SECAC – Greensboro, NC, Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, 2013
by Sara Christensen Blair

Presentation of one’s research is always a mix of exciting and terrifying. For me, it is always nice to know there are fellow artist-philosophers out in the world, or in this case, at the same conference. IDSVA was well represented at the 2013 Southeast College Art Conference held in Greenboro, NC October 31-November 2. There were 2 current students and 2 alumni involved in the conference that was organized and hosted by the University of North Carolina Greensboro. SECAC is the 2nd largest college art conference in the United States, only outnumbered by the College Art Association Annual Conference held in February. The conference engages art scholars engaged as makers, historians and theoreticians. The IDSVA contingent presented the following papers, which reflect the diversity of both the conference and the scholarly work happening in and as a result of IDSVA. Here are some previews of the panel presentations as well as paper titles:


Christopher Lonegan, Ph.D., (IDSVA Alumnus) Imaging the Trace: Frau Roentgen’s Hand (1895.)

Kathe Hicks Albrecht. Steampunk Art: Victorian Nostalgia or Machine Anxiety?

Kathe, a third year IDSVA student and visual resources curator at American University, presented a paper in the open session on contemporary art chaired by Preston Thayer, Augustiana College.  In “Steampunk Art: Victorian Nostalgia or Machine Anxiety?” she argued that the steampunk aesthetic represents a significant shift in human consciousness and links the individual subject to an emerging networked community, an “other” that includes machines, cyborgs, and beings in virtual worlds.  A hybrid of nostalgic Victoriana and a speculative and optimistic futurism, steampunk provides a participatory utopian vision for contemporary society.  The question remains whether it successfully addresses modern anxiety about technology, and returns in spirit autonomy to the individual.  Albrecht’s dissertation will focus on addressing that question.  A lively discussion about the phenomenon of steampunk followed the paper presentations.  Albrecht was delighted that the paper garnered so much interest and curiosity and is energized by the ideas raised by the audience.  Albrecht can be reached at and is happy to discuss steampunk and contemporary aesthetics any time.

Sara Christensen Blair, A.B.D. Embracing the Trace: Time, Material, and Form in Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen Pieces.
Laib’s pollen pieces from the late 1990s illustrate the complexities of the trace because the art object itself is in a constant state of transformation and evolution. Shifting between a thin layer of dust and a collection in a jar, Laib’s work inextricably links the process, concept and material to each iteration of the work of art. The meticulous collection and display of the pollen is juxtaposed with the loss of material at each venue. At what point is Laib’s work at its intended state and how does this work complicate the idea of the physical object? Drawing upon the theories of both Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger, I will argue that at no point can Laib’s pollen work be pinned down to a category or state based on the notion of Derrida’s différance and Heidegger’s aletheia. The essence and materiality of the work is in a constant state of deferral and unfolding because of the pollen itself is a volatile powder where containment is seemingly impossible.

Michael R. Smith, Ph.D. (IDSVA Alumnus) Duchamp and the Serendipity of the Post Modern Narrative. Duchamp is often made out to be a postmodern artist before there was such a thing as postmodernism. As such, he is typically treated as an aberration from the modernist tendencies towards grand metanarratives. As Dr. Smith argues, however, there is something altogether too serendipitous about this postmodern narrative of the lone artist standing outside the milieu of his time—one that completely ignores the many ways in which Duchamp was very much a modernist, and more importantly, the ways in which postmodernism continued to maintain the very metanarratives which it sought to dispense with in its critique of modernism.


In addition to the fruitful and varied scholarship, the conference also gave us a chance to see one another in person and hear the research happening in our respective scholarly worlds. It is always nice to physically see our colleagues and hear about their work at IDSVA and beyond. I highly recommend this conference as its size allows dialogue to flourish and connections to easily form.