Newsletter Spring 2012

Publications Etc.

Conny Bogaard
Historic Houses and the Modern Gesamtkunstwerk

The Gesamtkunstwerk – the “total artwork” conceived by the composer Richard Wagner in the mid nineteenth century – challenges traditional conceptions of modernism. A synthetic, multimedia entity, the Gesamtkunstwerk clashes with the autonomy and medium specificity extolled by such modern critics as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. Moreover, assailed by Friedrich Nietzsche in the late nineteenth century and later embraced by Adolf Hitler, Wagner and his dream of a total work of art were dealt a series of critical blows. Most devastating was the critique delivered by Theodor Adorno who excoriated the composer’s theories as little more than fascism avant la lettre. 

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Dissertation Work Update

by Nil Santana

I was quite thrilled for taking another major step forward, after all this was something I envisioned ever since my first day in the program. Some of you may have already realized how the individual nature of the dissertation work makes it an inherently lonely process. Especially after intensely collaborating with my cohort in preparation for the Oral Qualifying Exams. There is a noticeable change in pace, and a change in the course of action.

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Examining the Orals

by Emily Putnam

The experience of the oral exams began months before stepping foot in the room at Brown. In preparation for this major event, I worked diligently with my study group as we reviewed three years of coursework at IDSVA. As we combed through the texts, posed potential questions to each other, and wove together an intertextual interpretation, I discovered new insights into the books and theories that I already thought were familiar. I felt truly engaged with this material as I attempted to delineate my position in this conversation. This study period was one of my most fulfilling and enriching experiences as a student.

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An Interview With IDSVA First-Year Student, Larry Decker

Would you share a bit about your history and what lead you to study at IDSVA?

When I think of my life, from my first year of school where all eight grades were in one room, and my high school class of 27—with me the only one going to college, it seems strange and wonderfully impossible. From a small Kentucky town to living in Sedona, Arizona also seems such an unlikely outcome of life. I often say I am blessed to have been born when I was, to whom I was, and where I was, otherwise my life would have been so different…most likely not nearly so rich with happiness, love, and experience. I am blessed.

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Three Questions For IDSVA’s Interim Director Margot Kelley

How have your first six-months been as Interim Director of ISDVA?

Fast-paced, intense, occasionally bewildering. But always amazing.  Every single day, I get to talk with smart people about ideas they are passionate about, and even have the chance to help them nudge those ideas a little closer to fruition. Plus, all of us here at IDSVA are adding to some cultural conversations that I think are pressingly important: not just about art and philosophy, but also about educational access and about alternative models for teaching and learning—models that might well be both more effective and more environmentally sustainable than the business as usual approach.    

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Student Updates: Conny Bogaard’s Impressions From A Museum Conference (Antwerp, October 17-20, 2011), Third-Year IDSVA Student

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a paper at an International Museum Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. The paper was based on an independent study featuring composer Richard Wagner and the Gesamtkunstwerk, also known as the total work of art. The topic was my response to the conference theme: “Catching the Spirit. Theatrical Assets of Historic Houses and their Approaches in Reinventing the Past.” The goal of this conference was to explore the current impasse in historic houses and museums. Visitors often experience historic house museums as boring because of the static presentation of the past. 

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Student Updates: Jen Hall’s Wondrous World Of Neuroaesthetics, Fourth-Year IDSVA Student

This fall I was invited to join a group of researchers from MIT’s Brain Lab and Media Lab: engineers, biologists, and chemists working on the mechanics of expanding brain potential by observing brain function. With a focus on the coupling between properties of brain and technology, the group’s research involves the low-level functioning of the nervous system and how these structures may hold relevance for cognitive dysfunctions and the pathophysiology of embodied action. My dissertation research on embodied interactivity in neuroaesthetics presents a very different perspective, but on many of the same topics.

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News from IDSVA President, Prof. George Smith

Bill Brown served as this year’s Visiting Faculty at IDSVA’s New York Winter Residency in New York. In addition to working with first and second-year students, he gave a public lecture on “The Time of Painting” at the Morgan Library. Considered one of the world’s preeminent critics of contemporary visual culture, Bill Brown is Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture Professor at University of Chicago and Co-editor of Critical Inquiry.

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Summer in Spannocchia

by Jean Bundy, Cohort '11

Spannocchia is an Italian feudal castle, now an organic farm, hotel and conference destination for academics. Its history can be Googled but arriving as I did, a first-year IDSVA student, is an interesting story not found on-line. Once at the castle, jet-lagged students goon a tour. We climbed stone stairs to the large library eyeing the tomes of Etruscan books that surround a massive fireplace, walked through olive groves and stood atop the castle’s turret overlooking miles of greenery, resembling backgrounds in Renaissance masterpieces.

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A Brown Residency Accounting

by Bob Carroll, Cohort '09

I experienced the Brown residency in July as a trope unpacking lesser tropes, including any subjective varieties one might be tempted to hold onto until death do us part. What is a trope anyway? While the dictionary describes it as a word or expression used in a different sense from that which properly belongs to it in order to give life or emphasis to an idea, the etymology of the term is more apropos here. 

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Venice Residency

by Tatiana Klacsmann, Cohort '11

It was love at first sight. Well, almost first sight.  First, outside the train station, I wanted a sandwich for under $5. I didn’t find one. But as soon schlepped my bag onto the vaparetto and saw the moldering buildings sprouting from the lagoon – Love. Or so I thought. I was 19 and studying abroad.  Narcissistic in a typical way, the city existed only for me – I got drunk, I got lost, I left. 

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Winter - 2011 / Spring - 2012

On a strangely warm day during this New York City winter, IDSVA students gathered at The Morgan Library. It was the IDSVA Annual New York Lecture—the day’s event: a presentation by renowned scholar, Bill Brown. Dr. Brown asked his audience to consider: What is contemporary art now? But before answering this question, he posed: “What is the contemporary and when is now?” In this Newsletter, we hope to give you a glimpse into the events, projects, and people that make IDSVA what it is now. 

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