Earlier this month, TC ARAD Associate Professor Jennifer C. Lena released her new book Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts. She answered a few questions about the work, with which we are thankful to share.
Throughout the semester, we will feature highlights and insights from Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione’s time in Palestine last summer. Please stay tuned to our blog and social media channels for more #ARADPalestine.
This past summer, ARAD Program Director, Dr. Jennifer Lena, and Lecturer, Dr. Gemma Mangione visited Palestine to lead an intensive arts administration program for staff from arts organizations in the West Bank. In addition to teaching, Dr. Lena and Dr. Mangione sought out cultural experiences that informed their understanding of the area and created indelible memories. Dr. Lena shared photos from her travels around the West Bank and her visits to Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, the Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union, and Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel (keep an eye out for a future posts describing these visits and what they meant to her).
The course took place over four consecutive weekends at Bethlehem University. Dr. Lena, Dr. Mangione, a colleague from the Asia Society and professors in Bethlehem University’s business administration program taught the course. Project management was provided by staff from the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development, which operates in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Sabreen began as a rock group and transitioned into a nonprofit in 1987.
Continue reading “Arts Administration Faculty Develop Course with Palestinian Arts Organizations (Part 1)”
We had been in the exhibition a while before I thought to double back to the entrance and inspect what I’d missed: the caramel-colored hand pump bottle, sitting proudly on a tall white sculpture pedestal. What was this? Pushing myself to interact with the bottle rather than first read its label, I squirted some cool, viscous mixture into my hand and then extended my hand to my husband, David. He took a deep whiff before promptly backing away from me and shaking his head. “Wow. What does it smell like?” I asked, amused. “It’s really strong…” he paused. “Hmmm. It’s like if you took a sip of vodka when you thought it might be water.”
This “ritual cleanse” (I did read the label in the end) was just one stop on our visit to The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum through October 28. The exhibition features more than 65 design projects and more than 40 objects and installations dedicated to – as the exhibition’s entrance sign spells out in a bold, goldenrod headliner – the senses from a to z.
What were the other stops? Among them: a wall of thick, plush synthetic fur that plays different tones and notes depending on where you touch it, so that curious visitors create a collective orchestra. Chairs and headphones that together stimulate the sounds and sensations of random, improbable events described in projections on the floor at your feet (“falling backwards into a tub of Jell-O;” “an avalanche of frozen peas.”) Interactive stations playing original music compositions inspired by our taste of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.
Contemporary museums – and particularly, art museums – are organized around vision. As students and I discuss in ARAD’s Access and the Arts seminar, it wasn’t always this way. The earliest museums encouraged touch, believing it a valuable way for the elites who visited to experience artifacts on view. By the mid-nineteenth century, an array of factors – including, most significantly, the rise in museums’ public access – created the museum of sight we today take for granted. While many have debated the limits of the “look, don’t touch” model, lately there has been increasing scholarly and professional interest in what Nina Levent and Alvaro Pascual-Leone have called “the multi-sensory museum.” This shift has been catalyzed in large part by increased attention to museum accessibility: efforts to break down barriers to promote participation for all visitors, regardless of ability. As the introductory wall text for Design Beyond Vision highlights, sensory design is physical, it enhances experience, and importantly, when done well, it is inclusive: “By activating multiple senses, designers embrace users with different needs.” In this way, multi-sensory exhibition design can challenge museums’ sensory hierarchies: the social orders through which people privilege particular forms of sensory experience over others.
At the Cooper Hewitt, I was thinking about sensory hierarchies in the context of my teaching and research. But I was also moved by the show as a visitor. As someone without a sense of smell, I’m often struck by how difficult it is for people to describe smells to me; sometimes they lack words completely. I don’t always think about my anosmia when visiting museums. However, wandering around The Senses: Design Beyond Vision I thought about it quite a bit, mainly because the show gave me ways to think about smell beyond museum walls. I spent time with scent wheels categorizing aromas and relating smell to color; sculptures pairing wafted smells with distinct textures; and a “smell map” of Amsterdam plotting out the association of smells not just with fragrance, but with memories. As we left, David commented how the show’s focus on synesthesia – the sensation of a sense stimulated by another sense – got him inspired to describe smells in ways that rely on sight, sound, and even simile. “It’s really strong” didn’t mean much to me. But I understood how much it might knock you out to take a sip of vodka when you thought it was water. In this way, the exhibition gave us new ways to think, talk about, and share our experiences of the world: in short, it did well what museums do best.
ARAD’s own Dr. Jennifer Lena recently published a review of Peggy Levitt’s “Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display” (2015). The article, released in the January 2017 edition of Contemporary Sociology, reviews Levitt’s examination of how museums define and depict the identities of their local audiences. In addition to appraising Levitt’s exploration of nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and cultural policy in museological practice, Dr. Lena also includes recommendations for educators who use the book as a class resource.
To read the full article, click here!
ARAD’s own Dr. Dubin took a moment to share with us what he’s been up to while on sabbatical this past year. Dr. Dubin spent time in South Africa, completed a one-month residency at Ucross (an artist/writer retreat in Clearmont, Wyoming), spent 5 weeks in Italy, and completed another one-month residency at the Rockefeller Foundation – sponsored retreat, Bellagio. Following the opening of his photography exhibition in early June, Dr. Dubin will finish his sabbatical with another trip to South Africa before returning to Teachers College for the Fall semester.
This weekend (April 16-19) music scholars, journalists, and fans will be converging in Seattle to attend and present at the EMP Pop Conference. Dr. Jennifer Lena, ARAD professor and author of Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music (Princeton University Press, 2012), will be taking part in the conference as both conference committee member and panel moderator. Taking a short break from her busy schedule right before the conference, Dr. Lena sat down and answered a few questions about the theme of the conference and her (fabulous sounding) panel: “The Worst Song Roundtable.” Read more for her answers to our Q’s! Continue reading “Faculty News: Q&A with Dr. Lena about the EMP Pop Conference and the World’s Worst Song Ever”
ARAD’s own Dr. Jennifer Lena recently published an article titled “US Cultural Engagement with Global Muslim Communities: Contours and Connections in an Emerging Field” with co-author Erin Johnston. The article, released in the Winter 2015 edition of GIA Reader, looks at the challenges Muslim artists experience when producing art to engage US audiences. In addition to surveying the difficulties the field faces, the authors also note that these challenges highlight opportunities for future cross-cultural exchanges, collaborations, and expansions of Muslim/Islamic art in the United States.
To read the full article, click here!
In early February, ARAD program coordinator and professor Dr. Steven Dubin was able to take a break from the cold and dreary New York weather to take part in a TEDx event held in Caserta, Italy. The theme, Global Contamination, brought together a wide variety of speakers from Italy, Sicily, the US, Portugal, and Belarus who presented on topics as diverse as their backgrounds. The mastermind behind this event was none other than ARAD alum Valerio Borgianelli Spina, who graduated from the program in 2007! Continue reading “Faculty News: Prof. Steven Dubin talks “Global Contamination” at TEDxCaserta”
The ARAD program congratulates our faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Lena, on a new book series she will be co-editing!
The series, Culture and Economic Life, acts as a forum for discussing the evolution, creation, and consequences of commerce and culture. Current theoretical and empirical debates span a wide variety of topics, and this series seeks to advance and stimulate discussions across these disciplines to provide an interdisciplinary look at how culture and economic life intersect. The series also informs a larger audience of policy and public debates in the for- and not-for-profit sectors.
This great news comes just after Dr. Lena’s book, Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music, was released as a paperback earlier this month.
Congratulations on these achievements, Dr. Lena!