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posted by July 28, 2017

Kris Cohen visits Josh Kline: Freedom at the Portland Art Museum. “The first work in a projected five-work cycle,” Freedom imagines “a future that extends out from the present’s particular techno-economic landscapes.” The artist “takes the technologies and labor economies of neoliberalism not just as the context for his work but as the medium,” and the show is “far more esoteric than Kline admits.” Read the full review at

Elaine K. Gazda reads Designing for Luxury on the Bay of Naples: Villas and Landscapes (c. 100 BCE–79 CE) by Mantha Zarmakoupi. The author “argues that by appropriating selected elements of Hellenistic and Roman architecture designers created a new architectural language for Roman luxury villas.” The book’s “primary contribution” lies in its “analyses of the physical components of this language.” Read the full review at







Jessica Stephenson reviews Shannen L. Hill’s Biko’s Ghost: The Iconography of Black Consciousness. The author “offers a convincing reconsideration of the contributions” that Black Consciousness and Stephen Biko’s “meaning and legacy” give “to a visual culture of liberation in South Africa.” Presenting “an impassioned redress,” she argues that this history has previously been marginalized and willfully misread. Read the full review at

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Making Changes for the Future

posted by July 27, 2017

Dear CAA members,

CAA exists to serve its members and the wider community of arts and culture professionals. Many of our members are facing challenging fiscal dynamics in their own institutions. They have seen opportunities to attend professional conferences and discretionary departmental budgets decrease. Even more concerning is the lack of new professional opportunities for those entering the field as the number of full time and tenured positions continues to decline.

We know how integral our staff is to serving our 9,000 individual and 600 institutional members. Recently, we took a closer look at our staffing at CAA in relation to changes in the higher education landscape, the visual arts field, and the ecosystem of associations. We discovered that in order to move forward as an organization CAA had to reduce its organizational footprint. Coming to this realization was difficult but we also knew we did not want to simply cut staff.

With this reality in mind, last spring we worked to reduce the size of the CAA staff. Based on my recommendation, the Board of Directors adopted a 2018 budget that matched realistic revenue projections against actual expenses. We offered an Employee Exit Incentive Plan, a plan of choice, to all staff. Several people took the plan. We are saddened to see staff at CAA leave. Some have served the organization for many years and contributed to much of what makes CAA tick. But we also know they are headed for new adventures professionally and personally, and we are proud to offer them support and security as they embark.

The departures at CAA gave us a rare opportunity to restructure the organization, to look at every department and assess its work and goals. It also gave us the chance to hire for a few new mission-driven positions. Programming is important to CAA and its members, and as part of the new structure we expanded programs and placed publications, one of our flagship programs, in that department. The publications department will not change fundamentally and will continue to produce exemplar issues of Art Journal and The Art Bulletin, as well as outstanding digital content in Art Journal Open and Tiffany Dugan has been named the director of programs and publications to lead the new department. Communications and marketing will also grow as a department as it joins forces with membership services, a pairing that will bring more clarity to how we communicate with our members and how we will look to build our membership in the coming years. The newly formed communications, marketing, and membership department will be led by Nick Obourn. Lastly, our finance department will take the IT department under its wing, forming what will be the center of operations for CAA. Teresa Lopez will lead that department.

We know this is a lot to digest, but we felt it necessary to explain things in full. Restructuring CAA was difficult for us as an organization, but it was a decision we had to make to gain stability and ensure that we exist to serve our members and professionals in the visual arts for another 106 years. These changes will not result in any reduction of services or support to our members and the visual arts field at large.

In the coming weeks we will also announce exciting new offerings for our members at CAA. Stay tuned!

We look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles, February 21–24, 2018 for the 106th Annual Conference.

Please reach out to us at 212-691-1051 or if you have any questions at all.

Filed under: CAA News

We were very sad to learn of the early and sudden passing of CAA Board Member Dina Bangdel. Dina, who was a long-standing member of CAA, joined our Board of Directors in 2016. Prior to that, she was on CAA’s Nominating Committee and served as the Board liaison to the Education Committee. In addition, Dina was active in the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee (SEPC) and the Committee on Women in the Arts (CWA). She is survived by her husband, Dr. Bibhakar Shakya, and her children, Deven and Neal.

Dina was Director of the Art History Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. A more complete obituary can be found here.

In addition, here is a wonderful interview with her.

We will all miss her warm smile and thoughtful participation at CAA.

To send condolences to her family:

Dr. Bibhakar Shakya
3029 Crossfield Road
Richmond, VA 23233

Each week CAA News summarizes eight articles, published around the web, that CAA members may find interesting and useful in their professional and creative lives.

On Graduate Education: Is it Worth it?

If you are reading this, you are likely a graduate student in the field wondering whether to stay. How will I pass my qualifying exams? Do I really have to take German? How do I find a topic for my seminar paper? Will I ever get a talk accepted to CAA? (Read more from Rutgers Art Review.)

