Arts, amplified

A speaker series from the new Digital Arts Initiative brings world-class scholars and artists to campus to discuss how arts and technology interact.

Wazhmah Osman of Temple University works in media studies at the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, class and human rights. In particular, she focuses on the political economy of global media industries and the regimes of representation and visual culture they produce. 

Osman, an assistant professor in Temple University’s media studies and production department, will be speaking about the field of media studies and her work as she leads off the first speaker series of the Digital Arts Initiative at Mount Holyoke College. 

The new initiative amplifies Mount Holyoke’s ongoing efforts to transform teaching and learning for 21st-century students in the context of technology, global connection and traditional liberal arts. For instance, a new digital music lab give students the opportunity to create music, regardless of their musical abilities or expertise.

“We’re very excited about the inaugural Spring Lecture Series of the Digital Arts Initiative,” said Robin Blaetz, professor and chair of film studies. “We are bringing some of the most influential scholars and artists working in the digital arts today through this series. These first six speakers will be focusing on various aspects of media studies, an important partner in the Digital Arts Initiative.” 

Blaetz is also co-director of Mount Holyoke’s MEDIAL Project, which is funded by a grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation in part to support technology upgrades for the arts, such as production facilities for media and film, and audio and sound. 

In this capacity, she and co-directors Ng Tian Hui, orchestra director and assistant professor of music, and Michael T. Davis, chair of architectural studies and professor of art history, collaborate with more than a dozen faculty and staff to guide the College’s Digital Arts Initiative. 

Their efforts include hosting the new speaker series. On the schedule so far: 

Wazhmah Osman, Temple University: “Local Knowledge in the Global Village: Thinking through Media Studies, Digital Media, and Human Rights”

Wazhmah Osman
Wazhmah Osman, Temple University

The field of media studies is a vast and unruly discipline comprised of multiple disciplines. In this talk, Wazhmah Osman from Temple University will outline the key branches of the field and its latest trends. Osman will advocate for the socio-political, economic, and cultural approaches that aim to have a holistic understanding of media technologies; while cautioning against the narrowly focused technologically deterministic approach. Subsequently, Osman will situate her own work, at the intersection of gender/ sexuality, race, class, and human rights, within media studies.

Kelsey Cameron, University of Pittsburgh: "Corporeal Networks: Digital Media’s Marked Bodies”

Kelsey Cameron
Kelsey Cameron, University of Pittsburgh

When digital technologies were new, they promised users freedom from race, gender, ability, and other markers of bodily difference. While we think about digital media in different terms today, we have not fully escaped this foundational imaginary. Using the police body camera as a case study, our guest speaker Kelsey Cameron from the University of Pittsburgh will unpack the legacy of digital disembodiment and uncovers the networks of human actors that disappear beneath it.

Camilo Diaz Pino, University of Wisconsin–Madison: “Animexico: Japanese Animation’s Trajectory to and through Mexico City”

Camilo Diaz Pinto
Camilo Diaz Pino, University of Wisconsin–Madison

As an excerpt of a larger project examining the role of Mexico City as a site of media importation and redistribution to the wider Latin American diaspora, Pino's talk focuses on the industrial and cultural impact of Japanese animation’s (anime) circulation through the region. It will focus in particular on fannish performances of anime textualities during the Chilean anti-neoliberal protests of 2011. During these demonstrations, students and allies would recreate scenes from the show Dragon Ball Z, (airdate 1997-9), using them to illustrate both the power of collective action in the face of privatization and debt culture. 

Hannah Goodwin, Brown University: “Missing, Altered, Cloned, Fragmented: Spectral Bodies of Digitized Women”

Hannah Goodwin
Hannah Goodwin, Brown University

From the spectacularly replicated clones in the recent television show "Orphan Black" to the hauntingly edited subject of artist Sarah Sweeney’s ongoing digital project “Reimaging Erica,” images of women’s bodies have become sites for exploring some of the fundamental properties of digital information. In this talk, Hannah Goodwin from Brown University examines how in each case, the fragmentation, alteration and deletion of the digitized female body, coupled with its unauthorized reproduction and uncanny persistence, evoke the paradoxically spectral yet hypervisible circulations of digital data.

Lakshmi Padmanabhan, Brown University: “Otherness Machines: Postcolonial Feminist Experiments with the Moving Image”

Lakshmi Padmanabhan
Lakshmi Padmanabhan, Brown University

Key interventions in documentary film and photography have illustrated the complicity of the camera in projects of colonial capture, and the disciplinary function of the image. Lakshmi Padmanabhan from Brown University as discusses her ongoing research into the understudied archive of feminist documentary photography and experimental video that emerged in India in the 1980s, in a period of rapid political change. This talk chronicles their repurposing of visual technology toward experiments in postcolonial feminist aesthetics. 

Through close readings of works by queer and feminist artists including Sheba Chhacchi, and Tejal Shah, this talk argues for the radical potential of the image to index moments of stasis, producing scenes of postcolonial feminist rest and care in the midst of fights for political and aesthetic representation.

Other aspects of the Digital Arts Initiative include overseeing and advancing scholarship and work in the digital arts through student microgrants, new and renovated spaces on campus, and the annual Digital Arts Symposium. This event showcases student work in the digital arts.