The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures

The Daniel H. Silberberg Lectures, the longest running lecture series at the Institute of Fine Arts, is planned and coordinated by the Graduate Student Association. Art historians, archaeologists and conservators, specializing in a variety of periods and genres are invited to share their latest research with the IFA community and the public. 

2020-21 Coordinators

 Robin Joyce, Frances Lilliston, and Hannah Kay 

In this moment of contested facticity and weaponized discourse, we are compelled to reexamine how information—and its counterpart, misinformation—are presented and received. Accordingly, The Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture Series invites scholars from a range of disciplines to address the theme of narrative and misinformation. The role of narrative and misinformation in art and material culture has been subject to generations of scholarship, from ancient pseudepigrapha to the linguistic turn to our present moment. A growing interest in critical fabulation and parafiction among scholars and artists suggests that mainstream historical representations must be reevaluated. This year, we ask: What narratives structure our academies, our museums, our archives, our movements? How can we brush these histories against the grain? And what is our responsibility, as art historians, in contending with the dangers of misinformation? 


Please RSVP on the events calendar for upcoming Daniel H. Silberberg lectures.

Abstract: In 1927, the radical-left magazine Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (or AIZ) published a two-page spread with the declarative titled “Die AIZ sagt die Wahrheit!” [The AIZ Tells the Truth!]. At issue was its cover photo from a few weeks earlier showing right-wing militiamen scandalously posing on the country estate of German Interior Minister Walter von Keudell, the first “völkisch” member of a Weimar-era cabinet. The picture had ignited furious public debate before enveloping the minister himself, who was forced to protest his innocence from the well of the Reichstag. As von Keudell declared, the picture was nothing more than a cut-and-paste falsification. In the subsequent two-page spread, the AIZ now confessed that its cover had indeed been a “Bildkombination,” but that the image nonetheless told the truth about the government’s codling of proto-fascists. Using this case of a highly public debate about photography’s veracity, my paper proposes that Weimar-era Germany’s politically polarized public sphere was significantly fomented by the camera. The experience of political combat was now being driven by a contest of photographic images. But as the paper also suggests, the rhetoric of truth propelling this encounter, particularly in the face of an open “Bildkombination,” shows that photography now functioned at an affective register that reinscribed the medium as a passionate rather than mechanically objective form of witness. This phenomenon resembles today’s photographic conditions in the era of “alternative facts.”

Andrés Mario Zervigón is Associate Professor of the History of Photography at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is author of John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (University of Chicago Press, 2012), and Photography and Germany (Reaktion Book, 2017). In addition, Zervigón coedited three anthologies: Photography and Its Origins with Tanya Sheehan(Routledge, 2014), Photography and Doubt with Sabine Kriebel(Routledge, 2016), and Subjective/Objective: A Century of Social Photography with Donna Gustafson (Zimmerli/Hirmer, 2017). For his current book project, titled Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung -- The Worker's Illustrated Magazine, 1921-1938: A History of Germany's Other Avant-Garde, he received the Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA, 2013-14). His articles and reviews have appeared in New German Critique, Visual Resources, History of Photography, Rundbrief Fotografie, Photo/Researcher, Études Photographiques, October, Art Journal, and CAAReviews. Zervigón leads The Developing Room, an academic working group at Rutgers that promotes interdisciplinary dialogue on photography’s history, theory and practice. Its last event was the two-day symposium Reinventing Documentary Photography in the 1970s, co-convened by Sarah Miller and Drew Sawyer.

Abstract and bio: History of archaeology is commonly written centering on Western men of knowledge in far-away lands and among primitive people unable to understand the values and meanings of past civilizations. Focusing on everyday life on an archaeological site in Nippur, this lecture will offer another perspective by highlighting a complex social dynamic with multiple voices: local laborers, Ottoman civil servants, and American archaeologists.