Defining Warm and Cool Colors: It’s All Relative

The concept of warm and cool colors has been written about for hundreds of years. Most theories start with the classic six-point color wheel: three primary colors and three secondary colors. (Read more from Just Paint.)

First-Ever New York City Cultural Plan Calls for Funding Institutions in Underserved Communities

New York City spends more on arts and culture than any other city in the US—and more than any single state. The budget of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs exceeds that of the NEA and NEH. Until now, City Hall has never embarked on a comprehensive review of where all that money goes and what it does. (Read more from ARTnews.)

Kenny Schachter on Learning to Love the LA Art Scene

Los Angeles is a weird place. Angelenos, I observed, have a messianic otherness about them, self-consciously calling attention to themselves and their city in the third person. There’s a refrain heard over and over again: This is so LA. (Read more from Artnet News.)

Tensions in the Art Classroom

A well-known in the art world as a professor specializing in comics and outsider art has resigned from his position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago amid tensions among the institution, his students, and himself. The resignation is one more example of the ongoing debate between academic freedom and issues stemming from teaching controversial or offensive subject matter. (Read more from Inside Higher Ed.)

If There’s an Organized Outrage Machine, We Need an Organized Response

Anticipating the possibility of an internet mob harassing a professor because of something he or she said can seem a bit like prepping for a lightning bolt. Yes, people get struck by lightning, but it feels like a freak occurrence. It’s easily avoided, some might say, by not flying a kite in a thunderstorm. (Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Stop Telling Students Free Speech Is Traumatizing Them

One idea that pops up during the endless national conversation about college campuses, free speech, and political correctness is the notion that certain forms of speech do such psychological harm to students that administrators have an obligation to eradicate them—or, failing that, that students have an obligation to step in and do so themselves. (Read more from New York.)

Mattress Protest and Its Aftermath

A case of alleged rape at Columbia first yielded much sympathy for the accuser and her unusual protest, but ends with the university apologizing to the accused. The case has had a lasting impact on the discussion of sexual assault on campus. (Read more from Inside Higher Ed.)

Filed under: CAA News

New in

posted by July 21, 2017

Edith Wolfe visits Adam Pendleton: Becoming Imperceptible at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans.  The exhibition is “charged with a political urgency at odds with the artist’s restrained forms,” yet “the triumph—and challenge—of Pendleton’s language-based enquiries reside in their capacity to interrogate system and process as provocatively as they explore the African American experience.”  Read the full review at

Erin M. Rice reviews African Textiles: The Karun Thakar Collection with contributions by Duncan Clarke and Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga. While “the text itself does not provide the groundbreaking research the authors call for, it does highlight parts of a collection with great potential for future in-depth, object-based research,” and “the book is superbly illustrated with quality, color photographs.” Read the full review at







Elisa A. Foster reads Toledo Cathedral: Building Histories in Medieval Castile by Tom Nickson. The author “endeavors to untangle the complicated and often tacitly accepted ‘building history’ of the cathedral’s construction.” “A wonderfully interdisciplinary study,” the “impressive” volume “is a significant contribution to recent scholarship on medieval Spain as well as Gothic architecture more broadly.” Read the full review at

Tirza True Latimer discusses the reopening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Although the architecture, which “more than doubles” the galleries, offers “the tacit promises of disruption,” “the artworks exhibited in SFMOMA’s inaugural year are predominately canonical.” Only “time will tell what stories can be told and how the holdings can be differently expanded, displayed, and contextualized.” Read the full review at

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Each week CAA News summarizes eight articles, published around the web, that CAA members may find interesting and useful in their professional and creative lives.

Summer Art Pilgrimages

Artists and curators—including Doug Aitken, Taner Ceylan, Tacita Dean, Flavin Judd, and Lisa Yuskavage—tell us about the journeys they have embarked on, or hope to make, to see something special. (Read more from the Art Newspaper.) 

How Dutch Art School Students Survived Their Thesis Shows 

Students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, a renowned Dutch visual arts and design college based in Amsterdam, have just turned in their graduation work and their thesis shows, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look back at the tricks, tips, and clever ways they were able to circumvent the strict regime of their school. (Read more from Creators.)

On Carl Andre, Ana Mendieta, and the Cult of the Male Genius

After a five-year worldwide tour, the sculptor Carl Andre’s major retrospective has reached its final stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. MOCA has appeared to make minor fanfare on its behalf. There has been little to no advertising of the show. The opening wasn’t well attended. (Read more from the Los Angeles Review of Books.)

Medievalists Try to Diversify the Field

The room for the 9:00 AM keynote lecture, “The Mediterranean Other and the Other Mediterranean: Perspective of Alterity in the Middle Ages,” at the annual International Medieval Congress wasn’t crowded. Most attendees—more than 2,400 of them, from fifty-six countries—were still arriving or recovering from jet lag. When the introductions began, one person noticed that all of the speakers discussing “otherness” were white, European men. (Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education.)

