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Visual Culture Program Event

Friday, May 31, 2024
12:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
Futures of Visual Activism Symposium

Visual culture has always played a significant role in social movements, but protest practices today arguably depend on visual media, employing tactics that are acutely sensitive to the affordances of technology and global systems of exchange. These emerging forms of "visual activism," a term popularized by South African photographer Zanele Muholi, face challenges as well as opportunities. Responding to the growing interdisciplinary interest in new ways of doing politics in highly mediatized times, this one-day symposium unites scholars, artists, and activists in a series of talks and roundtable conversations to consider the multimodal futures of visual cultures of dissent. How are popular technologies, digital platforms, and artificial intelligence shaping insurrectionary imaginations? What new ways of seeing and being seen demand attention? Are the boundaries of the political (or the visible) in flux? Together, participants tackle these and related questions to explore how "the interaction of pixels and actions" makes change in a rapidly transforming mediascape (Mirzoeff 2016).

Participants include Carla LynDale Bishop, Arizona State; Harris Kornstein, University of Arizona; Ace Lehner, University of Vermont; Erin McElroy, University of Washington; Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York University; Kade L. Twist, Otis College; Rosten Woo, artist and designer.



12:00pm — Welcome and Introductions
Anna Stielau, Caltech

12:15pm - 1:45pm
Roundtable: The Uses and Users of Visibility
Ace Lehner, University of Vermont
Harris Kornstein, University of Arizona
Kade L. Twist, Otis College of Art and Design

1:45pm - 2:15pm — Refreshments for Presenters and Registered Attendees

2:15pm - 3:45pm
Roundtable: Race/Space/Interface
Carla LynDale Bishop, Arizona State University
Erin McElroy, University of Washington
Rosten Woo, Artist and Designer

3:45pm - 4:00pm — Closing Discussion

4:00pm - 5:00pm
Keynote: "To See in the Dark: Notes on the Emergency"
Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York University

5:00pm - 6:00pm — Reception on the Baxter Patio


Carla LynDale Bishop
's work utilizes media as a powerful tool to unite communities and ignite transformative social change. Bishop combines traditional documentary techniques with cutting-edge immersive media, including augmented reality, geotagging, and 360˚ videos. This bold fusion results in an unforgettable experience for viewers, as they are transported into the heart of historically black communities through captivating place-based narratives. Bishop is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Production in the Sidney Poitier New American Film School at Arizona State University. She is a recipient of the highly coveted MIT and Black Public Media Fellowship, hosted by the MIT Open Documentary Lab.

Harris Kornstein is a scholar and artist whose research and art practice focuses on digital culture, surveillance, data and algorithms, media art/activism, visual culture, disability, and queer theory. With the support of an NEH Fellowship, they are currently working on their manuscript Enchanting Technology: Obfuscation, Play, and Other Queer Strategies for Countering Surveillance Capitalism, and their co-edited anthology How To Be Disabled in a Pandemic (with Faye Ginsburg, Mara Mills, and Rayna Rapp) will be published by NYU Press in early 2025. Harris's research has been published in Surveillance & Society, Curriculum Inquiry, and Queer Data Studies, among other journals and books, and their writing on digital and queer cultures has appeared in publications like The Guardian, Wired, and Slate. As a media artist, curator, and drag queen, they have presented work at institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and ONE Archives; serve on the board of the nonprofit Drag Story Hour, and are the author of two children's books.

Ace Lehner is an interdisciplinary visual culture scholar and artist, and Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Vermont. Like their research, Lehner's art practice primarily uses photography, installation, and performance to mine the complex relationship between representations and the constitution of identities. Their 2018-ongoing project Barbershop: The Art of Queer Failure appeared at the Fleming Museum in Burlington VT and Practice Gallery in Philadelphia, PA, and they have exhibited at numerous venues throughout the US and Canada including the International Center of Photography in New York and The National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco. Lehner's current book project, Trans Representations: Decolonizing Visual Theory in Contemporary Photography, is based on their dissertation research, which won them the College Art Association Professional Development Fellowship in 2020. Most recently, Lehner guest edited the first-ever issue of Art Journal dedicated to trans visual culture.

Erin McElroy is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington, where they run the Anti-Eviction Lab and Landlord Tech Watch and focus on intersections of housing justice, racial capitalism, US empire, and technology. McElroy is author of Silicon Valley Imperialism: Techno Fantasies and Frictions in Postsocialist Times, and is also cofounder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. McElroy has published in numerous peer reviewed journals and public scholarship venues, and coedits the Radical Housing Journal.

Nicholas Mirzoeff is a visual activist working at the intersection of politics, race and global/visual culture. He teaches in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. In 2020-21 he was ACLS/Mellon Scholar and Society fellow in residence at the Magnum Foundation, New York. He published two books in 2023: White Sight: Visual Politics and Practices of Whiteness (MIT Press) and the third edition of An Introduction to Visual Culture (Routledge). Earlier publications include The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) which won the 2013 Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, and How to See the World (2016), which has now been translated into eleven languages and was a New Scientist Top Ten Book of the Year for 2015.

Anna Stielau (organizer) is the 2023-25 Weisman Postdoctoral Instructor in Visual Culture at Caltech. She is a media scholar who thinks and writes about contemporary Southern African art, activism, and techno-cultures.

Kade L. Twist is an interdisciplinary artist working with video, sound, interactive media, text and installation environments. Twist's work examines the unresolved tensions between market-driven systems, consumerism and American Indian cultural self-determination. As an independent artist and as part of the Indigenous artist collective Postcommodity, which he co-founded, Twist has exhibited work at the 18th Sydney Biennale, 2017 Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, and the 57th Carnegie International. Postcommodity has had numerous solo exhibitions including at the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, San Francisco Art Institute, Remai Modern Museum, and their historic land art installation Repellent Fence at the U.S./Mexico border near Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, SON. Twist is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and is currently serving as Associate Professor and Curriculum Area Head of Art+Social Practice in the MFA Fine Arts Program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Prior to this position, he worked in the field of American Indian public affairs for 17 years as a researcher, writer, analyst and organizer specializing in technology, community development and healthcare

Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He produces civic-scale artworks and works as a collaborator and consultant to a variety of grassroots and non-profit organizations. including the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Los Angeles Poverty Department, the Black Workers Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, as well as the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Netherlands Architectural Institute, the Exploratorium, and various piers, public housing developments, tugboats, shopping malls, and parks. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), winner of the National Design Award for institutional achievement. His book, Street Value, about race, design, and urban retail development, was published by Princeton Architectural Press.

For more information, please contact Joanna Poon by phone at 626-395-1724 or by email at [email protected].