Category Archives: lecture

11/16 | Pamela M. Lee: On Think Tank Aesthetics [response: Steven Chung]

Pamela M. Lee
“On Think Tank Aesthetics: Mid-Century Modernism, the Cold War and the Neoliberal Present”
[response: Steven Chung]

Tuesday, November 16, 2021 @5pm ET
Online Event [register here]

We continue to live in the Cold War, in spite of our collective obsession with all things new and contemporary. This is as true for discussions of art as it is for geopolitics. In Think Tank Aesthetics, Pamela M. Lee looks to these shadowy institutions during the Cold War as sites of radical creativity and interdisciplinary practice in the service of defense strategy. In four chapters detailing the “operational” aesthetics that emerged from the RAND Corporation as well as other associated institutions, she traces the multiple and overlapping networks between nuclear strategists, mathematicians, economists, anthropologists, artists, designers and art historians.

Pamela M. Lee is Carnegie Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Yale University. She is the author of The Glen Park Library: A Fairy Tale of Disruption (No Place Press) and New Games: Postmodernism after Contemporary Art (Routledge)among other books.

Steven Chung is associate professor in East Asian Studies at Princeton University, where his current research tracks the circulation and reconfiguration of audiovisual technologies throughout Cold War in East and Southeast Asias. He is the author of Split Screen Korea: Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema (2014).

Mar 9 | Elisa Silva: “Pure Space: Expanding the Public Sphere”

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Elisa Silva
“Pure Space: Expanding the Public Sphere through Public Space Transformations in Latin American Spontaneous Settlements”
[interlocutor: George Baird]

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 @5pm
Online Event [register here or stream here]

City making in the Global South has been notoriously characterized for its simultaneous, although differing modes of operation: a formally planned and legal one that meets the needs and buying power of the wealthier part of the population, and an unplanned, illegal one, caused by the unmet demand of the remaining part. As a result, self-built homes and spontaneous settlements have emerged, and represent a large portion of the built environment, albeit a very compromised and unequal one. 

For several decades, cities in Latin America have made significant investments to reverse this trend. However, improvement efforts alone have not been enough to lift the negative stigma from these territories. Recognition of barrios, villas, and favelas as parts of the city is a task still pending. 

In a critical review of upgrading interventions, the presence of public space emerges as a key transformative element. Pure Space: Expanding the public sphere through public space transformations in Latin American spontaneous settlements is not intended to serve only as a catalogue, guide, or manual on how to produce public space in spontaneous settlements. Rather, it goes beyond the aims of an index of best practices. It is intended, instead, as an empirical base for a critical and theoretical engagement with the problematic of development, social inclusion, public investment, (in)formal settlement, civil society, and the public sphere. The publication argues to expand the agency of architects and urban designers and creatively find ways of justifying, financing, and building public spaces in communities – spaces that have a catalytic effectiveness in achieving significant urban and social transformation.

Elisa Silva is principal and founder of Enlace Arquitectura and Enlace Foundation, established in Caracas, Venezuela. The two entities work in tandem to advance the integration of cities including informal settlements through participatory design processes and cultural programs. Their work has received awards in numerous design competitions and international architecture and urban design biennials. The San Juan María Vianney Church in Media Legua, Venezuela was awarded in the XI BIAU 2019 and the project Integration Process Caracas in the barrio La Palomera is part of the XVII Venice Architecture Biennial 2021. Elisa received the Rome Prize from the American Academy in 2005, the Wheelwright Fellowship from Harvard in 2011, Graham Foundation Grant 2017, the Lucas Artist Fellowship 2019 and grants from the US, Swiss and French Embassies in Venezuela. She is co-author of CABA: Cartography of the Caracas barrios (2014) and Pure Space: Expanding the Public Sphere through Public Space Transformations in Latin American Informal Settlements (Actar, 2020). Elisa is Visiting Assistant Professor at Princeton University School of Architecture, Sessional Lecturer at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, Associate Professor at FIU, and past Design Critic at the GSD and the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela. Elisa grew up between St. Louis and Venezuela.

George Baird is Emeritus Professor and former dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, and founding principal of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects in Toronto. His publications include (with Charles Jencks) Meaning in Architecture (1969), Alvar Aalto (1969), The Space of Appearance (1995), Public Space; Cultural/Political Theory; Street Photography (2011), and  Writings on Architecture and the City (2015). A collection of essays and interviews devoted to his work The Architect and the Public,  edited by Roberto Damiani, was published in 2020. Baird has received the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (2010) and the Topaz Medallion of the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (2012). In 2016, he was invested in the Order of Canada.