Brad Troemel Accuses Fashion Designer of Ripping Off His Art

A few looks from the Vika Gazinskaya Spring 2018 ready-to-wear collection appear to take direct inspiration from the work of Brad Troemel—without permission, acknowledgement, or arrangement. Through a few posts on Instagram, Troemel alleges that the dresses directly lift designs and imagery from paintings he showed in New York last November. (Read more from ARTnews.)

Why NCAC Objects to “Restore Campus Free Speech” Bills

NCAC recently sent a letter to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urging him to veto a bill dubbed as a measure to “restore” and “preserve” free speech on state college campuses. But why would an organization devoted to free expression object to an effort to safeguard free speech at universities? (Read more from the National Coalition against Censorship.)

Why Collaborative Curating Makes Sense for a Divided Political Era

In the wake of election of Donald Trump, artists and curators have been wrestling with the idea of how to respond creatively, through their practice, to the current charged political climate. Such is the challenge that curators Amanda Hunt and Eric Crosby have explicitly given themselves with their exhibition 20/20, opening at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. (Read more from Artnet News.)

Advancing Participation in the Survey

Without some demonstration of career utility, courses like art history serve as just another core requirement to be endured, rather than valued. While challenging, this situation also presents art historians with the opportunity to present the history of art as something relevant, practical, and helpful to otherwise disinterested students. (Read more from Art History Teaching Resources.)

Filed under: CAA News

Affiliated Society News for July 2017

posted by July 18, 2017

Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH)

The Association for Critical Race Art History’s Bibliographic resource launched on January 9, 2017, and received over one thousand hits on the first day. In conjunction with the publication of the bibliography, reading groups were formed in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, to bring together art historians engaged with issues of the representation of race and ethnicity and their histories. To date, forty-two people have participated in the reading groups, which have covered a wide array of topics including hybridity, empire, borders, primitivisms, and the contemporary status of identity politics. The reading groups were organized by Caitlin Beach (New York), Layla Bermeo (Boston), Margarita Karasoulas (Washington, DC), Marci Kwon (Bay Area), and Sean Nesselrode Moncada (New York). The organizers would like to thank Jacqueline Francis and Camara Dia Holloway, cofounders of the Association for Critical Race Art History, for their support and guidance in this endeavor.

Association for Latin American Art (ALAA)

The Association of Latin American Art announces its Eighteenth Annual Book Award for the best scholarly book published on the art of Latin America from the pre-Columbian era to the present. The award is generously funded by the Arvey Foundation and consists of a citation and a $1,000 honorarium. We will present the award at the CAA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, February, 21–24, 2018. The name of the recipient will appear in the newsletters of both ALAA and CAA. Visit our website for more information. 

Association of Historians of American Art (AHAA)

AHAA announces the June 2017 publication of its ejournal Panorama, issue 3.1. Published twice a year, Panorama is the first peer-reviewed electronic publication dedicated to American art and visual culture from the colonial period to the present day. In addition to peer-reviewed scholarly articles, Panorama publishes Book Reviews, Exhibition Reviews, and shorter Research Notes, and features The Bully Pulpit. Subscribe for FREE here.

AHAA members received 2017 Awards for Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators. A publication award went to Melissa Wolfe, Curator of American Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, for Subversion & Surrealism in the Art of Honoré Sharrer at the Columbus Museum of Art. An exhibition award went to Kristina Wilson, Associate Professor of Art History, and Chair, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Clark University for Cyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period at the Worcester Art Museum.

AHAA announces its CAA 2018 session “America is (Still) Hard to See.” The program addresses where American art history sits in our twenty-first-century classrooms, galleries, museums, blogs, and journals and directions for its future growth. Speakers include: Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, University of Washington; Kristine K. Ronan, independent scholar; and Rachel Stephens, University of Alabama. Distinguished scholar Erika Doss, University of Notre Dame, is the discussant.

AHAA’s Fourth Biennial Symposium will be held in October 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (dates TBD).

AHAA’s mission is to promote scholarship on art of the United States through museum-based or theoretically oriented topics, whether regionally focused or offering broad historical sweep, by emerging and established scholars. The organization provides a forum for presenting and advancing new approaches; for examining problems that confront the field; and for identifying scholarly needs and opportunities to its members. Join today!

Association of Print Scholars (APS)

The Association of Print Scholars (APS) recently awarded the 2017 Schulman and Bullard Article Prize to Jonas Beyer of the Department of Art History at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany. Now in its third year, the prize recognizes an article published by an early career scholar that features compelling and innovative research on prints or printmaking. Beyer’s article, “Pictures in Flux: Degas’s monotypes and some notes on their relation to other media,” appeared in the book Perspectives on Degas, edited by Kathryn Brown and published in 2016. This is the first year that an article focusing on modern printmaking has won the award.

