Research Interests

Media Art and Experimental Cinema • Experimenting Arab Cinema • Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics • Islamic Genealogies • Haptic Visuality • Smells and Senses • Plant Life

Scroll down for highlights; see CV page for all related work

Media art and experimental cinema
Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image. MIT Press, 2015
“Monad, Database, Remix: Manners of Unfolding in John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History,” in special issue of Black Camera on Black Audio Film Collective, ed. Matthias De Groof
“Immersed in the single channel: Experimental media from theater to gallery,” argues that economics, more than aesthetics, rule the shift of experimental media from single-channel screenings to art galleries. It is published in Millennium Film Journal 55 (Spring 2012): 14-23.

Experimenting Arab cinema
“The scrappy beauties of handmade digital culture,” talk at the symposium “Convergence and Disjuncture in Global Digital Culture?”, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, April 7, 2016
Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image (2015, MIT Press)
“The Scent of Places—عطر الأماكن”, program for the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Colgate, NY, June 13-19, 2015,
"Arab media art: experiments in exhibition," in Film Festival Yearbook: Film Festivals and the Middle East, ed. Dina Iordanova and Stefanie Van de Peer (St. Andrews University Press, 2014)
“Arab Glitch,” in Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Visual Practice in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Anthony Downey (I.B. Tauris/Ibraaz Publishing, 2014).
“Imaginal Materials,” catalogue essay,
Spectral Imprints, Abraaj Capital Art Prize, ed. Nat Muller (2012). Available on Selected Writings page.
“Calligraphic Animation: Documenting the Invisible,” in
Animation 6:3, special issue on documentary (November 2010): 245 - 262.

Student writing
“Dossier on Media Art in the Arab World,” Spring 2014 Catalogue: a collection of student writings

Islamic genealogies of Western art and philosophy
I seek and invent roots in Islamic art and philosophy for contemporary media art and thought. Since the publication of Enfoldment and Infinity, looking at Ibn Sînâ and Mulla Sadrâ Shirazî for sources and parallels to the thought of Spinoza, Leibniz, Whitehead, and Deleuze; and spending more time with traveling ceramics.

“Real Images Flow: Mulla Sadra Meets Film-Philosophy,” Film-Philosophy, 20 (2015), “A World of Cinemas” special issue, ed. David Martin-Jones. 24-46.
“A vida em suas muitas dobras: Leibniz, Whitehead, Mulla Sadra” ("Life in the Manifold: Mulla Sadra, Deleuze, Whitehead”), trans. Davina Marques, in
Conexões: Deleuze e Territórios e Fugas e…, ed. Davina Marques, Gisele Girardi, and Wenceslao Machado de Oliveira Júnior (Petropolis, Brazil: DP et Alii Editora). 95-120.
"The taming of the haptic space, from Málaga to Valencia to Florence," Muqarnas, 32 (2015), special issue on visuality in Islamic art, ed. Olga Bush and Avinoam Shalem. 253-278.
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
“A Deleuzian Ijtihad: Unfolding Deleuze’s Islamic sources occulted in the ethnic cleansing of Spain,” in
Deleuze and Race, ed. Arun Saldhana Edinburgh University Press, 2012). Available on Selected Writings page.

Enfolding-unfolding aesthetics
A triadic, enfolding-unfolding model for understanding the nature of the image in the information age: Image—Information—Infinite. Enfolding-unfolding aesthetics synthesizes a monist aesthetics from the triadic logic of C.S. Peirce, Henri Bergson, Leibniz’s philosophy and Deleuze’s revision of it, medieval Isma‘ili thought on latency and manifestation, Ibn Sînâ and Deleuze on the univocity of being, and the process philosophies of A.N. Whitehead and Mulla Sadra.