Mar 2 | Larry D. Busbea: “Pattern Watchers: Environmental Response c. 1970”

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Larry D. Busbea
“Pattern Watchers: Environmental Response c. 1970”
[interlocutor: Victoria Bugge Øye]

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 @5pm EST
Online Event [register here or stream here]

Before a new class of designers could begin to conceive of “responsive environments” as particular types of technical and aesthetic objects, new models of environmental response were necessary. These coalesced in the 1960s and 70s in many different disciplines, but always with the understanding that environment was becoming visible in ways it hadn’t previously; and that, by becoming perceptible it was becoming designable. However, the promised accessibility of environment never seemed to materialize, and would-be observers and designers were consigned to a compulsive search for the traces, imprints, and after-images of environmental interaction, i.e. patterns
This presentation will bring together some of the key approaches and insights of the book The Responsive Environment: Design, Aesthetics & The Human in the 1970s. The work of Serge Boutourline, Jr. will be given as an example of the attempt to confirm the presence of a conditioning environment, and to optimize and redesign its elusive patterns.

Larry D. Busbea is Professor of Art History at the University of Arizona, Tucson where his research focuses on the interactions of architecture, art and critical theory in Europe and the United States after WWII. He is the author of Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960–1970 (MIT Press, 2007), The Responsive Environment: Design, Aesthetics, and the Human in the 1970s (University of Minnesota Press, 2020), and Proxemics and the Architecture of Social Interaction (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2020).

Victoria Bugge Øye is a PhD candidate in the History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University. Her field of research includes American and European architecture post-1945 and its intersections with discourses of science, medicine and psychology. Her dissertation, “Mind-Body Architecture: Coop Himmelblau and the Making of Environmental Health, 1967-77,” examines how new welfare state policies and emerging concerns about the environment in the late 1960s helped forge interdisciplinary collaborations between architecture and medicine to establish the field of environmental health in Austria.

NOV 9 | Martino Stierli: “Montage and the Metropolis: Architecture, Modernity, and the Representation of Space”

Martino Stierli
“Montage and the Metropolis: Architecture, Modernity, and the Representation of Space”
Interlocutor: Brigid Doherty
Monday, November 9, 2020 @5pm
Online Event [register here or stream here]

Montage is omnipresent in modern culture and discourse. Rooted in industrial production and popular image practices in the nineteenth century, and achieving its recognizable form in the avant-garde movements of the 1920s, the juxtaposition of (photographic) elements became, through adaption and analogy, a primary compositional principle in all artistic media. A direct consequence and function fo what Walter Benjamin termed “the age of technological reproducibility,” montage addresses the mode of perception specific to the mechanized metropolis. Engaging history and theory of architecture, photography, film, literature, historiography, and popular visual culture since the late nineteenth century, Montage and the Metropolis reassesses the category of montage as not only a dominant modernist compositional principle but also a way to think about embodied moving through space more generally­—a key strategy for the production of meaning, adopted by multiple constituencies.


Martino Stierli is The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern art (MoMA), a role he assumed in March 2015. Stierli oversees the wide-ranging program of special exhibitions, installations, and acquisitions of the Department of Architecture and Design. He is the author of Montage and the Metropolis: Architecture, Modernity and the Representation of Space (Yale University Press, 2018) and Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror: The City in Theory, Photography, and Film (Getty Research Institute, 2013). He has organized and co-curated exhibitions on a variety of topics, including the international traveling exhibition Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and The Architecture of Hedonism: Three Villas in the Island of Capri, which was included in the 14th Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2014. At MoMA; he has curated, with Vladimir Kulic, the exhibition “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980,” and, with Ann Temkin, “From the Collection: 1960-1969”. Together with the other chief curators, he was also responsible for the reconceptualization of the collection installations in the new and expanded MoMA, which opened to the public in October 2019. He is currently working on a large exhibition on the architecture of South Asia in the post-independence period.

Brigid Doherty is an associate professor in the Departments of German and Art & Archaeology at Princeton University.