APS is pleased to announce that Anne Verplanck, associate professor of American studies at Penn State Harrisburg, has been elected as director-at-large for a three-year term.

During the recent Renaissance Society of America Conference, APS hosted a reception at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Goldman Study Center, where members viewed early modern works on paper. APS is now an affiliated society of the Renaissance Society of America and will host two panels at the 2018 conference.

APS looks forward to hosting our affiliated-society panel at next year’s CAA Annual Conference in Los Angeles. The selection committee is pleased to announce Yasmin Amaratunga Railton of Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London as chair of the panel, titled “Now you see it, now you don’t: Materialism and Ephemeral Prints.”

Community College Professors of Art and Art History (CCPAAH)

CCPAAH wants to thank all the presenters and participants at our affiliated session at the 2017 FATE Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. The panel “Draw and Repeat: Reconsidering the Sketchbook,” was chaired by Susan Altman, Middlesex County College and included the following presentations: “That’s Mine: Making the Sketchbook Personal” by Angus Galloway, University of West Georgia; “Reuse/Reclaim/Repurpose” by Eric Wold, Clark University; and “What’s in a Name? Renaming the Sketchbook” by Jon Hunt, Kansas State University. Everyone left with new ideas to bring back to their studio classrooms.

CCPAAH will be sponsoring a session at CAA’s 2018 Annual Conference in Los Angeles. The call for papers for “Championing the Relevancy of Studio Art and Art History in the Twenty-First Century: Stories of Success and Advocacy,” next year’s affiliated-society session at the CAA conference, was posted to the CAA website on June 30, with a submission deadline of August 14, 2017. Please consider submitting a proposal for this session. Interested in getting more involved with CCPAAH? Contact Susan Altman.

FATE (Foundations in Art: Theory and Education)

Episodes 10, 11, and 12 of “Positive Space,” FATE’s monthly podcast are now available. FATE Educator Award Winner, M. Michelle Illuminato, and FATE Shout Out Award Winner, Ralph Pugay, discuss rebuilding foundations at Portland State University, community engagement, creating welcoming learning environments and how to encourage students to be present in the creative process. FATE Educator Award Winner, Rae Goodwin discusses “Failing Forward” in her own work and how that influences her teaching and interactions with students, and FATE Leadership Award Winner, Scott Betz, discusses mentorship, creativity, and how teaching informs his ability to lead people both inside and outside the classroom. More info on the Positive Space webpage, and you can listen on iTunes.

In addition, FATE in Review seeks thoughtful articles relating to all areas of foundations education, including expanding the practicum, flexing the core, and re-visioning visual culture. Conference papers and/or presentations, as well as papers written solely for publication, may be submitted throughout the year. We are also interested in reviews of newer books that inform foundations discussion and curriculum. Contact FATE in Review Editor, Michael Marks.

Upcoming for CAA 2018: FATE’s CAA affiliate representative, Naomi J. Falk, is looking for panelists for FATE’s affiliate conference session, entitled, “Let’s Dance, But Don’t Call Me Baby: Dialogue, Empathy, and Inclusion in the Classroom and Beyond.” Feeling welcome, acknowledged, and heard encourages learning. Fostering inclusiveness and empathy on behalf of minority students legitimizes perspectives. How do we build trust and empathy between faculty, students, peers, and others in our classrooms and communities? How do we create a welcoming and inclusive environment? What has worked? What has gone terribly wrong? Where do we go from here? Examples of readings, projects, tools, and exercises for building inclusive, encouraging, and productive dialogues are all of interest. Please contact: Naomi J. Falk.

Japan Art History Forum (JAHF)

The Japan Art History Forum is pleased to announce that it will hold its first competition to award the JAHF First Book Subvention Prize this year. This prize will be awarded once a year to a book project that will make a substantial contribution to the field of Japanese art history, broadly defined. The award is for a maximum of $2,000, provided from membership dues and donations to the Japan Art History Forum. The deadline for submission is September 15, 2017. Visit our website for more information.

National Council of Arts Administrators (NCAA)

The forty-fifth National Council of Arts Administrators (NCAA) annual gathering, “Ground | Work: Producing Access and Equity in the Arts,” convenes September 20–23, 2017, hosted by the University of Arizona School of Art in Tucson. The lineup of speakers promises to be dynamic and engaging and includes the artist Wafaa Bilal and keynote speaker Alfredo Jaar. We have a wide range of presentations and activities arranged around this year’s conference theme: “Ground | Work: Producing Access and Equity in the Arts.” We invite current and aspiring art-department chairs, directors, and deans to attend. Visit the website to learn more about the conference, member benefits, and to join NCAA.

Public Art Dialogue (PAD)

Public Art Dialogue welcomes five new board members: Annie Dell’Aria, Leslie Markle, and  Andrew Wasserman, are PAD’s new program committee. Laura Holzman joins PAD’s social media team, and Ciara McKeown joins the PAD board as member at large.  We’d like to thank our former program committee members, Norie Sato and Renee Piechocki for doing such a terrific job.