Zeynep Çelik is distinguished professor at NJIT-Rutgers and adjunct professor at Columbia University. Her publications include The Remaking of Istanbul (1986—Institute of Turkish Studies Book Award), Displaying the Orient (1992), Streets (1993—co-editor), Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations (1997), Empire, Architecture, and the City (2008—Society of Architectural Historians Book Award), Walls of Algiers (2009—co-editor), Scramble for the Past (2011, co-editor), Camera Ottomana (2014, co-editor), and About Antiquities (2016), as well as articles on cross-cultural topics. She co-curated several exhibitions, among them “Walls of Algiers,” Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2009), “Scramble for the Past” SALT, Istanbul (2012), and “Camara Ottomana” Koç University, Istanbul (2015). Professor Çelik has been the recipient of fellowships from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2004), American Council of Learned Societies (1992, 2004, and 2011), and National Endowment for the Humanities (2012), as well as the Vehbi Koç Award (2014) and the Sarton Medal (2014).


March 23, 2021
Speaker: Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, Professor of American Studies and Art History, Rutgers University
Title: Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration

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Description: Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration examines the impact of the carceral state on contemporary art and culture. Focusing on art made in US prisons and in collaboration with artists and activists across the nation, Dr. Fleetwood explores various aesthetic practices and media of incarcerated artists who use penal space, penal matter, and penal time to produce art about carcerality. Her presentation will discuss the archive of the visual culture of US prisons that she has amassed over the past decade. It will also consider the strategies and techniques that imprisoned artists employ to create visual documents about their captivity. Working with the meager supplies and under state punishment, imprisoned artists find ways to resist the brutality and isolation of prisons, as they cultivate radical modes of belonging and abolitionist visions.

Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer, curator, and professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is the author of Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2020), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Criticism and a recipient of the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award and the Frank Jewett Mather Award, both for the College Art Association. She is also curator of the exhibition Marking Time, currently on view at MoMA PS1. Her other books are On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015) and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011).

November 19, 2020
Speaker: Margaret Hillenbrand
Title: The Art of the Unsayable in Contemporary China

Description: In the early years of this century, Chinese artist Zhang Dali carried out an extended archival project entitled A Second History (2003-6). In this work, Zhang curated a series of paired images, one original, the other manipulated, to show how the Chinese Communist Party repeatedly doctored the photographic record of the Revolution in its secret photo labs. The photographs range from official portraits of Mao Zedong to snapshots of ordinary citizens as they experienced the revolution. The targets for the airbrush also vary: sometimes people are wiped entirely from the frame, on other occasions a portrait of Mao is added to a bare wall, a slogan is re-written, or trees in the backdrop switch miraculously from barren to blossoming. The motives for manipulation, meanwhile, oscillate from the strategic to the faintly absurd. All the images, though, are instructive on matters of the clandestine. In one sense, the installation takes some of the most iconic photographs of China’s revolution and exposes their hidden secrets. Yet in another sense, the series also explores secrecy as something out in the open – the notion that viewers of these images sometimes understood all too well that they were faked. In this talk, I discuss what Zhang’s work tells us about regimes of secrecy and misinformation in China, and about how the pressures of “knowing what not to know” have structured the processing of the nation’s troubled twentieth-century past.

Bio: Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture at the University of Oxford. Her research and publications to date have focused on literary and visual culture in twentieth-century China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, and her latest book, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, appeared with Duke University Press in 2020. She is now working on a new project about the impact of endemic precarity on cultural practices in post-millennial China.

October 15, 2020
Speaker: Dr. Bryan C. Keene, Assistant Professor at Riverside City College, Riverside, CA
Title: Momentum in Global Medieval Studies from 2020 Movements: Confronting Biases in Scholarship and Public Discourse

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Description: Scholarship on a global Middle Ages has centered on comparisons or connections across regions and time. This academic and museological turn has contended with problematic terminology, outdated chronologies, and insufficient evidence, and still has a long way to go in working toward equity for traditionally marginalized peoples and places. In 2020, the combined global pandemics of Covid-19 and systemic racism require that all who research, teach, and curate within these fields confront disciplinary biases and actively engage in public or social media discourse. In this lecture, Dr. Bryan C. Keene reflects upon endeavors to expand the remit of global medieval studies and also looks at how queer contemporary artists have drawn inspiration from the Middle Ages in order to disrupt oppressive hierarchical systems in the present.