Nov 5 | Ruha Benjamin: “Race to the Future? Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology & Society”

Ruha Benjamin
“Race to the Future? Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology & Society”
Interlocutor: V. Mitch McEwen
Thursday, November 5, 2020 @5pm EST
Online Event [register here or stream here]

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed, and deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racist practices of a previous era. In this talk, Ruha Benjamin explores a range of discriminatory designs that encode inequity — what she terms the “New Jim Code.” This presentation takes us into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provides conceptual tools to decode tech promises with historical and sociological insight. She will also consider how race itself is a kind of tool designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice and discuss how technology is and can be used toward liberatory ends. In doing so, Benjamin challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

Ruha Benjamin is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, and author of the award-winning book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim CodeFor more info visit

V. Mitch McEwen is Assistant Professor in Architecture and Director of the Black Box research group at Princeton University.

Oct 19 | Lydia Kallipoliti: “The Curious Case of Closed Worlds”

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Lydia Kallipoliti
“The Curious Case of Closed Worlds”
Interlocutor: Sylvia Lavin
Monday, October 19, 2020 @5pm EST
Online Event [register here or stream here]

This talk will explore a genealogy of contained microcosms with the ambition to replicate the earth in its totality; a series of living experiments that forge a synthetic naturalism, where the laws of nature and metabolism are displaced from the domain of wilderness to the domain of cities and buildings. Beyond technical concerns, closed worlds distill architectural concerns related to habitation: first, an integrated structure where humans, their physiology of ingestion and excretion, become combustion devices, tied to the system with umbilical cords; second, closed worlds are giant stomachs; they are inhabitable machines that digest resources and are sometimes disobedient; at times they digest, while at other times they vomit.

Lydia Kallipoliti is an architect, engineer, and scholar whose research focuses on the intersections of architecture, technology, and environmental politics. She is an Assistant Professor at the Cooper Union in New York. She has also taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she directed the Master of Science Program, at Syracuse University, Columbia University [GSAPP], and Pratt Institute; she was also a visiting fellow at the University of Queensland and a visiting professor at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. She is the author of the awarded book The Architecture of Closed Worlds, Or, What is the Power of Shit (Lars Muller Publishers, 2018) and Head Co-Curator of the upcoming Tallinn Architecture Biennale in 2022.

Sylvia Lavin is Professor of History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University.

March 3 // Elena Vogman : Dance of Values

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Elena Vogman
“Dance of Values: Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project”
[response by Devin A. Fore]
Tue March 3, 2020 @5pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107

Sergei Eisenstein’s planned film adaptation of Karl Marx’s Capital stands as one of the most enigmatic projects in the history of cinema. Though never realized, it has haunted the imagination of many filmmakers, historians, and philosophers to the present day. A recent look into Eisenstein’s archive revealed the full scope of his plans: between October 1927 and September 1928, he gradually transformed his working diaries into an editing board. This “visual instruction in the dialectical method,” as Eisenstein himself called his project, comprises over 500 pages of notes, drawings, press clippings, expression diagrams, plans for articles, negatives from October, theoretical reflections and extensive quotations. What can be seen and read is not a film but a series of variations on the themes of economy and capitalist exploitation.

Elena Vogman’s recent book Dance of Values. Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project explores the internal formal necessity underlying the director’s choices, arguing that Capital’s visual complexity as well as its epistemic efficacy reside precisely within the state of its material: the dance of heterogeneous themes and disparate fragments, a non-linear, provisory, and non-articulated flow. In this way Eisenstein’s montage sequences produce a kind of surplus value entirely their own: a semiotic excess, which stirs the materials and represented bodies into a dance analogous to Marx’s “dance” of “petrified conditions.” It is in this polymorphic and “diffuse” language – associated with the stream of consciousness of Joyce’s Ulysses – that Eisenstein saw the strongest critical and affective potential for the future cinema.

Elena Vogman is a literary scholar, theorist and independent curator. She has published two books: Sinnliches Denken. Eisensteins exzentrische Methode (Diaphanes 2018) and Dance of Values. Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project (Diaphanes 2019). She currently teaches at the Art Academy Weißensee in Berlin and is working on a research project on media and milieus of critical psychiatry at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar.  

Devin A. Fore is Professor of German in the German Department at Princeton University.

February 14 // Vanessa R. Schwartz : Jet Age Aesthetics

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Vanessa R. Schwartz
“Jet Age Aesthetics: The Glamour of Media in Motion”
[response by Anne McCauley]
Tue February 18, 2020 @5pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107

Vanessa R. Schwartz engagingly presents the jet plane’s power to define a new age at a critical moment in the mid-20th century, arguing that the craft’s speed and smooth ride allowed people to imagine themselves living in the future. Exploring realms as diverse as airport architecture, theme park design, film, and photography, Schwartz argues that the jet created an aesthetic that circulated on the ground below.