In other PAD news, co-chairs Cameron Cartiere and Jennifer Wingate have succeeded Cher Knight and Harriet Senie as co-editors of the journal Public Art Dialogue, and Erica Doss has taken over the position of book editor from Patricia Phillips. The fall 2017 issue will be the new editors’ first. All at PAD are grateful for Cher Knight and Harriet Senie’s stewardship as founding co-chairs of the organizations and as founding editors of the journal, and we also thank Patricia Phillips for her contributions as PAD’s book editor.

Please see CAA’s Annual Conference call for papers for information about PAD’s session in Los Angeles, “Teachable Monuments,” chaired by Sierra Rooney and Harriet Senie. Also, see the Public Art Dialogue website for the call for articles for the Fall 2018 issue of Public Art Dialogue on the topic of “Public Art as Political Action.” The deadline is March 1, 2018.

The Feminist Art Project (TFAP)

The Feminist Art Project (TFAP) at Rutgers University is pleased to announce TFAP Add-a-Thon, a week-long initiative to expand the TFAP Calendar Archive of the contemporary feminist art movement. During July 24–30, 2017, TFAP invites the public to help in reaching the goal to add one thousand additional listings to the TFAP Calendar Archive—the only comprehensive, searchable, virtual, and physical repository of contemporary feminist art activities across varying media and from all over the world. 

Participate by adding events to the online calendar during July 24–30. TFAP is looking for new listings to add from 2005 onward, such as exhibitions, films, lectures, performances, and publications, and classes, in or about all visual art media with feminist art content, feminist intent, or work by any individual woman or women of all gender expressions. So dig through your files for past, current, and future events! List your or your institution’s activities, or be a feminist archivist-activist by picking a smaller institution in your community, or a large university or museum, to focus on.

TFAP needs your catalogues, announcements, and other documentation that mirror the Calendar Archive listings that you post. They will be included in the Miriam Schapiro Archives at Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University Libraries, where the TFAP Archive is housed. It is vital for us to continue to contribute to this archive to ensure that the activities of women artists are included in the historical record and creating a key resource for researchers and scholars who will study the feminist art movement in the future.

The TFAP Add-a-Thon is presented in partnership with Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. Visit for more information about the TFAP Add-a-Thon and sending your archive materials.

I love it because all the blue-chip galleries are right next door. If I want, I can go in my pajamas to the Gagosian or Pace.
—Lev Manovich on living in Chelsea
Hunter O’Hanian: Hello everyone, I’m Hunter O’Hanian and I’m the Director of the College Art Association, and I’m here today to chat with Lev Manovich. Hello Lev. How are you?
Lev Manovich: Great.
Hunter O’Hanian: Yeah. Nice to see you. Thank you for welcoming us to your home here in Chelsea, in New York.
Lev Manovich: I’m honored.
Hunter O’Hanian: Well, it’s great to be here. It’s great to be out on the roof of your house and how long have you lived in this neighborhood in New York?
Lev Manovich: Before I was a professor in the art department of University of California, San Diego, between 1996-2013 when I was offered the job as a professor for the Graduate Center CUNY, I rented this place and I love it because all the blue-chip galleries are right next door. If I want, I can go in my pajamas to the Gagosian or Pace.
Hunter O’Hanian: How great that you just get to go out in your pajamas and go to Pace, or Gagosian or wherever. Okay, so you got your PhD from the University of Rochester. You got your MA from NYU, you got your BA from there as well, too. What I think is really interesting is that you have degree from the Moscow Institute of Architecture that you got in 1977 and ‘79. In addition, you’ve won many awards including the Mellon Fellowship in Art Criticism, you won a Guggenheim in 2003.
Let’s circle back to your time in Moscow. What was that like? When you were there, Leonid Brezhnev was the head of the Soviet Union. What was that like as a young scholar?
Lev Manovich: When I left in the early ‘80s, I was 21. I wasn’t a scholar yet. So, I didn’t get to finish with the Institute. I would have spent two more years. I grew up in the ‘70s, which was the final phase of the Soviet Union and the whole Communist system, and looking back I am so, so glad that I grew up out of this crazy different planet. Because here, when you come to the States, especially at that time, everything was so different.

I think this experience of growing up there is completely responsible for my whole career. Because I think when I look at contemporary, let’s say culture, since that time, because of … and capitalism, and that really became dominant worldwide, I have my alien perspective. I think it helps me to see things in very strange ways.

Another thing, which, of course, I miss a lot … during the time everything was forbidden, people published things in Samizdat, you couldn’t buy foreign books in bookstores, but people were still able to do independent culture. People would have exhibitions of art in their apartment. Somebody would call you and say, “Go to this apartment,” and the exhibition would last five hours. Because everything was forbidden, when people were able to do something like this, you knew when to go to them, everybody just felt so excited.