Speaker Bio: Bryan C. Keene is an educator and curator dedicated to promoting equity in the study and display of the visual arts. He teaches art history at Riverside City College, where he is an advocate for LGBTQIA2+ communities. Prior to that, he organized over a dozen exhibitions as curator of manuscripts at the Getty Museum. His 2019 edited volume "Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts" (Getty Publications) features contributions by twenty-six specialists on book arts from Afro-Eurasia, the Americas, and Austronesia. He holds a PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art with a dissertation on Italian choir book illumination, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Center of Medieval Art.

April 22, 2020
Speaker: Lia Markey
Title: Mapping Brazil in Medici Florence: Dudley’s Arcano del Mare (1646-1647)

Robert Dudley’s Arcano del mare (Secrets of the Seas) (1646-1647) is thought to be the first printed sea atlas. Comprised of large-scale engraved maps and numerous charts with volvelles, the multi-volume book seeks to comprehensively document the world and demonstrate mastery over the seas. Created at the court of the Medici in Florence by the son of the more renowned Robert Dudley (1st Earl of Leicester), Dudley sought to legitimize himself through his navigational studies and knowledge of ship building. Though he made few voyages himself, he gained credibility via the Arcano. This paper will introduce Dudley’s obscure career and the complex atlas itself, exploring several diverse editions. Through close analysis of text and image in the Arcano, the study demonstrates the significance of the section devoted to Brazil, which contains maps that are the only ones in the atlas to include human figures and a cartouche with the Medici coat-of-arms. Fraught with contradiction, the text and images on the maps both preserve and celebrate these lands and people while also denigrating them. Ultimately, the study questions Dudley’s sources and motivations for depicting South America and argues that these images were recycled years after Medici incursions in the Americas were possible.

Lia Markey is the Director of the Center for Renaissance Studies at Chicago’s Newberry Library. Dr. Markey’s research examines cross-cultural exchange between Italy and the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, collecting history, and early modern prints and drawings. She has published Imagining the Americas in Medici Florence (2016) and a co-edited volume The New World in Early Modern Italy, 1492-1750 (2017). Her new edited volume, Renaissance Invention: Stradanus’s “Nova Reperta” (2020), complements the Newberry Library’s fall 2020 exhibition by the same title. She currently participates in the Getty Connecting Art Histories Research Group, “Spanish Italy and the Iberian New World.

March 10, 2020
Speaker: Rune Nyord
Title: Ancient Egyptian Living Statues: From Inhabiting Souls to More than Representation

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Ancient Egyptian statues functioned as a vital point of contact to ancestors and gods. Since the 19th century, a recurring theme in Egyptological discussion has been how exactly we should understand this phenomenon. A dominant mode of explanation ascribes beliefs to the ancient Egyptians according to which either of the two main “souls” in Egyptian religion is thought to inhabit the statue, thereby allowing it to function as a site of encountering the depicted entity. The first part of this lecture examines the two most prevalent such hypotheses by looking at the key evidence that has been marshalled in their support and the conceptual frameworks in which they are rooted. It is argued that for the vast majority of Egyptian history, there is ultimately no evidence for such beliefs, and that the perceived need for a soul in the statue is thus likely more indicative of modern concerns than of ancient Egyptian ones. Prompted by this conclusion, the lecture seeks to outline an image ontology based on what ancient Egyptian did with, and said about, statues, as alternative to the representationalist search for a ghost in the machine. It is argued that reconfiguring central concepts like mimesis and material presence allows us to understand both why the Egyptians created works that have traditionally slotted quite easily into Western categories of fine art, and at the same time why the stakes in ancient Egyptian imaging practices were nonetheless considerably higher than a representationalist approach would expect.

February 4, 2020
Speaker: Philip Sapirstein
Title: Digital Autopsy and the Temple of Hera at Olympia: Rethinking the Beginnings of Greek Monumental Architecture

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May 7, 2019
Speaker: Michelle Kuo

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In 1970, a group named Experiments in Art and Technology unveiled an utterly alien construction at the World’s Fair in Osaka. Rising from a thick mist, the Pepsi Pavilion was even more confounding inside, where a complete 210-degree spherical mirror dome—the largest ever built—produced fully three-dimensional reflections. This talk will explore the stunning convergence of transparency and opacity, the real and the virtual, in this singular postwar project.