Visual and media culture, including Eero Saarinen’s airports, David Bailey’s photographs of the jet set, and Ernst Haas’s experiments in color photojournalism glamorized the imagery of motion. Drawing on unprecedented access to the archives of The Walt Disney Studios, Schwartz also examines the period’s most successful example of fluid motion meeting media culture: Disneyland. The park’s dedication to “people-moving” defined Walt Disney’s vision, shaping the very identity of the place. The jet age aesthetic laid the groundwork for our contemporary media culture, in which motion is so fluid that we can surf the internet while going nowhere at all.

Vanessa R. Schwartz is Professor of Art History, History and Film at the University of Southern California, where she also directs the Visual Studies Research Institute and the Graduate Certificate program. 

Anne McCauley is David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art in the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University.

December 3 // Doctoral Colloquium : Session II

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Doctoral Colloquium Fall 2019 : Session II
Sebastian P. Klinger
Martín Cobas
Tue December 3, 2019 @6pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107

Sebastian P. Klinger (Ph.D. Candidate, German)
“Better living through Chemistry: Modern Culture and the ‘Holy Hypnotic’ in Peter Altenberg”

With the invention of the EEG (electroencephalograph) in 1929, a chapter in sleep’s cultural significance came to an end. It had begun only 25 years earlier when the companies Bayer and Merck introduced the new sleeping pill Veronal. During these 25 years, sleep – typically experienced as an absence of experience – turned into a hot topic, as its nature remained elusive and it could only be described from the perspective of different disciplines simultaneously, while it assumed unprecedented social and economic importance. How did literature and science imagine, reflect and construct sleep between Veronal and the EEG? My interdisciplinary dissertation, entitled “Veronal Culture: Sleep Experiments in Literature, Science and Society, 1904-1929” explores this question with close readings in a rich corpus that includes authors such as Kafka, Altenberg, Schnitzler, Rilke and Proust, scientists such as Freud, Constantin von Economo and W.R. Hess, as well as documents from the corporate archives of Bayer. I argue that before the EEG, any knowledge on sleep was inextricably tied to language. Yet still, to make sense of modern cultures of sleep, literature, and science had to experiment with the language of sleep persistently and to transgress standing linguistic structures, grammar and literary forms. Building on existing scholarship in science studies, Veronal Culture, therefore, provides not only a pioneering analysis of sleep in some major German authors and an account of sleep under the conditions of modernity, but it also offers the first book-length study that brings the experimental and the experiential dimension of sleep into a dialogue.

“Better living through Chemistry: Modern Culture and the ‘Holy Hypnotic’ in Peter Altenberg” attempts to approach this question by accessing it via the backdoor. It sheds light on the conditions for the nascent success of Veronal by way of reading Peter Altenberg, a cultural icon of Fin de Siècle Vienna who has been described as a “drug addict and a fanatic proponent of a healthy lifestyle at the same time” (Barker). Altenberg, a self-described avant-gardist, championed both sleep and sleeping pills in a radically affirmative way early on: “I would like to count as the preacher of holy sleep, like Jesus Christ counts as a preacher in general matters […] and like Liebknecht and Tolstoy for other things!” Not only did Altenberg’s identify the praise of sleep as the hallmark of the “real poet”, but he would also extend this assessment to include the praise of sleeping pills, as his texts became increasingly infatuated with questions of health and hygienic-dietetic techniques of self-care. In which way did health and sleeping pills go together for Altenberg? How does his style, a unique blend of prose poetry, hygienic ruminations and self-help literature, expose his time’s discourses and practices? Which aporias of modern self-care does Altenberg throw into relief? In the talk at the M+M Doctoral colloquium, I will argue that this writer renders a new social type visible – the modern customer of health products. This social type is obsessed with a healthy lifestyle, embraces pharmaceutical innovations of all kinds, and strives for self-improvement. For Altenberg, the use of sleeping pills opens up both a symbolic-phantasmagorical restoration of the productive body and quintessential drug experience. Thus, this talk not only explores new avenues in a major but understudied figure in German literature, but it also addresses larger questions on sleep and sleeping pills in modern cultures of sleep.