Hunter O’Hanian: Sure.
Lev Manovich: Whereas today, I think we have abundance of information, opportunities, exhibitions…. There are so many galleries in New York. There are hundreds of art being noticed. You can follow any artist online and I am always surprised with my students who don’t take advantage of it. Because, for me, growing up in a country where there was information hunger. I love internet. I love Instagram. Basically, what I do before I go to sleep, I read Wikipedia.
With abundance of information, the fact that I can find out about so many things and I can also see what artists are creating in tens of thousands of cities around the world, from my computer, it’s absolutely amazing.
Today, people are sharing over two billion images per day
Hunter O’Hanian: That’s wonderful. You’re now a professor to Graduate Center CUNY and you’re the Director of the Cultural Analytics Lab, which was founded in 2008. From what I’ve read, you developed the concept of cultural analytics in 2005. Tell us, what is cultural analytics?
Lev Manovich: In the middle of 2000s, this new term “digital humanities” started to become more and more popular, and in this decade it has really been very widely discussed in my Academy. Just as today, at the time, people were starting to use computational tools to analyze, let’s say culture. Not looking at certain novels, but ten thousand novels, and there is a cultural scale…. The focus of this work has largely been literature.
When I saw it I said, “Well, we kind of need a different term to indicate, but we also want to apply these methods to study the history of culture, the history of art, history of visual media, and also contemporary media, whether it is web design, Instagram, photography.” I come up with a term and today there are hundreds of others’ papers, where people analyze, for example, social media or visual social media with papers done by people in Computer Science, Computational Social Science, Visual Anthropology, Visual History, and also recently merging to field of paradigm of visual history.
I think what I started was, really, just a few papers and now I can use this term more like an umbrella to describe this research, which includes not only publications in academic journals, but also art projects, exhibitions, software people share online. Today research, the research outputs or research tools, also includes software data sets. Let’s say Google has this amazing cultural institute and curate these beautiful exhibitions of images. It’s also very cultural analytics.
I would say its use of computation, not always to analyze. It’s a visual media or artistic media, but also to teach it and also to create new interfaces for interactive media.
Hunter O’Hanian: One of the research questions that you pose in the lab is, “How can we observe giant cultural universes of both user-generated and professional media content created today without reducing them to averages, outliers, or preexisting categories?” How has your research developed in that area?
Lev Manovich: I think when I started, I was so fascinated with within a couple of years, the number of cultural producers and visual artifacts re-created, exploded a universe that grew after The Big Bang, so to speak. Let’s say, before, people were writing about Italian Renaissance or 1940s Hollywood cinema. Basically, we have a limited number of artifacts, limited number of artists, and you can kind of observe it, in a way, with your own eyes. In 2005, when people started sharing things on Flickr and on YouTube, and Instagram and Twitter and so on. Today, people are sharing over two billion images per day.
Hunter O’Hanian: That’s amazing. Two billion a day.
Lev Manovich: Yeah. It’s growing.
Hunter O’Hanian: Wow, amazing.
Lev Manovich: There is no way for you to observe it with your own eyes. I find this a great challenge but also find it was fascinating. The only way for me to see, for example, what was the different content people create, what are different styles? In the case of photography, what are photographic techniques? In a way, it’s like this invisible world because it’s too big. If I use something like telescope, microscope, I can only see so much. I said, “Well, it’s not like I like computers so much, I do; but I have to turn to computers, the techniques of computer science, just to be able to see what is out there.”
It’s particularly important if you don’t start with some preexisting categories. Because, let’s say you say, “Okay, I want to look at contemporary Instagram, using categories like Selfie, Portrait, Still Life,” but we don’t know what other genres are out there. We don’t know what kind of hybrid genres. I said, “As opposed to starting with particular categories and training the computer to find images in these categories, if I do it, I am only going to confirm what I already know.”
For me, Cultural Analytics is basically about questioning everything we know, so using that challenge of big data to question what we know. I said, “What I actually want to do is not necessarily statistics but visualization, I want to sample this universe. I want to bring thousands or millions of images before my eyes.” Even I, myself, am going to see all kinds of interesting patterns, which perhaps don’t fit in these categories. It is really about observing in a very precise way.
You can also connect it to workings of our history, Heinrich Wölfflin… created this new method, which our historians use throughout the century in comparing images on two slides. How you can compare billions of images? I see Cultural Analytics, in a way as an extension of comparative methods in humanities.
Hunter O’Hanian: You also look in the lab about how you use data to measure diversity, variability, differences in temporal changes in these cultural data sets. What are some conclusions you’ve drawn from that as well?
Lev Manovich: We look at everything from cartoons, films, TV series, posters, book pages, Time magazine covers, one million Manga pages, one million artworks from DeviantArt, 50 million Instagram photos. I said, “So these are all very different types of visual culture.” If I’m to develop some methodology, which I can teach to students, in general, right, what we should look at? For example, if we look at visual art, we talk about topics, style, et cetera. If we’re looking at literature, we can look into other things.
Abstract from these media-specific categories, what else? I said, “Well, we could talk about how certain point of culture developed over time and we use computers that allow us to see, keep track of these changes. We can take different data sets and compare them.” For example, I want to compare a million paintings done in Brooklyn versus a million paintings done, I don’t know, in 798 in Beijing, but how do you compare those on a scale?
When we can think about our ability … so you say, “Okay, there is a particular genre of selfie.” There are millions of selfies, which are very close or very far from the genre, so you think of a particular genre or a particular idiom. All right? Let’s say 19th century still life. When you consider it all works in terms of how close to the center it all is and finally because of diversity. We talk about the ability, it’s like statistics, right? How far a particular data point from average. With the ability, it’s more like ecology: how many different species of animals have you observed in this forest?
Today if we observe, for example, something on Instagram, we’re not going to find a billion different species of images. We’ll maybe find 350, or maybe 1,000, or maybe 500. The same thing if you look at 19th Century painting or 16th Century art in China. Typically, our historians have been describing it in a very reductive way, saying, “Well, there’s four styles, there is four types.” What if I start saying, “Well, maybe it’s not four styles, maybe it’s 400 styles, or 40.”