"Radical gestures of unfolding in films by Mohamed Soueid and The Otolith Group,” Visual Culture and the Aesthetics of Gesture, ed. Asbjørn Gronsted (forthcoming, Routledge)
“Monad, Database, Remix: Manners of Unfolding in The Last Angel of History," Black Camera 6:2, special issue on John Akomfrah, ed. Matthias de Groof and Stephanie Symons (2015):. 112-134.
“Enfolding-Unfolding aesthetics, or the unthought at the heart of wood,” in
Technology and Desire: The Transgressive Art of Moving Images, ed. Rania Gaafar and Martin Schulz (Karlsruhe: ZKM and London: Intellect Books, 2013) Available on Selected Writings page.
Thinking like a carpet: embodied perception and individuation in algorithmic media,” in Entautomatisierung [Deautomatization], ed. Annette Brauerhoch et al. (Paderborn, Germany: Wilhelm Fink, 2012) Available on Selected Writings page.
“Noise in Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics,”
The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, ed. Amy Herzog, John Richardson and Carol Vernallis (Oxford UP, 2013) Available on Selected Writings page.
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
“Information, Secrets, and Enigmas: An Enfolding-Unfolding Aesthetics for Cinema,” Screen 50th anniversary issue 50:1 (Spring 2009), 86-98
“Experience – Information – Image: a historiography of unfolding. Arab cinema as example,”
Cultural Studies Review (March 2007): 85-98, special issue on “History Experiments.” Another version is “Geopolitics hides something in the image; Arab cinema unfolds something else,” in Cinema at the Periphery, ed. Bélen Vidal (University of Edinburgh Press). Available on Selected Writings page.

On experience in the information age see “Immigrant semiosis,” in
Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema: Digital Futures, ed. Susan Lord and Janine Marchessault (University of Toronto Press, 2007), 284-303. Available on Selected Writings page.
The model originated in “Invisible Media,” in New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality, ed. Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell (Routledge, 2003)

Haptic visuality
My best-known work, inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s take on Aloïs Riegl’s visual theories. Its first iteration was a 1993 presentation of “The haptic critic” at “La jeune critique aujourd'hui,” École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
The first major article was “Video haptics and erotics,”
Screen 39:4 (Winter 1998): 331-348.
A characterization of haptic media, and the theory that haptic visuality gives rise to embodied sense memory, are further developed in
The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (2000). A revised version appears in in Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002)
Please check out my revision of haptic aesthetics in “Images in Motion, from Haptic Vision to Networked Space,” chapter 8 of Hanan al-Cinema (MIT Press, 2015)

“I Feel Like an Abstract Line,” in Thresholds: Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia and the Social Life of Art, ed. Daria Martin with Elinor Cleghorn (forthcoming, Oxford)
“Affective Analysis,” in "Sensing and Affecting,” subsection of Interdisciplinary Research Methods, ed. Celia Lury, Una Chung, et al.
“The taming of the haptic space, from Málaga to Valencia to Florence,” Muqarnas, special issue, “Gazing Otherwise,” ed. Olga Bush and Avinoam Shalem.
“Haptic Aesthetics,” Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Michael Kelly (Oxford University Press, 2014)

On the Islamic origins of abstract line and haptic space and their taming in European art:
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (2010) follows Riegl back to his sources as a textile curator and identifies haptic space and abstract line at work in Islamic art. I argue that Islamic aesthetics introduced these forms to European art.
“From haptic to optical, performance to figuration: A history of representation at the bottom of a bowl," in Islam and the Politics of Culture in Europe, ed. Frank Peter, Sarah Dornhof, and Elena Arigita (Transcript-Verlag Press, 2013) Available on Selected Writings page

Smells and senses
This topic, central to
The Skin of the Film and Touch, is never far from my nose.
“Thinking Multisensory Culture” is available in
Paragraph 31:2 (July 2008): 123-137, a special issue on cinema and the senses edited by Emma Wilson, and is republished in Art and the Senses (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Carnal Aesthetics, ed. Bettina Papenburg and Marta Zarzycka (Routledge, 2013).
I occasionally give olfactory lectures, such as
"Aromatic Events: how plant communication makes us more than human," at the conference "The Secret Life of Plants," Princeton. May 3, 2013 and in Vancouver for the Institute for Social Research, Or Gallery, November 25, 2013. Available on Selected Writings page.

Plant life
“Vegetable Locomotion: A Deleuzian ethics/aesthetics of traveling plants,” in
Revisiting Normativity with Deleuze, ed. Rosi Braidotti and Patricia Pisters (London: Continuum, 2012)
"Aromatic Events: how plant communication makes us more than human," at the conference "The Secret Life of Plants," Princeton. May 3, 2013. Available on Selected Writings page.