Associate Professor of German and Chair
Department of German and German Studies
Bryn Mawr College
“Female Desire, Pop-Rock, and the Tiananmen Generation: The Synergy of Sexual and Political Revolutions in the Banned Chinese-German Film Summer Palace (颐和园, 2006)”
1989 comprises a vital part of the Tiananmen generation’s memory and identity. Yet, any attempt to address the turbulent events in mass media, however oblique, carries a high risk of censorship. Lou Ye, a prominent Sixth Generation director, took that risk in his film Summer Palace (2006). His iconoclastic exploration of sex and politics at a thinly disguised Beijing University was banned in China and languishes in relative obscurity in the West. This talk teases out the rich and complex texture of this masterpiece by undertaking an expository reading of Summer Palace’s plot in conjunction with its musical soundtrack and many intertextual references. The film’s narrative arc stretches from Beijing to Berlin, linking two cities where communist rule was openly challenged in 1989, and using a delayed death in Berlin as an opportunity to commemorate the dead of 1989, constructing an alternative site of mourning for the victims in Beijing.
Lecturer in Discipline of Chinese Art History
“Cui Bai’s Magpies and Hare: A Political Allegory”
In the eleventh century of the Northern Song (960-1127), Cui Bai painted Magpies and Hare, a sensitive depiction of an autumn scene in which a hare has startled two magpies. Cui Bai’s Magpies and Hare is classified as a bird-and-flower painting. That is, it is grouped with paintings that are considered primarily decorative with auspicious meanings. It is celebrated as an example of highly-finished and technically accomplished painting. I would like to propose that Cui Bai’s masterpiece can be enjoyed as an autumnal scene and can also be understood as a response to an imperial scandal that began in the fall of 1060 and continued through 1061, the year inscribed on the painting. During that period, court officials critiqued Renzong (r. 1022-63) for failure to manage his family. The precipitating incident involved Renzong’s attractive daughter, who preferred the company of eunuchs to that of her husband. I will argue that through carefully assembled images, Cui Bai alluded to the eunuch, the princess, her husband, and to the court officials who commented on the tangled affair.
Assistant Professor of Art History
Tyler School of Art & Architecture
“Consuming Copies: Napoleon Sarony & the Circulation of Nineteenth-Century Public Images”
Napoleon Sarony was among the first celebrity artists in the United States and during the late nineteenth century he was revered as the “father of artistic photography in America.” His modern legacy however has been obscured by perceptions that his work was too commercial in nature and that he was more invested in Barnumesque self-promotion than in art. This talk examines how the system of networked authorship that structured Sarony’s early career in popular lithography shaped his later priorities, and considers whether his assertion of singularity in the face of emerging mass visual culture may actually have been a radical gesture.
Tyler School of Art & Architecture
“Drowned Rivers, Phantom Skies, and Trees as Clocks: Lessons Learned from Artifacts and Collaborative Investigations”
In a brief overview spanning two decades of collaborative creative work, Byron Wolfe will discuss lessons learned while investigating artifacts that range from iconic photographs of the American West to Wissahickon schist, a local stone used for building. His talk will explore the photography of Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, and Eliot Porter (among others) and will introduce a new project that includes research of Bryn Mawr’s Dr. Florence Bascom, Professor, and the first female geologist for the USGS.
Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion
“Body of Freedom: Sexuality as Resistance in the Films of Ousmane Sembène”
Rufus M. Jones Professor and Chair of Philosophy
Bryn Mawr College
“What is a Picture?”
This talk concerns the status of the image or picture in “western” philosophical tradition. Plato is both the father of iconoclasm and the father of iconophilia. This tradition both influences and is influenced by the Abrahamic religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Modern philosophy can be characterized as largely “representationalist.” Phenomenology rejects representationalism and provides a different understanding of the picture.
Assistant Professor of Italian
Bryn Mawr College
“Modern Emblems: Gabriele D’Annunzio between Renaissance Imprese and Fascist Mottoes”
One of the reasons why Gabriele D’Annunzio became a global celebrity in the early 20th century was his prodigious mastery of modern communication. Mussolini, threatened by D’Annunzio’s immense popularity, adopted his rhetorical strategies and, in particular, his fulminating mottoes, which were always accompanied by images in D’Annunzio’s stationary, promotional campaigns, military insignia, private monuments, and even in the decor of his legendary palace in Gardone Riviera. After fascism, such mottoes with images have been re-used in a variety of ways, from corporate logos to tattoos, and are still popular today. This talk demonstrates that these verbo-visual devices, which have always been considered as an original product of D’Annunzio’s modernist eloquence and proto-advertising genius, are actually based on Renaissance Imprese, an erudite genre within the ancient art of emblematology.
Professor of Art History, Gettysburg College
Biancone: History of a Remarkable Nickname and the Changing Narratives of Florentine Public Sculpture, Mock Heroics and Political Discourse from the 16th-19th Centuries
In the heart of Florence in the Piazza della Signoria stands Bartolomeo Ammannati’s colossal Neptune statue, centerpiece of an elaborate fountain (1560-1574). Unlike its celebrated neighbor Michelangelo’s David, the statue became renowned as a disappointment, a sentiment distilled perfectly in a popular nickname for the statue, “Biancone”, or “Giant White One”. This talk will explore how Florentine audiences poked fun at works of colossal size, looking into the origin of this and other similar epithets. Dubbed as coming “from the people”, the history of “Biancone” from the Renaissance to the 19th century can tell us much about the changing views of public works and populist discourse. Ammannati’s statue, originally a court commission employing the Olympian god of the sea to celebrate the rulership of the Medici Grandukes, would feature as a bumbling giant in a mock heroic epic, a magician in a showdown against a witch and a political mouthpiece satirizing the state of affairs during the Risorgimento when Florence served as the capital of a newly-united Italy.
Assistant Professor for Architectural History and Theory
University of Pennsylvania
Memories of the Resistance: Women, Dissent, and the Forgotten Work of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, 1938-1945
Today, Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) is widely recognized as one of the pioneering female figures in modern design, who worked internationally in the 1920s and 1930s in Vienna, Frankfurt, the Soviet Union and Turkey. Yet, these decades of professional work were marked by a drastic break between 1940 and 1945, when Schütte-Lihotzky was interned for her participation in communist resistance against the Nazi regime. Her recollections from the years of internment became the subject of her 1984 German-language book Erinnerungen aus dem Widerstand (Memories of the Resistance). In the lecture, Memories of the Resistance, Sophie Hochhäusl reflects on the importance of Schütte-Lihotzky’s book as a critical historical document that contributes to still much needed spatial histories of resistance in the 1940s. She elucidates that the book provides a glimpse into dissidence as lived practiced. She also comments on why Schütte-Lihotzky’s activism led to the ostracization of the important modernist in the postwar era whose work, including the struggle for spaces of collective memory in Austria, remains largely forgotten.
Into Painting, Into Performance: Sources and References
Visual artist Jonathan Vandyke will discuss the commingling of painting and performance in his art practice of the past decade, with a special emphasis on the art historical and cultural references that inform the creation of his works.