1. Islamic genealogy of new media art
My current major project is a book prospectively titled Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, forthcoming from MIT Press. This research was inspired by formal commonalities between classical Islamic art and contemporary computer-based art, such as their relatively aniconic quality and their tendency toward performativity rather than representation. In pursuing these and other parallels, I suggest ways that Islamic philosophy, which informs the creation of Islamic art, can also enrich the understanding of contemporary media art. I trace several paths by which Islamic aesthetics traveled westward and informed the development of European modernism and contemporary new media.
Recent and upcoming events
September 26, 2008 "Two art lovers in Iran: a travel talk," with SFU Contemporary Arts graduate student Natalie Sorenson. Simon Fraser University. Time and location TBA.
October 3, 2008 "A new way of seeing, smuggled in a carpet: How Islamic aesthetics came to inform viewing practices in contemporary art." Lecture in the series "Now Is the Time: Art & Theory in the 21st Century," organized by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
October 25, 2008 "A history of nonorganic life: sixteenth-century Persia, seventeenth-century Holland, and twenty-first century new media." Keynote lecture at the symposium "Flash: Film—Image—Culture," University of New South Wales.
October 27, 2008 "Baroque fascination in casino movies and Safavid carpets," seminar in the School of Humanities, sponsored by the Writing and Society study group, University of Western Sydney.
Recent publications in this area
“‘Taking a Line for a Walk’ from Islamic Art to Algorithmic Modernism,” Third Text (forthcoming)
“Genetic algorithms, Kunstwollen, and Caucasian carpets,” in Place Studies in Art, Media, Science and Technology: Historical Investigations on the Sites and the Migration of Knowledge, ed. Andreas Broeckmann and Gunalan Nadarajan (forthcoming, VDG Weimar)
"Words dream of being flowers, birds dream of being words: the becoming-world of decorative Arabic,” in Variantology 4, ed. Siegfried Zielinski (forthcoming, Walther Konig)
“Islamic Aesthetics, Modern Attention, and the Abstract Line,” in conference proceedings, “Sinn und Sensationen,” Freiuniversität Berlin (forthcoming 2008)
“The Haptic Transfer and the Travels of the Abstract Line: Embodied perception from classical Islam to modern Europe,” in Verkörperungen/Embodiment, ed. Christina Lammer and Kim Sawchuck (Vienna: Löcker Verlag, 2007), 269-284.
“Mémoire et implication: les origines islamiques des médias numériques,”in Mémoire et culture, ed. Claude Filteau and Michel Beniamino (Presses Universitaire de Limoges, 2007), 305-311.
“Infinity and Accident: Strategies of Enfoldment in Islamic Art and Computer Art,” Leonardo 39:1 (Winter 2006): 37-42.
“Infinity, Enfoldment, and Accident: Toward an Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art,” Semiotic Inquiry 24: 1-3 (2005): 237-259.
2. Cinema in the Arab world
I am also writing on cinema in the Arab world, and curating programs of Arab experimental and documentary film and video. For this research I often visit the great city of Beirut, a center of innovation in media arts in the Arab world.
October 24, 2008 "Latency and Performance: Films by Joana Hadjithomas,
Khalil Joreige, and Mounir Fatmi." Film program at "Flash: Film—Image—Culture," University of New South Wales.
Recent publications in this area
“Performance and its other side: Hassan Khan’s The Hidden Location,” catalogue essay, A Space (Toronto: A Space, 2005)
“Asphalt Nomadism: The new desert in contemporary Arab cinema,” in Landscape Cinema, ed. Martin Lefebvre (Routledge, 2006).
“Mohamed Soueid’s Cinema of Immanence,” Jump Cut 49 (2007), www.ejumpcut.org
“This Land Is Your Land: The Art of Adel Abidin,” catalogue essay for the Nordic Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennale, Framework (Helsinki), 7 (June 2007), 80-87. Excerpted, “Adel Abidin’s Baghdad Travels,” in Universes in Universe
“Lamia Joreige’s Objects of War,’ Art Journal 66:2 (2007) special issue on Beirut art
“Experience – Information – Image : a historiography of unfolding. Arab cinema as example,” Cultural Studies, special issue on “Rethinking the Past”
“Akram Zaatari’s In This House: Diagram with Olive Tree,” catalogue essay, Akram Zaatari, Unfolding (Portikus Gallery, Frankfurt)
3. Infinite : Information : Image
This model, also known as “Experience : Information : Image,” is a triadic, enfolding-unfolding model for understanding the nature of the image in the information age.
This model originated in “Invisible Media,” in New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality, ed. Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell (Routledge, 2003)
I developed it with designer Raegan Kelly as an animated diagram for Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular 1:3 (2006)
It is used to understand cinematic styles in “Experience – Information – Image : a historiography of unfolding. Arab cinema as example,” Cultural Studies Review 16:1 (March), special issue on “Rethinking the Past, 85-98. Another version is “Geopolitics hides something in the image; Arab cinema unfolds something else,” in Cinema at the Periphery, ed. Bélen Vidal (forthcoming, University of Edinburgh Press).
Another iteration is forthcoming in “Information, Secrets, and Enigmas: An Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics for Cinema,” Screen, 50th anniversary issue
4. smells and senses
This topic, so central to The Skin of the Film and Touch, is never far from my nose though it is marginal to recent research. I hope to visit a Syrian perfume-knockoff factory next year. Meanwhile, “Thinking Multisensory Culture” is forthcoming in Paragraph, special issue on cinema and the senses, ed. Emma Wilson