Martín Cobas (Ph.D. Candidate, Architecture)
“Cabinet/Zoohaus: Dead Things (and Zoological Life) in the Casa De Vidro ”

Although often referred to as a paradigm of “modern transparency,” the Casa de Vidro (Glass House) designed by Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) in 1951 in the outskirts of the city of São Paulo is in fact several houses at once: the glass house (the pavilion), the vernacular house (with its patios and rooms in enfilade), the primitive hut (a studiolo of sorts), atop of a tea façenda overlooking the Mata Atlántica (Atlantic Rainforest) and the city. Furthermore, these houses hold Bo Bardi and Pietro M. Bardi’s collections: a miscellany of decorative arts and wondrous objects, baroque sculpture, ethnographica, and a puzzling zoological menagerie, real and fantastic: a tortoise, an inventory of cockroaches, a polochon (or bigger-than-life double-butt pig sculpted in papier mâché), a mechanical cow, a parade of animals exiting a zoo… In Bo Bardi’s work, animals, creatures and architecture are enigmatically entangled. But consider the animal: Why so many animals? Why so many creatures cannibalizing architecture?

This paper, part of my dissertation “Liminal Creatures/Liminal Topographies: Rhetoric of Excess in the New World,” discusses the Casa de Vidro as a Wunderkammer or “cabinet of curiosities.” It dwells in the liminal space that separates architecture and display, and presents historical evidence and original archival material to support this counter-narrative. I hypothesize that Bo Bardi’s work derives from a highly rhetorical handling of all things collected (and collectible) and investigate how the forces of collecting delineate a liminal topography of “multiple others” — humans and non-humans, often articulated in creaturely or cannibal form. Yet it is not only their rhetorical function that interests here but also their capacity to work as ontological markers of difference, variation and proliferation. Intimations of this kind, ranging from geological and botanical to zoological inventions, are at the basis of Bo Bardi’s treatment of the barocca, the apuizeiro (an Amazonian tree) and the polochon. I argue that they eloquently display the unsettling antinomies and thresholds that Bo Bardi’s topical “modernity” had to negotiate, crucially, in the aftermath of the “discovery” of the Brazilian Northeast (and its visual allure), and predating art critic Mario Pedrosa’s cursory proclamation that Brazil was “condemned to be modern.” Bo Bardi sought to mobilize the collections and expose its “multiple others” (creatures included) to a critical cultural agenda — whether in editorial (the journal Habitat), museographic (the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, MASP), theoretical (the thesis Contribuição Propedêutica ao Ensino da Teoria da Arquitetura), social (the Sesc Pompeia), or theatrical form (the Teatro Oficina).

In so doing, this paper will trace and critically address the affective liaisons between drawings-objects-spaces — circumnavigating the practice of collecting — that facilitate the transitions between the collector’s introspection, the house as a machinery of knowledge production and space of translation, and the outside, i.e. between the collection and the city, between drawing and its architectural afterlife. It is in these transitions, I would contend, that Bo Bardi finally met an “ecology of others” and Brazil the creaturely modern.

October 8 // Craig Buckley : Graphic Assembly

M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents

Craig Buckley : Graphic Assembly
[response by Brigid Doherty]
Tue October 8, 2019 @5pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107

Graphic Assembly (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) unearths the role played by montage and collage in the development of architectural culture over the past century, revealing their unexamined yet crucial significance. Craig Buckley brings together experimental architectural practices based in London, Paris, Vienna, and Florence, showing how breakthroughs in optical media and printing technologies enabled avant-garde architects to reimagine their field.

Graphic Assembly considers a range of architects and movements from the 1950s through the early ’70s, including Theo Crosby, Hans Hollein, and John McHale; the magazine Clip-Kit; and the groups Archigram, Superstudio, and Utopie. It gives a thorough account of how montage concepts informed the design of buildings, prototypes, models, exhibitions, and multimedia environments, accompanied by Buckley’s insightful interpretations of the iconic images, exhibitions, and buildings of the 1960s that mark how the decade is remembered.


Craig Buckley is an assistant professor of modern and contemporary architecture in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. His research interests include the intersections of modern architecture with avant-garde movements, the entanglement of architecture with the technics, poetics, and politics of media, and the historiography of modern architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is the editor of numerous collections and the author of Graphic Assembly: Montage, Media and Experimental Architecture in the 1960s, (University of Minnesota Press, 2019). His essays and criticism have appeared in a number of magazines and journals, including Grey Room, Log, October, and Texte zur Kunst, among others. His most recent book, Screen Genealogies: From Optical Device to Environmental Medium (with Francesco Casetti and Rüdiger Campe) will be published by University of Amsterdam Press this fall.


Brigid Doherty is an associate professor in the Departments of German and Art & Archaeology at Princeton University.