April 23, 2019
Speaker: Debra Diamond, curator for South and Southeast Asian Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Yoginis Across Borders

The identities and practices of Yoginis –mortal women and goddesses engaged with yoga – are, like those of yoga, remarkably diverse and notoriously multiple. This lecture re-examines the identification of Yoginis and their contexts through three case studies: Yogini temples ca. 1000, Indo-Islamic manuscripts ca. 1600 and European print media ca. 1930. In each instance, the Yoginis remain agents of power, but take on singular forms and historically contingent identities as they emerge within distinctive arenas of practice. As a corollary, the paper demonstrates that tracing the border-crossings of yoginis over time productively destabilizes inherited contexts.

March 12, 2019
Speaker: Gerry Guest
Title: Embodiment and Excess in the Très Riches Heures

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May 1, 2018
Emine Fetvacı, Associate Chair; History of Art & Architecture, Associate Professor, Islamic Art, Boston University

March 27, 2018
Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art

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An Inadequate History of the Projected Image

This lecture proposes a re-examination of the history of the projected image in American art since the 1960s, foregrounding darkness and black space as challenges to the whiteness of the gallery in political as well as formal terms. How can a multi-ethnic history of the moving image in contemporary art redefine the stakes of what constitutes cinematic space? How do issues of the body, identity, and subjectivity in historical projective installations read differently at a moment in which a new generation of moving image artists is challenging the norms of technological power and control, and re-configuring our relationship to self-representation, subjectivity, gender, and race?

February 27, 2018
Whitney Davis
, University of California at Berkeley

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Abstract: Writing in the English language in New York City in 1897 and 1943 respectively, the anthropologists Franz Boas (born in 1858 in Minden, Westphalia) and Claude Lévi-Strauss (born in 1908 in Brussels, Belgium) – both later identified with sustained, powerful, and politically influential critiques of racialism in general anthropology and in American and United Nations public policies – stated fundamental principles of their ‘art histories’ in bravura (and highly tendentious) readings of the languages, visual cultures, and performance traditions of the indigenous peoples of the ‘North Pacific’ coast of present-day British Columbia, especially of the Kwakwakw’wakw people (‘Kwakiutl’) and their mask-dancing ceremonies (partly suppressed in Canadian outlaw of the potlach). This lecture examines the multilingual exchanges and inter-translations in question as the determinative context for two of the most influential proposals about the very nature of the ‘languages of art’, widely applied throughout world art history – Boas’s theory of projection and Lévi-Strauss’s ‘structuralist’ method.

November 28, 2017
Noam Elcott
, Columbia University

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Abstract and bio: This talk interrogates the screen as the basic unit in the abstract films and theoretical writings of Hans Richter, Theo van Doesburg, Oskar Fischinger, Werner Gräff, Moholy-Nagy, and others. The post-WWII orthodoxy, still very much alive, whereby the film screen, like the modernist canvas, reflected its own properties through the animation of squares and rectangles, is a complete distortion of the historical record. Through close analyses of paintings, photograms, and films, along with treatises, film scores, reviews, and correspondences, I demonstrate that the materiality and circumscription of the screen were understood as qualities to be overcome rather than properties to parade. Indeed, the vast majority of abstract painters-cum-filmmakers aimed for the dissolution of the screen so that luminous forms could be freed into the material reality of the spectator’s time and space. The distinction between the modernist dream of self-reflexivity and the avant-gardist dream to merge art and life thus hinged on the infrathin difference between canvas (Leinwand) and screen (Schirm), the assertion of limits and the dissolution of boundaries.

Noam M. Elcott is Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, an editor of the journal Grey Room, and co-director of The August Sander Project (MoMA/Columbia). He is the author of Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and Media (University of Chicago Press, 2016), winner of the 2017 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award, as well as essays on art, film, and media, published in leading journals, anthologies, and exhibition catalogues. His current book project is Art in the First Screen Age: László Moholy-Nagy and the Cinefication of the Arts (University of Chicago Press).

