the United States, at the University of Rochester, in 1986. She also speaks about what interested her in historiography and shares some of the texts in critical theory that she enjoys teaching. 

The podcast is produced by Caroline Fowler, Caitlin Woolsey and Samantha Page, with music by lightchaser and sound editing by John Buteyn. Additional support is provided by Jessie Sentivan, Gabriel Almeida Baroja, Alice Matthews, and Yubai Shi. Visit the website for more information.

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