It’s not about throwing away categories, it’s gaining more categories. The way people do it in science, so biologists describe life on the earth, same with a hundred million species and be able to deal with it. What if I start dealing with 10,000 species of images? Why not, right? Basically, we’re bringing our reflection about using visual culture, a bit up to date to what is used. Actually, I will tell you, people able to look at things the more precise way, uniquely with distinctions.
For me, cultural analytics is about questioning everything we already know.
Hunter O’Hanian: Of course, using social media and a lot of the stuff that you do today, it’s great that you’re able to mix fine art and popular culture at the same time and the culture around everybody and bringing that in as to what their lives are about and you’re mixing those two things when you look at it.
Lev Manovich: Well, I think it connects to another point, which we talked about right before we started. Today we have four billion mobile subscriptions. Not all of them are smartphones but there’s at least one billion people which have smartphones and they come with all this free software. Not only with, let’s say, again, but over 200 apps to aid images. Let’s say when I started doing digital art 30 years ago, you can put all the people who did digital art in one room. Then, let’s say, 20 years ago you could put them all … maybe 300 people.
Now, we have a billion people. The way we have one billion artists and one billion photographers and if you look closely you can find all kinds of things. You find things which are maybe very, let’s say, something or something will give a copy for somebody else, but you also find lots of diversity. What I want to do is I want to expose this diversity because I think, ultimately, if you’re to collect enough of a sample of contemporary art, perhaps you may find more diversity on social media because contemporary art you also have certain fashions, certain waves.
Today we’ll have this in fashion, tomorrow … so we have this idea which comes from that … with art as something special, it’s a romantic, it’s the best of humanity, but today you don’t need to go to art school or design school to be artist and you can basically have viewers of your work on social media.
Hunter O’Hanian: Sure, and it creates an audience.
Lev Manovich: Yeah, so I think intellectuals tend to dismiss it as something trivial, something banal, well, that’s not being intellectual. We want to take it seriously.
Hunter O’Hanian: Yeah, no, that’s good. You brought Instagram up a few times. How many followers do you have on Instagram?
Lev Manovich: Basically, last year I was writing this book about Instagram. I would observe something, write a chapter, I have those chapters on my website. When I do this research over about three years, I basically figure out some principles, whether it has to do with how many followers, but there are also thousands of articles about it.
My case, I didn’t follow those rules, so I only have a couple thousand followers. On Twitter, I also read about … I read, for example, research that says if you want to be retweeted, you have be between 110, 140 characters. I follow statistics even … to Tweet, so Twitter I follow all the rules so I have over 20,000.
Hunter O’Hanian: Wow.
Lev Manovich: I follow the rules, but then of course, limited to what you can say.
Hunter O’Hanian: Sure. Obviously you’re coming into contact with a lot of students these days and a lot of people who are either art makers or scholars or thinking about digital media. What kind of advice do you have for people entering the art world, whether they’re creative or whether they’re writing, what would you tell them?
Lev Manovich: Well, I hope people are not entering the art world, I hope they’re entering the cultural world.
Hunter O’Hanian: Interesting.
Lev Manovich: The art world is just a very small part of it. To be honest, I don’t know a single person which takes the contemporary art world seriously.
Hunter O’Hanian: Okay.
Lev Manovich: Yeah, because again, in my view, fields like design, science and food are more interesting, but that’s my opinion. To be an artist in the art world, it’s not the only choice anymore. I think with people who are young, I would say there are two reasons why I would recommend people to learn computer programming and a bit about data. First of all, this is a world believer. Production analysis, algorithms based on data are central to the contemporary world, as electricity was central to the … century, as steam engines were central to industrial world of 1820.
If you simply want to understand the world in which you live, but why will Facebook … how does the navigation system in my car work? You should basically have some computer literacy, data literacy, and should learn something about algorithms, basic programming, how to make a webpage, analyze data, give statistics. Otherwise, I don’t know if you can say very relevant things about the world today.
Maybe artists’ or historians’ culture. The second thing, I think, for professional advancement, so the digital humanities started in early 2000s, in the last five or six years you see many, many jobs where people want somebody who does 19th-Century novel or 18th-Century theater plus, plus, plus, plus digital humanities. In this decade and for the next decade, this is something which actually would help you to get a job because the new thing—everybody wants it and most people don’t do it.
Simply from this very practical point of view, our digital art history is something that should exist or something that’s probably started to around 2012. It’s very new. It will get bigger the way it happened in English or in literature, so I think if you’re entering the history, (1) it’s too young. Take some online class, learn a bit of programming, and also learn about things which are specific to art history, how the computer looks at images. Learn about computer vision.
Because regardless of whether you’re using it in your work, in five years when you’re interviewing people will be asking, Do you know that?” You still will be doing it. Again, it’s not about giving up the mind, it’s not about giving up theory. It’s not about giving up analytical thinking, but it’s simply adding contemporary methods to the methods inherited over the last 300 years.
Hunter O’Hanian: You’ve been to many CAA conferences and it’s been great that you’ve spoken. I hope you get to come to another one. Our next one will be in Los Angeles in February 2018, so I hope you can come to that one as well.
Lev Manovich: I appreciate it very much. The first time I was at CAA, I was still a student. It was in 1990, it was in Seattle. I actually met a couple people who became my best friends.
Hunter O’Hanian: Fabulous, I love that.
Lev Manovich: I’m very lucky that now I’m in New York. It stays in New York every other year, so I always come. I’m on the panels. People have to realize, it’s amazing that CAA exists because in most countries you don’t have anything like this. You maybe only have 200 art historians in Switzerland or we don’t have this organization. The fact that this is organization, you bring us together, we’re at conferences, job placement, there are all kinds of things you can develop.
Yeah, maybe we always complain that every organization is bureaucratic but it’s fantastic that CAA exists. I wish you guys all the luck, and I think we all should support it and it’s up to us if we don’t say something, it’s up to us to put it there. This interview, it’s fantastic, an interesting project, it also makes it more visual and more interactive.
Hunter O’Hanian: Thank you.
Lev Manovich: Thank you so much.
Hunter O’Hanian: Thank you for this great view and for inviting us to your roof here. It’s really great.
Lev Manovich: Come anytime. We’ll drink some beers.
Hunter O’Hanian: Okay, thank you. I appreciate it.
Filed under: CAA Conversations