November 7, 2017
Zeynep Çelik
, New Jersey Institute of Technology

October 3, 2017
Speaker: Andres Zervigón, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Title: Photography and Truth in the Radicalized Public Sphere

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May 4, 2017
Brigid Doherty, Associate Professor of 20th Century Art, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
Title: Hanne Darboven’s onetwo and the Opposition of Writing and Describing

April 27, 2017
Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator, Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Title: Curating the Incommensurables

March 7, 2017
Ben Lerner, Professor of English, Brooklyn College; Author
Title: The Kiss of Media: Ekphrasis at the Edge of Fiction

February 23, 2017
Yukio Lippit, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Japanese Art; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Harvard University
Title: Emaki Narratology

November 15, 2016
Amy Powell, Associate Professor, Art History, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine
Title: The Indifferent Face of Landscape

November 4, 2016

Hou Hanru, Artistic Director, MAXXI, Rome; Consulting Curator, The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative, Guggeheim Museum
Title: Tales of Our Time

April 5, 2016

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts, Harvard University
Title: Strolling Time: Drawing in Eighteenth-Century Paris

March 8, 2016

André Dombrowski, Associate Professor of History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Title: Monet's Seascapes and the Tides of History

February 9, 2016

Heghnar Watenpaugh, Associate Professor of Art History, University of California, Davis
Title: Palmyra 1915-2015: Historic Preservation, Urbanism, and Violence

December 3, 2015

W. J. T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History, University of Chicago
Title: Method, Madness, and Montage: Aby Warburg to John Nash

November 10, 2015

Christine Poggi, Professor of History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Title: Projections: Mona Hatoum’s Cartographic Practice

October 13, 2015

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Architecture & Design, and Director, Research & Development,
The Museum of Modern Art
Title: Constrain, Hack, Annihilate, or Stun: The Singular Relationship Between Design and Violence

April 21, 2015

Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

March 24, 2015

Carol Armstrong, Professor, History of Art, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Yale University

February 10, 2015

James Elkins, ​E.C. Chadbourne Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The End of the Theory of the Gaze

December 2, 2014

Joshua Shannon, Associate Professor, Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of ​Maryland
Photorealism: A History of Surfaces
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October 21, 2014

Zirwat Chowdhury, Visiting Assistant Professorof Art History and Humanities, Reed College
Architecture between Caricature and Failure

April 22, 2014

Alessandra Russo, Associate Professor, Columbia University
Untranslatable Images?

April 1, 2014

Julia Bryan-Wilson, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Feminist Figuration

March 11, 2014

Eva Hoffman, Assistant Professor, Tufts University
Connections Far and Wide: Translating Art and Culture in the Medieval Mediterranean World (working title)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kaja Silverman, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Professor of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Unstoppable Development

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Michael Ann Holly, Starr Director Emeritus of the Research and Academic Program, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Painted Silence.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Marie-Helene Girard, Visiting Professor of French, Yale University
"Un autre monde très lointain et très inconnu": British Painters in Paris in 1855

February 12, 2013

Christiane Gruber, Associate Professor of Islamic Art, University of Michigan
Violence's Vestiges: The Martyrs' Museum in Tehran 

April 9, 2013

Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Co-Director of the Heritage and Cultural Learning Hub, University of Birmingham (U.K.)
Iconoclasm and Violence in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1795
Watch Richard Clay's lecture online

May 7, 2013

Robert Hayden, Professor of Anthropology, Law and Public & International Affairs and Director, Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh
Intersecting Religioscapes: A Comparative Approach to Trajectories of Change, Scale, Competition, Sharing and Violence in Religious Spaces
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January 31, 2012

Stanley Abe, Associate Professor of Art History, Duke University
The Modern Moment of Chinese Sculpture

February 28, 2012

Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, Columbia University
The Double: Difference and Repetition in Ancient Art

March 6, 2012

Michelangelo Sabatino, Associate Professor (and History-Theory Coordinator) at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston
PRIDE IN MODESTY: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy

March 27, 2012

Francesco de Angelis, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Looking for Justice: Space, Images, and Attention in the Forum Augustum in Rome 

April 3, 2012

Michael Leja, Professor of Art History, University of Pennsylvania  
Cubism in Bondage:  Morgan Russell's Synchromism