On Wednesday the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies approved a bill that would provide funding of $145 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in FY2018.

For many of us, this provides a respite of relief as it is a stark contrast to President Trump’s prior call to zero out the agency.

Although the $145 million figure is a $4.8 million drop from the FY2017 budget, this is a reassuring step by Congress in recognizing the value of the arts in America and the need for a strong public arts agency.

While the subcommittee’s proposal brings us hope, our work is not done. In fact, we at CAA will continue to step up our efforts to educate, communicate, and of course, advocate for the artists, art historians, critics, curators, designers, scholars, librarians, educators, students, conservators, and many other professionals in the visual arts world who make up our membership and affiliates.

UPDATE: On July 18, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill in its current state. These earmarked funds may be voted on by the full House of Representatives after the summer recess. The Senate will consider funds for the endowments later in the year also.

We encourage you to regularly check out our advocacy page to learn more about CAA’s stance on the issues and how you can join us in mobilizing and championing the field of arts and culture in our country.

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posted by July 14, 2017

Emma Natalya Stein reviews the exhibition catalogue Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Representing “a watershed moment in the historiography of Southeast Asia, especially in terms of its relationship with India,” the “well-researched and beautifully illustrated catalogue” showcases “a truly remarkable body of material.” Read the full review at
Grant Klarich Johnson visits Don’t Look Back: The 1990s at MOCA at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. As the museum’s “legacy still takes shape,” the exhibition “focused on a decade with particular relevance to contemporary art in Los Angeles” and “narrated a version of the institution’s past that wove local triumphs into the global geography of art at the close of the last century.” Read the full review at

Carmen Pérez González reads The Arab Imago: A Social History of Portrait Photography, 1860–1910 by Stephen Sheehi. The author aims “to ‘provincialize’ the history and ‘nature’ of photography,” and the “groundbreaking” volume “is an ambitious and theoretically challenging study, a significant and original work of social analysis of mostly unknown photographic material from the 1860s onwards.” Read the full review at
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